Public Domain Movie: Nosferatu (1922), Starring Max Schreck

Nosferatu, with Max Schreck – Movie 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, so I decided to suffer the irritating backing music, and watch it.

Nosferatu is a German vampire movie starring Max Schreck. It’s the first Dracula movie. Many more followed.

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. The vampire, played by Max Schreck is not called Dracula or even Nosferatu. His name is Count Orlock and his fangs are close together in the center of his mouth instead of at the side. His big nose and claw-like fingers make Count Orlock appear more rat-like than bat-like and he’s not the handsome count you see in later Dracula movies.

Nosferatu Movie Poster Showing Max Schreck
Max Schreck in Nosferatu (Movie Poster)

In some places Nosferatu seems more like a comedy than a horror movie. A good example of this is the scene where Count Orlock 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 it anyway.

There is one of two German horror movies called Nosferatu. The other one is was filmed in colour in 1979. It’s called Nosferatu the Vampyre. This one, starring Max Schreck, is also known as Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens  (Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror).

Additional Information

Director: F.W. Murnau


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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