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Nosferatu [Masters of Cinema] [Blu-ray]
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SYNOPSIS: 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, newly restored 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.
- Brand new 1080p high - definition restoration by Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung
- Two audio commentaries: one newly recorded by film historian David Kalat; the second by historian R. Dixon Smith and critic Brad Stevens
- The Language of Shadows, a 53 - minute documentary on Murnau's early years and the filming of Nosferatu
- New video interview with BFI Film Classics Nosferatu author Kevin Jackson
- Exclusive video piece taped by and featuring filmmaker Abel Ferrara
- Newly translated English subtitles with original German intertitles
- 56-PAGE BOOKLET featuring writing by Gilberto Perez, Albin Grau, Enno Patalas, and Craig Keller; notes on the restoration; and rare archival imageryimagery
REVIEWS: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
" 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
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Disc 1 has the ninety minute film (and an audio commentary track), a near-immaculate, restored print, with scenes tinted gold or bluish-green (depending on the scene).
This ‘definitive version’ also boasts the original 1920s music by Hans Erdmann - newly-recorded in excellent sound - a fine orchestral score, conveying a wide variety of moods, while also incorporating works by one or two other composers such as Verdi and Boito (as well as a little lively music by Bizet to accompany the once-lost ‘croquet sequence’).
Made in 1921, and directed by F.W. Murnau, ‘Nosferatu’ is, of course, a thinly-veiled adaptation of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. Not particularly successful in its day, (and ordered to be destroyed for breach of copyright) the surviving movie now has a reputation as an early masterpiece of German Expressionism, and this Eureka edition does this iconic ‘symphony of horror’ proud.
Design-wise at least, ‘Nosferatu’ isn’t especially expressionistic at all (unlike the very stylized sets of ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ or even Murnau’s own ‘Faust’). What it does have is a convincing realism, and sense of place; the use of exterior locations is outstanding - whether it’s for the village of Wisborg (of the mid 19th Century) or for wild Transylvania “a land of thieves and spectres”.
The biggest surprise for me was the occasional use of jittery stop-motion - as in the unearthly approach of Count Orlok’s coach, or coffin lids being lifted by unseen hands - a staccato technique that lent the moving images an extra surreal, nightmarish quality.
‘Nosferatu’ even contains some fascinating footage of a spider, a polyp, and a Venus flytrap ensnaring their prey - when the Van Helsing character (here called Professor Bulwer) shows how vampiric traits exist in nature (!)
I did expect the movie to have more of an overall haunting, shadowy atmosphere - but it was customary, in the silent era, to shoot nocturnal scenes in the day, and then tint the print blue to signify night: so we often see Orlok moving about in bright light. The effective use of darkness and shadow is one thing that ‘Faust’ (made five years later) has over ‘Nosferatu’ - then again the two films are considerably different.
One movie that it can be compared to, however, is Tod Browning’s ‘Dracula’ (made in 1931, with Bela Lugosi) - and, having seen both films quite recently, I find ‘Nosferatu’ to be more cinematically satisfying than its Hollywood counterpart. Its eerie, silent pictures seem to emerge from some distant crypt of time, conveying that sense of the mysterious more potently.
Murnau’s deathly-looking vampire, played by Max Shreck, is really the personification of the plague, an invisible killer (leaving rats in his wake) - and much more dangerous than some gentlemanly spectre who might seduce a few virgins and snack on a few necks. Lugosi’s Count Dracula is actually rather human and cultured; he belongs to the era of talking pictures, and represents a more subtle, foreign danger to English society and its women. (Indeed, the booklet of essays, included with these DVDs, puts forward an interesting idea that the Count represented an outmoded aristocracy that refuses to die out in the modern age.) The rather more bestial Orlok, on the other hand, really is a silent-era phantom; even his writing is composed of occult ciphers; thus he remains a grotesque, cadaverous figure, drifting in and out of the film.
Disc 2 in this DVD set has a fascinating fifty minute documentary called ‘The Language of Shadows’ covering F.W. Murnau’s early years, and the films he made up to and including ‘Nosferatu’. It also revisits many of the real-life locations in Germany and (former) Czechoslavakia, while giving an intriguing glimpse at the work of ‘occult’ illustrator Albin Grau. (And there’s a couple of minutes showing the extraordinary restoration job done on the film).
I still prefer the greater artistic grandeur of ‘Faust’ to ‘Nosferatu’, but they’re both worthy classics of their kind - and ‘Faust’ can be found in another superior ‘Masters of Cinema’ two-disc release.
There’s also a fictional movie about the making of ‘Nosferatu’, which is worth checking out; from 2000, it’s called ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ and stars John Malkovich as Murnau, with Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck - the ultimate method actor, who seemed to take the role of a vampire just a little too seriously …
Beyond even the subject matter and history, the film is fascinating to watch as a window into storytelling in cinema without the benefit of spoken dialogue and millions of pounds of CGI, but with the gesture and expression of the players, the score to accompany it, and Murnau's direction and Max Schreck's Graf Orlock; a disturbing, seemingly unstoppable force of nature that we as viewer are never invited to understand or pity; an incarnation of death and plague.
"Nosferatu" is the first cinema adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula", but as the producers were unable to acquire the rights to the title, it was decided to change the name of the main character to Graf (or Count) Orlok. Similarly the word "vampire" was replaced with "nosferatu", a term used in Romanian folk tales to design many kind of sinister forces of the night, which Bram Stoker considered in his book as a synonym of "vampire". Some other changes were also introduced, but the main story nevertheless follows the lines of Bram Stoker's book - with the exception of the ending...
The film begins therefore with a certain Thomas Hutter, who lives in the fictitious German city of Wisborg and is a quite happy fellow, married to beautiful Ellen. Then one day his employer, a somehow shady real estate dealer named Knock, sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client named Count Orlok, who desires to acquire a residence in Wisborg. And then the film REALLY begins...
This being a black and white silent movie, it is of course very different from most of other vampire films - but this is precisely what gives it an unique flavour. F.W. Murnau used all the tricks available in his trade at this time to make this film really scary and especially incredibly atmospheric and he succeeded - BIG TIME! The vampire is in no way a dangerously charming aristocrat as in later films with Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee - here he is a freakishly creepishly grotesque creature, which makes the viewer feel uncomfortable from the first moment we see him. Actor Max Schreck who plays the vampire (and who by the way was a handsome man) was completely transformed by make up and other characterisation but he especially did an incredible job by using the body language in such a way that we really have an impression that Count Orlok is NOT human! This is an incredible performance!
The performance of actors, the atmospheric music, the tricks of lights and shadows and impressive cinematography, all this contributed to make this film into something exceptionnal. Released in 1922 "Nosferatu" is a very old, even ancient thing, but it didn't really age and probably never will anymore, but to the contrary, it will keep haunting generation after generation of humans - exactly like a vampire...)))
The "Masters of Cinema" DVD is a very good version, cleaned and restored, to the greatest delight of the viewers. I am very glad that I bought and watched it and I intend to keep this DVD as long as DVD players exist. I don't have words strong enough to recommend it so I will just say, BUY IT, SEE IT and KEEP IT!
The film is a classic of German expressionist cinema. Made in 1922 by Freidrich W. Murnau the film has a nightmarish quality that has rarely been equalled. The locations in Germany and Slovakia give the piece great authenticity and scope, bringing it closer to Bram Stoker's novel.
However it is Max Shreck as Count Orlock that remains imprinted on the memory.
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