Throughout film history the character of Dracula, or more specifically the vampire,
has been reinterpreted and reinvented for different audiences and times. The essential
traits of the vampire are melded with what certain audiences would find more offensive
or less desirable. The end result leaves film historians and viewers with many
interpretations of the vampire that can be closely examined to determine a little
about the time in which they were created. Perhaps one of the most powerful interpretations
of a screen vampire was also one of the first.
F.W. Murnau's German film Nosferatu changes very obvious facts from the beginning.
To avoid issues with Bram Stoker, Murnau changed the names of all the characters
to avoid any problems from Stoker. Dracula was changed to Graf Orlock. The name
was not the only thing changed in this drastically different version. Murnau
was living in a very oppressed Germany and the increased production of film
in the country was starting to show the dissatisfaction with the present government.
Expressionism was born and eventually carried over into the films. Orlock became
visual representation of this characteristic, rather than a true character.
This character was much more deformed and monstrous looking than Lugosi's Dracula
or others. Representative of the populace's feelings at the time toward those
in power, Orlock could also be seen as physical representations of other things
as well. His rat-like appearance, combined with the many references to the plague
in the film seem an early precursor to the epidemic of AIDS. The mysteries of
a blood born disease that is infiltrating the populace can be prophetic at times.
The rat-like appearance can also be linked to the plague of Black Death through
Europe in the 1350's. This plague was spread by rats and can be linked to Orlock
through his appearance and the many rats that constantly travel around him.
This original version also presents an unmatchable cinematic style with the
architecture, framing and cinematography. Every shot is composed of carefully
placed black and white tones and many have become famous and instantly recognizable
images on their own. This is an unromantic look at Dracula that is truly terrifying.
Sadly, the only thing terrifying about this version is the new Gothic inspired
score. Being a film in public domain, it's hard to find a worthwhile copy on
DVD. A few years back Image released an excellent edition with commentary by
film historian and an explanation as to why the film was almost destroyed years
ago. Presented with the original color tints and optional organ score, this
is the version to have.
Since the film uses title cards--or text on the screen in-between the scenes--to
tell the story, the company producing the version of the film can create their
own interpretation. In this version, MVD has rewritten the story and replaced
the characters with Stoker's original names. That pales in comparison to the
horrible Gothic score that has been mastered with this print. At times, nothing
more than a collection of bells and hums, the score becomes monotonous quickly
and distracts rather than heightening the viewing. There are better versions
out there and I highly recommend one of them to this one.
Video: Being from 1922, the video leaves much to be desired. Horrible
by today's standards, the dirt and grime is part of the inherent charm to the
film. It fits in perfectly with the theme and plot. Nothing was done to the
transfer to increase the quality and likely not much could have been done.
Audio: Do I really have to think about this part again? The soundtrack,
while a nice stereo mix, is horrible combined with the film. I'm all for depressing
music and the like, but not when it's horrible interweaved into a classic film
and ruins the viewing. Watch it with the sound turned off. It's a silent film.
You won't miss a thing.
Extras: None to speak of on this disc.
Overall: An inappropriate score ruins a great movie and a decent DVD.
Again, I have nothing against the musical style or the music in general. It
just doesn't mix with the film. It stands out and a great film score should
never be noticeable. It should meld perfectly with the visual experience. You
should only feel the score as it rises and falls, accentuating the on screen
film. In this disc, it over-powers everything else, making it hard to concentrate
on the film at hand.