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Saturday, 24 October 2015

Horror DVD Of The Week: Nosferatu - A Symphony Of Horror (1922)


The first, albeit unofficial, cinematic adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu takes the novel's core elements, gives the characters new names, and delivers a chilling and iconic vampire tale.

Told in five delineated acts, the striking images we know so well come, primarily, from the climax of the movie when Count Orlok (Max Schreck) arrives, by boat, in the German city of Wisborg and stalks the maiden Ellen (Greta Schröder).

She's the wife of real-estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), who traveled to Transylvania, at the behest of his increasingly insane boss, Knock (Alexander Granach), to negotiate the purchase of a property in the city for the enigmatic Count Orlok... who happens to be a vampire.

Orlok spies a picture of Ellen in a locket of Hutter's and immediately knows where he's dining once he arrives to take up residence in Wisborg.

As a film that's almost a hundred years old, Nosferatu has a very different narrative structure to that which we are used to today. For instance, Hutter - the protagonist - has no involvement in Orlok's eventual demise, this is all down to Ellen, who takes it upon herself to act as bait for the vampire.

Nosferatu is a silent foreign-language film, meaning the intertitles (the cards that appear onscreen, between live-action shots, with dialogue or narrative) are written in German, with English sub-titles.

However, the result of this is that sometimes, when the intertitles contain a lot of test, the sub-titles clash with the text underneath, which is somewhat annoying.

I know the restoration of this movie for the Blu-Ray was striving for authenticity, but perhaps an option to view the film with English intertitles might have been an idea.

The print is tinted, alternating between, mainly, yellow and grey, but as far as I could tell there was no pattern, or meaning, to the changes of colour, it just helped make the film's imagery pop a bit more.

Of course, the main draw of Nosferatu is Max Shreck's incredible portrayal of the vampire count. With a single performance he encapsulated, and created, an entirely new vampire sub-species, with its own mannerisms and abilities that are, at once, similar but markedly different to the traditional (Hammer/Universal era) vampires we generally think of today.

Shreck's Orlok is not charming, suave, or romanticised, but an otherworldly beast that happens to have taken a human form. He is the living embodiment of plague - a theme echoed in The Strain television series (and books and comics), whose vampires bear more than a passing resemblance to Orlok.

Graf Orlok - portrayed by Max Schrek

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