Saturday, October 30, 2010

#85. Nosferatu (1922)

Directed By: F.W. Murnau

Starring: Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Gustav von Wangenheim

Trivia:  Count Orlok is only seen blinking one time on screen (near the end of part 1)

Despite the many years that have passed since its production, director F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu is still a truly frightening marriage of character and atmosphere. 

Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), a real estate agent living in Wisburg, Germany, has been sent by his maniacal boss, Knock (Alexander Granach) to the castle of Count Orlok (Max Schreck), where he will negotiate a contract that will bring the mysterious Count to his home town. 

Leaving his new wife, Nina (Greta Schrõder), behind, Hutter makes the long journey to Orlok’s castle. Once there, however, the young man comes to the realization that Count Orlok is a monster, a bloodthirsty fiend who must never be permitted to leave the grounds of his dilapidated estate. 

But the Count moves quickly, sealing Hutter up in a room in the tower before setting out for Wisburg alone, driven by one desire: to feast on Hutter's beloved wife!. 

Perfectly portrayed by Max Schreck, Count Orlok is one of the most instantly recognizable monsters ever to grace the screen. When we first meet the Count, he’s emerging from a darkened tunnel to greet Hutter, who has just arrived at the castle. Menacing in appearance, Schreck’s vampire resembles a giant rat with deep, hypnotic eyes, and even the child-like Hutter, so carefree in the film’s early scenes, shrinks in terror at the sight of him. 

Later that night, Hutter joins the Count for dinner, and is cutting some bread when his hand slips.  The knife slices into Hutter's finger, drawing blood, the sight of which causes Orlok’s eyes to widen. He jumps from his chair, approaching his guest with a crazed look in his eyes, and once again the terrified Hutter withdraws in fear. 

Schreck’s performance - in these scenes and all others - is positively creepy, and 80+ years has done nothing to diminish it's effectiveness; his vampire remains the most chilling in cinematic history. Throw in Murnau's oft-experimental approach, designed to further enhance the audience's apprehensions and fear (negative images, fast motion shots, etc), and you have what amounts to a Gothic horror masterpiece. 

German critic Béla Balázs wrote in 1924 that the experience of watching Nosferatu was like a “chilly draft from doomsday”. Thanks to the combined efforts of F.W. Murnau and Max Schreck, this assessment holds true even today.  


Klaus said...

Nosferatu is one of my favorite horror films. There's something especially creepy about horror from the silent era. In the case of Nosferatu, Schreck’s performance beautifully restrained - and certainly one of the creepiest ever - and is best enjoyed on the restored KINO version.

Have you seen Kinski's Nosferatu?

DVD Infatuation said...

I couldn't agree more about of my favorites as well. And yes, I've seen the Kinski/Herzog version as well. If any actor was suited to take the reins from Max Schreck, it was Klaus Kinski!

Klaus said...

Willem Dafoe's portrayal of Max Schreck as Nosferatu in "Shadow of a Vampire" is brilliant as well.

DVD Infatuation said...

I absolutely LOVED Shadow of the Vampire! Certainly one of the most ingenious plot twists of all-time. And yes, Dafoe is incredible. His Supporting Actor nomination was well-deserved.

Anonymous said...

I just got through all 5 episodes of Planet Macabre and wanted to drop you a line on this horror movie.

It is my favorite sub-50s movie by far. The last episode was Freaks and while I see it to being distrubing, it really wasn't my thing. I look forward to each episodes DVD, hopefully some more obscure ones down the road.

Also thank god you have a search field on this site, I started by scrolling down each page which seemed neverending and going to older posts, eventually I said frick, I seen the search box, a lot of content, I will be returning when I get more time.

Illinois Matt.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Matt: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment!

NOSFERATU is my favorite pre-50's horror movie as well. It is so well realized that, despite being so old, it can still get under your skin.

And I'm glad you were able to spot the SEARCH bar! (I've actually moved it up the page a bit, to make it easier for others going forward). Along with that, I do have links towards the top that provide alphabetical listings of all the films on this site. As more are added daily, it becomes harder to find specific movies, so hopefully these 2 fields will make it easier to do so.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks also for listening to Planet Macabre! Hope to hear back from you soon.

Peter Nielsen said...

I agree with everything Klaus and Dave says here... I too love Nosferatu! It's a classic horror film, for sure, and there are actually some scenes that are still creepy to this day!
The Herzog/Kinski version isn't bad either!
And I friggin' love Shadow of the Vampire!