This DVD is part
of the F. W. Murnau Collection boxed set. Read the reivew of the
entire collection here.
In 1922 F.
W. Murnau burst onto the international film scene with his horror masterpiece,
Though Murnau's films had been noticed before this one, none of them had
achieved the critical success as this study in terror.
Most people familiar with silent films have heard the origins of this
film. When the creators did not want to go to the expense of purchasing
the right to Bram Stoker's Dracula, they changed the names and made
it anyway. They did pare the novel down to its core essentials, but
at its heart, it is still Stoker's Dracula.
Real estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim,) is sent to
the Carpathian Mountains to finalize the sale of an estate to Count Graf
Orlok (Max Schreck.) Laughing off the locals warnings, Hutter travels
to Orlok's castle, but soon stops laughing when he sees the eerie looking
Count. After completing the sale, Orlok sees an image of Hutter's
wife, Ellen (Greta Schröder) and departs for her town of Bremen by
boat. When the boat arrives, all the crew are dead, and rats flee
the ship. Orlok wants to feed on Ellen, but her husband realizes
the danger she is in and is hurrying back to protect her.
This film is a masterpiece of horror and of German Expressionism filmmaking.
The more often you see this film, the more amazing it gets. The low
camera angles, sharp contrasts, and dreamlike atmosphere all come together
to form a distortion of the real world. This distortion makes the
movie oddly unsettling, and the introduction of Count Orlok greatly adds
to the eeriness.
was superb all around, but Max Schreck was simply amazing. His portrayal
of Graf Orlok was both horrifying and intriguing. You couldn't look
away from his odd appearance. This vampire was no suave, elegant
gentleman like Bela Lugosi portrayed him. Schreck's character was a ghastly
dead creature, more rat than man. The talon like finger, large deep
set eyes and unnaturally long ears made him look inhuman. His acting
accentuated the evil in his character that matched the decaying exterior.
No one would ever play the lord of vampires so effectively again.
What this all boils down to is that this is a fantastic movie.
It works on many levels, it is artistic, innovative and even beautiful.
There are images in this movie that will stay with you long after the film
is finished. Of all the adaptations of Dracula that would come after
this, Nosferatu is still the best.
After the movie was released, Stoker's wife sued, and eventually won
a court settlement that included the burning of all copies of the film.
Luckily, there were prints that escaped the flame in other countries.
It is ironic that Florence Stoker wanted the film destroyed, since many
film historians note Nosferatu's popularity as a reason the stage play,
and the later movie versions, were ever created. Thereby giving eternal
life to her husband's greatest work.
There are two audio tracks available on this disc, both presented in
stereo. The default track contains music written by Donald Sosin
with vocals by Joanna Seaton. The alternative track has music composed
by Gerard Hourbette and Thierry Zaboitzeff, preformed by Art Zoid.
The problem with both these sound tracks is that they are absolutely
horrible. I am amazed that Kino didn't come up with a better track
to enjoy this movie by. The default track prominently features a
pan flute, or similar instrument, in many of the movements. This
music sounds cheap and inappropriate. To make matters worse, this
track also includes the sounds of a woman gasping and moaning during some
scenes. (Such as when Ellen dreams that her husband is in trouble.)
These vocal sound like a bad dub job on a porno movie.
The other track is even worse, if you can believe that. The music,
and I use the word loosely here, has a very heavy industrial sound mixed
with new age minimalist sounds. there will be the sound of wind blowing
through chimes, followed by loud metallic percussion like machines stamping
out metal parts. It really wasn't musical at all.
I was deeply disappointed in both musical scores.
The video quality was very good for this film. I don't think I've
ever seen it look better. That is not to say it is pristine, even
when its age is taken into consideration. The negatives and many
first print copies were destroyed due to Mrs. Stoker's legal suit.
The only copies left in existence are somewhat removed from the camera
negative. This version of the film is a transfer of the 1995 Bologna
restoration. It has a lot of dust and specks and other print damage.
There is some emulsion decomposition in a few scenes, and there are missing
frames too. The contrast is not excellent, but it is very good, though
the picture is darker than it should be. There is a good amount of
detail present, and the picture if fairly sharp. It is easy to pick
out folds in cloth and other details that are often missing. A nice
copy, but not the definitive restoration I was hoping for. (That
has not been done yet, probably due to the amount of time and money it
would take to digitally remove all the scratches and imperfections.)
There are excerpts from several other Murnau films: Journey
into Night, Haunted Castle, Phantom, The Last Laugh, Faust, and
Kino provides a scene comparison of the dinner scene. They include
an excerpt from the novel, the shooting script for Nosferatu, the filmed
scene, and an audio excerpt from the Mercury Theater on the Air Radio show.
The audio on the radio show was muddled and hard to understand.
Lastly, there is a photo gallery of production stills and magazine covers
that featured the movie.
Books have been written about this film and the
German Expressionist movement. I could go on about the use of location
shooting, frame composition, and the innovative use of montage, but that
is not in the purview of this review. Suffice to say that this is
an excellent film. The video quality, while not perfect, is very
good with nice contrast and sharpness. Unfortunately the sound
tracks both left a lot to be desired. This DVD is still highly
Recommended, if you watch it with the sound muted.