Nosferatu (1922) Short review (Unrated)
I’ve been posting horror classics to get into the Halloween season… Obviously, F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ is a classic film (iconic even). It is essentially a loose version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula is now Count Orlok. His crazed lackey renfield is now called Knock. Harker and Mina are now Hutter and Ellen. 1890s London is now 1830s Germany. This isn’t a faithful adaptation with name changes, though. The core characters have basically the same roles, but the secondary characters have been done away with. This is actually a good thing. The old German Expressionist directors like Murnau had a way of stripping a story down to its core, in story and in visuals.
Murnau completely did away with the gothic romance aspect of Dracula. His vampire is not a suave gentleman as he was in many later cinematic versions. Max Shreck plays the title character as a cadaverous, rat-like, creeping malevolence that has no conscience or mixed emotions about what he does. There is something about Shreck’s weird posturing, long stares and strange way of moving that does seem like the stuff of nightmares. He is more of a force than an actual person. For me, this was the right route to go with Orlock instead of the original story version of the handsome vampire/love story route (Dracula). Vampire stories should be scary, not gothic romances, and Nosferatu surely took the scary route.
Murnau treated his vampire as a plague, and I have to wonder if this possibly gave some early indications of fears by the German people about ‘auslanders’ (foreigners) that would later manifest itself in Germany in a far scarier way with the rise of Nazi tyranny. Anyway…
The visuals of Nosferatu are still to this day some of the creepiest ever to be put to film. The whole film has a very grand gothic scale. It features castles, vast countrysides, mountains and a segment with an old sailing ship that is spectacular in its imagery. Of course, they got sued for this, but that’s another matter. This is an epic horror classic that MUST be viewed by real horror fans. I would also recommend the Werner Herzog remake with Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani. It has a different meaning, but is every bit as stunning as this film.