Public Domain Movie: Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu: Review

I quite enjoy watching old, black and white movies, but I must admit that I am not a fan of movies from the silent era. I had always been curious about Nosferatu though, because it is the first Dracula movie so I decided to suffer the irritating backing music, and watch it.

Although Nosferatu is based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it doesn’t follow the original story very closely and I found parts of it quite annoying at times. The most annoying thing in the whole movie—for me anyway—was the way that, during the first few scenes, Jonathan Harker always seemed to be laughing. I know that, without the benefit of sound, the movie had to rely solely on visual media to help get across to the viewer what was happening, but Harker’s laugh was much too exaggerated for my liking

Early on in the movie there is a scene where Harker brings some flowers to Nina who, in this version, is already Harker’s wife, and then the couple embrace—young love and all that—but then a couple of scenes later Harker is rushing home and telling Nina that he is going away, for several months, to some lost corner of the Carpathians. No sooner has he told his worried-looking wife than he is packing his bags and looking very excited about it. What had happened to all of that young love? I had to wonder. Even an old love must surely show more remorse on parting than Harker showed here.

In between the young love scene and Harker’s rushing home with the news of his departure there is a scene where Harker’s employer, Renfield, asks him to undertake the journey to see count Dracula. Renfiled seems to share his employee’s strange obsession with laughter. One of them laughing like a loon is annoying, two is unbearable.

In Stoker’s book Renfield shows up first as a patient in a mental institution, who has an unhealthy obsession with flies and spiders. In Nosferatu, Renfield—the employer—goes mad, gets institutionalized and becomes a lover of all things small and creepy-crawly.

Nosferatu is very different from most vampire movies. Dracula’s fangs, for example, are at the front of his mouth, rather than the side, and he is more rat-like than bat-like with his big nose and long claw-like fingers. He does look scary though, and I for one would not want to run into him on a dark night; or on any night for that matter.

In some places Nosferatu seems more like a comedy than a horror movie. A good example of this is the scene where Dracula glances at a picture of Harker’s wife. “Is that your wife?” he asks. “What a lovely throat!” Considering the old vamp’s winning way with words it is not surprising this version of the classic tale omits the scene involving the room-full of beautiful female vampires.

All in all I didn’t enjoy Nosferatu, but I am glad that I watched it just so that I am no longer wondering about it. I cheated when I watched it, by the way. The screens of text seemed to stay on screen for such a long time after I had finished reading them that I found it unbearable and watched the whole thing at double speed. I lost the music, of course, but I didn’t like the music anyway.

Additional Information

Director: F.W. Murnau

Cast

Max Schreck … Graf Orlok
Gustav von Wangenheim  … Hutter
Greta Schröder …  Ellen
Georg H. Schnell … Harding
Ruth Landshoff …  Ruth
Gustav Botz … Professor Sievers
Alexander Granach … Knock
John Gottowt  … Professor Bulwer
Max Nemetz  … Ein Kapitän
Wolfgang Heinz …  Matrose (1)
Albert Venohr … Matrose (2)
Eric van Viele  …  Matrose (2)
Karl Etlinger … kontrolleur am Kai
Guido Herzfeld  … Wirt
Loni Nest … Child at Window
Fanny Schreck … Krankenschwester im Hospital
Hardy von Francois … Arzt im Hospital
Heinrich Witte  … Wärter im Irrenhaus

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