Made in 1922, FW Murnau's Expressionist masterpiece Nosferatu--A Symphony of Horrors
is an unofficial but reasonably faithful condensation of parts of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula
. Alongside Metropolis
(1926) it is one of the very few European features from the 1920s that is still regularly shown, and apart from being the first great horror film it laid the foundations of the vampire genre to the present day. Wearing astonishing rodent-like make-up Max Schreck cuts such an iconic figure as the undead Count that the 2001 comedy-horror Shadow of the Vampire
suggested he wasn't acting at all! Although Murnau's film was revolutionary and technically adventurous for the time, a modern audience will have to make some allowances for the fact the movie now seems both dated and technically primitive: Murnau's stylised lighting and camera effects have been endlessly imitated and improved upon since, and even its greatest defenders generally admit the film barely raises a shudder, let alone a full-blooded scare. Nevertheless, Nosferatu
holds a strange dreamlike grip on the imagination and its incalculable influence on fantasy and horror cinema means this is essential viewing for anyone seriously interested in the development of motion picture art.
On the DVD: Presented in Academy at 1.37:1 and with James Bernard's new orchestral score in well-recorded stereo Nosferatu looks and sounds as good as it has in decades. Bernard, composer of Hammer's Dracula (1958) among others, has written a superior score that captures the film's subtitle, "A Symphony of Horrors", and truly brings the images alive in a way previous scores have not. This restored version presents for the first time on video or DVD the blue and brown tints of the original cinema prints and replicates the original hand-designed inter-title cards which with their distinctive designs make the film much more of a compete visual experience. More importantly, this DVD offers approximately another quarter of an hour of material over the usually distributed American version. However, the restoration has not extended to repairing the many lines, scratches, variations in brilliance and other evidence of print damage present throughout. The film is perfectly watchable, being very much what one would expect from the early 1920s. There are text biographies and notes on Murnau and James Bernard, DVD-ROM material on the restoration of the print and a perceptive 23-minute discussion by film expert Christopher Frayling on many aspects of the movie. --Gary S Dalkin
An iconic film of the German expressionist cinema, and one of the most famous of all silent movies, F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror continues to haunt and, indeed, terrify modern audiences with the unshakable power of its images. By teasing a host of occult atmospherics out of dilapidated set-pieces and innocuous real-world locations alike, Murnau captured on celluloid the deeply-rooted elements of a waking nightmare, and launched the signature "Murnau-style" that would change cinema history forever. In this first-ever screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, a simple real-estate transaction leads an intrepid businessman deep into the superstitious heart of Transylvania. There he encounters the otherworldly Count Orlok portrayed by the legendary Max Schreck, in a performance the very backstory of which has spawned its own mythology who soon after embarks upon a cross-continental voyage to take up residence in a distant new land... and establish his ambiguous dominion. As to whether the count's campaign against the plague-wracked populace erupts from satanic decree, erotic compulsion, or the simple impulse of survival that remains, perhaps, the greatest mystery of all in this film that's like a blackout... Remade by Werner Herzog in 1979 (and inspiring films as diverse as Abel Ferrara's King of New York and The Addiction, and E. Elias Merhige's Shadow of the Vampire), F. W. Murnau's surreal 1922 cine-fable remains the original and landmark entry in the entire global tradition of "the horror film". The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present, at long last, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror in its definitive restoration, complete with original intertitles and accompanied by the score that played with the film at the time of its initial release. SPECIAL FEATURES - 2 x DVD special edition of the 2007 F.W. Murnau-Stiftung restoration with the original score, Full-length audio commentary by Brad Stevens and R. Dixon Smith, A 96-page book containing articles by David Skal (author of Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen); Thomas Elsaesser (author of Weimar Cinema and After: Germany's Historical Imaginary); Gilberto Perez (author of The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium); Enno Patalas (former director of the Münchner Stadtmuseum/Filmmuseum, where he was responsible for the restoration of many German classics, including Nosferatu); a newly translated archival piece on vampires by the film's producer Albin Grau; notes on the film's restoration; and archival imagery, 53-minute German documentary about Murnau and the making of NOSFERATU complete with fascinating footage of the film's locations today, Restoration demonstration, More extras to be announced