Nosferatu: Symphony of Re-Writes? (1922)


Even the hideous need love from time to time...
Even the hideous need love from time to time...

Genre: Silent Vampire Horror Thriller (Germany)

Starring: Max Schreck (The Grand Duke's Finances), Gustav von Wangenheim

Directed By: F.W. Murnau (The Last LaughTabu: A Story of the South Seas)

Overview: Based on Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, this is the story of a man who travels to Count Dracula's isolated home in Transylvania in order to sell him a house, unfortunately discovering along the way that he's a plague-carrying vampire.

Max Schreck. He plays a weirdo, an eccentric recluse, and a hideous, twisted vampire. Without him, Nosferatu: Symphony of Horror quite possibly may never have stood the test of time. Direct spin offs and remakes include Shadow of the Vampire, a story about how Max Schreck the actor was an actual vampire, a fantastically updated Nosferatu The Vamypre (1979) by Werner Herzog, with Klaus Kinski as the wretched beast, the failed show "Kindred: The Embraced" had a clan of vampires named 'Nosferatu' who all looked exactly like Orlock... Hell even Weekly World News gave proppers to the pasty-white grown up bat boy.  I'll admit even I'm partial to that cute old bald freak, given that he's my #9 favourite dude on screen.  Sadly the other players in Murnau's Horror melodrama aren't nearly as  impressive, though our gitchy fly and spider eating Cobblepot-looking madman did recently earn a few laughs for his copious eyebrows.

The story opens up cheery and almost comically fluffy, until we are introduced to the Count on his carriage. The film then takes a dramatic turn to the creepily dismal. With plague-infested rats and Shreck's haunting eyes, long shadows and haunting images abound. You will be impressed, yes sir. Max is a great vampire, period. I mean just LOOK at him!
"Your wife. She has a lovely neck." - Count Orlock
"Your wife. She has a lovely throat." - Count Dracula

 

Having recently seen this for the second time, I noticed this second viewing was a different edition of script.  Most notable were the character names having returned to the originals from the novel: Dracula rather than Orlock, Renfield rather than Knock, Jonathan Harker instead of Hutter. Prana, the company that distributed Murnau's film went bankrupt when they lost a lawsuit by Bram Stoker's Estate for copyright infringement back in the 20s. I suppose that's all water under the bridge now, though I always preferred the way 'Orlock' rolls off the tongue...

Admittedly this 1922 telling of Dracula is plentiful in gaps. Those familiar with Stoker's work may find themselves disappointed with scenes and characters entirely omitted or questions unanswered, though there are some fresh twists to make up for the shortcomings, you know, like how Orlock is a hideous rat-faced freak instead of an intimidatingly beautiful man.

But after all is said and done, the atmosphere-rich ending, short as it may be, is more than memorable, it's iconic. You know Nosferatu is a classic, and you won't be disappointed.

"Mlehn! Mlenh!" Jesus is Max Shreck ever awesome!
Shreckin' it to the Max! 

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 6 Plot: 7 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 72% (A Blood-Letting Good Time)
Aftertaste:

Having  Nosferatu at #234 on IMDb's  Top 250 is still a bit of a boost to get the common man out to see a silent  film. After having seen this film in a crowded theatre obviously new to Silent cinema, it's clear that time has worn away the edges of Nosferatu: Symphony of Horror, as it elicits occasional laughter rather than terror from time to time, but Nosferatu is still short and sweet, and definitely one of the 20's most timeless films.

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