Synyster Graves

Nosferatu

by on Oct.02, 2010, under Bear Goes Back In Time

Still the Finest ‘Dracula’ Movie ever Made

It is now almost 90 years since Nosferatu was released; 90 years where countless films have been shot trying to bring to life (or perhaps undead?) Bram Stoker’s classic novel. And yet Nosferatu, is still probably not only the finest, but also the closest that anyone has ever come.

The film itself is not officially a Dracula film. The German film makers were unaware of copyright laws and as a result, the film was nearly lost forever. It sounds remarkable, but when one considers that films such as London After Midnight and the full version of Greed have been lost, we must be thankful that this has survived.

The details of the plot do not correspond with the book, with the story being more inspired by rather than copied from the story. And yet somehow, none of that matters. You are already filled with a sense of unease when ‘Hutter’ is sent out to Transylvania by a man whom we later discover to be an agent of the count. Tension starts to build and comes to a Hellish crescendo when we finally meet the antagonist…

Dracula, as a character, is meant to repulsive. He is a fiend, a demon from Hell and a monster first and foremost. In later years, many Draculas seemed like cardboard cut outs of bad comics or were given a ridiculous subplots. Even Bela Lugosi was charming as well as scary. But Max Schreck’s ‘Count Orlock’ is walking plague. He is not attractive or pleasant but evil personified and makes your skin crawl.

The directing of F.W. Murnau does not quite rival the Cabinet of Dr Caligari for outlandishness but retains enough of the German expressionist influence to make the film creep along like a nightmare. The Count himself is hypnotic and it is some compliment to pay that he is still the scariest vampire of all, 90 years on when so many of the other greats of horror now seem tame. The scene of his shadow climbing the stairs is among the greatest of all time.

The other aspect from the book that is maintained is ‘Nina’ (Mina obviously) being willing to sacrifice herself to defeat the monster.

It has to be said that the film has aged somewhat in parts of the film. Thankfully, in most places, the greatness captured on screen is truly timeless. The restoration work is superb, especially when compared to my original VHS copy which missed scenes and was badly in need of repair.

Some of the images from the film have transcended cinema and become part of popular culture in a way that no other silent film has achieved. That is not to say that it is the greatest silent film, but it is certainly worthy of mention with the best. It is not, strictly speaking a ‘Dracula’ film and so the book retains its place. But no film has come closer to it in greatness or feel in 90 years and we may have to wait another 90 for anything so spectacular. A Symphony of Terror it most certainly is!

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