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Nosferatu [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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"Nosferatu ... the name alone can chill the blood!". F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, released in 1922, was the first (albeit unofficial) screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Nearly 80 years on, it remains among the most potent and disturbing horror films ever made. The sight of Max Schreck's hollow-eyed, cadaverous vampire rising creakily from his coffin still has the ability to chill the blood. Nor has the film dated. Murnau's elision of sex and disease lends it a surprisingly contemporary resonance. The director and his screenwriter Henrik Gaalen are true to the source material, but where most subsequent screen Draculas (whether Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella or Gary Oldman) were portrayed as cultured and aristocratic, Nosferatu is verminous and evil. (Whenever he appears, rats follow in his wake.)
The film's full title--Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror)--reveals something of Murnau's intentions. Supremely stylised, it differs from Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919) or Ernst Lubitsch's films of the period in that it was not shot entirely in the studio. Murnau went out on location in his native Westphalia. As a counterpoint to the nightmarish world inhabited by Nosferatu, he used imagery of hills, clouds, trees and mountains (it is, after all, sunlight that destroys the vampire). It's not hard to spot the similarity between the gangsters in film noir hugging doorways or creeping up staircases with the image of Schreck's diabolic Nosferatu, bathed in shadow, sidling his way toward a new victim. Heavy chiaroscuro, oblique camera angles and jarring close-ups--the devices that crank up the tension in Val Lewton horror movies and edgy, urban thrillers such as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice--were all to be found first in Murnau's chilling masterpiece. --Geoffrey Macnab
On the DVD: This two-disc set gives you the choice of watching Nosferatu in either a sepia-tinted version or the original black & white. Both, however, feature the same modern electronic music score by Art Zoyd (at the movie's lavish 1922 premiere a live orchestra performed a newly composed, quasi-Wagnerian score by Hans Erdmann). The anonymous commentary track is a scholarly critical appraisal of the movie that exhaustively documents every aspect of it, from Murnau's aesthetic use of framing devices to the homoerotic subtext of the Hutter-Orlock relationship. In the "Nosferatour" featurette the movie's locations (principally, the Baltic cities of Wismer and Lubeck) are shown as they are today, and there is also a look at the original artwork that served as Murnau's inspiration. Two text features provide a brief history of the vampire myth from Vlad the Impaler onwards, as well as a discussion of the controversy caused by the movie's release. Appropriately, a trailer for the John Malkovich-Willem Dafoe movie Shadow of the Vampire, which imagines that "Max Schreck" actually was a vampire employed by Murnau in his obsessive pursuit of verisimilitude, is also included. --Mark Walker --This text refers to the DVD edition.
" A visual and emotional treat. " --Kim Newman EMPIRE Magazine
" If contemporary horror films were as richly imaginative as Nosferatu there s no doubting the genre would be taken more seriously than it is " --Billy Chainsaw, Bizarre Magazine
" It remains a film to freeze the blood " --The Independent --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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