Horror Movie Matters #31: Nosferatu 1922 Dir. F.W. Murnau

I'm performing a little experiment and offering some viewing advice to those who may not know what horror films to watch as we tiptoe closer to Halloween. Each day I'll be posting a short write-up about a horror film that has value. It could be a cinema classic, it could be gloriously entertaining or both. Keep checking in.

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors 1922 Dir. F.W. Murnau

This German adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, is often credited as the first vampire film. Despite being ninety years old, Nosferatu still holds up as an early horror masterpiece. The expressionistic design of this film is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. Count Orlok is a predatory creature that spreads plague and sickness wherever he travels. One would have very little difficulty distinguishing him from the so called "sexy" vampires that would come later. This film inspired a wonderful remake starring Klaus Kinski as Orlok and a fictional account of the film's production in Shadow of the Vampire starring John Malkovich as well as Coppola's film Bram Stoker's Dracula. It also bares mentioning that the iconic image of Count Orlok has inspired Tobe Hooper's television adaptation of 'Salem's Lot, and even Robert Englund's portrayal of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Nosferatu is in the public domain, which means you can watch it for free on Youtube. However, not all prints of this film are created equal. I suggest finding a copy of the KINO Video DVD if you can, as they currently have the cleanest print and most complete version of the film (to my knowledge). If you haven't seen this film, it's a masterpiece and deserves your attention.

Additional Note: After writing this short blog in 2012, I had the rare opportunity to see Nosferatu in a theater with a live score performed by Plastik Factory, an artist collective in Colorado. Though not the original score for the film, Plastik Factory's Nosferatu musical accompaniment was appropriate and atmospheric, lingering with me long after the film was over. This event opened my eyes to how important music and setting are to these early silent films. The first audiences for these pictures did not view them alone, on tiny screens. These were events with live orchestras, meant to transport the audience to a magical time and place. If you ever have the opportunity to see this film with live music please do so, on DVD, it's only half of a film.