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Nosferatu, the Vampyre

Werner Herzog's 1979 English-language remake of the classic vampire film.

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Nosferatu the Vampyre – delicious

  • Jan 17, 2002
Pros: Lighting, directing, Kinski, scenery

Cons: maybe slow, but worth it

The Bottom Line: A must see for those with that vampire feeling inside

The Oracle says: Martje Grohmann has a Bacon number of 3.

Martje Grohmann was in Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979) with Dan van Husen
Dan van Husen was in Avalanche Express (1979) with Maximilian Schell
Maximilian Schell was in Telling Lies in America (1997) with Kevin Bacon ***

Aka - Nosferatu - fantôme de la nuit (1979) (France)
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979) (Germany)

Since watching Shadow of the Vampire I have been intrigued with the concept of Nosferatu, the original bad boy in black. Fortunately I was able to catch this unique filming on IFC on my cable provider.

No sleek and stylish vampire as we have been exposed to previously, Nosferatu is all bent back, elongated nails, bad teeth, pasty skin and bald head. Again, as in Shadow, etc. I am reminded of the evil representation from Tobe Hooper by Reggie Nalder in Stephen Kings’ Salem’s Lot. Although I prefer my vampire to be the seductive sort, there is something to be said for the power portrayed by these more realistic undead.

While the basic plot and characters remain the same, there is a different feel to this release. You are introduced to Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) in a different light and he is already married to Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) whereas before they have been but lovers about to be married. Jonathan still remains the cuckold, trapped by circumstance in the castle at the hands of Dracula (or Dracule as he refers to him).

Sent on this mission by his boss, Renfield (Roland Topor), to secure a real estate deal for the Count, we are also given a new look at who and what Renfield was. Previously we believed he was nothing but the purveyor of evil for ‘My Master’ but now we see him as a businessman. True, an insane businessman, but who is counting? Another new concept shown was Dr. Van Helsing (Walter Ladengast), who had previously been the stalwart vampire hunter. In this release he is the doubting Thomas, showing little belief in the idea or ideal of vampirism.

This particular Count played diligently by Klaus Kinski (father of Natasha, that delectable piece of womanhood from Cat People) is long suffering, hating his endless ‘unlife’, sorrowful and also devious. When shown in close ups, his eyes reflect a depth of depression and despair that almost calls forth a seed of empathy from you.

Yet, don’t be fooled by this vampire’s idyllic dreams of finding love in his bleak life. He is, still and all, a vampire that lives off the blood of the living. The entire concept of this release is swamped in tragedy. As opposed to countless previous vampiric lore, we find nothing lustful or entrancing about the undead. Instead we find the roots of an unbelievably lonely existence.

When the Count finally departs his native soil to go to Germany, leaving Harker at the castle, his goal is to spread a plague that eliminates the inhabitants of the world. Not revealed in previous movies, where we think that his goal is to create a universe of like undead souls, he instead wishes to unleash his terror through the use of rats infected with the plague.

As usual, he manages to kill off all the shipmates and captain (a foolish premise on my part, I would have left these people alive until I hit solid ground), yet the ship manages to sail into the harbor on its own.

This is probably the one point where I think the story was stretched a bit far. It shows the ship, deserted at dock late at night, and the Count hefting those coffins full of dirt under one arm and carrying them away to the decrepit mausoleum he has chosen for his new home. I’ve worked with the soil for 15 years, I know the heft and weight of soil.

These are human sized caskets, full of soil (and rats …. Ewwwww), yet he has no problem lifting the bad boys up and toting them away under his arm. Not only one trip, but two. In the first place, seeing as how this ship just mysteriously appears in the harbor with the captain thrashed to the wheel, no one on board but rats, I would think there would be a bit of guard standing around it. But a minor point indeed.

The balance of the movie is even more surreal than the scenes in the original castle, or even aboard ship. The town is embroiled in the plague, showing long lines of coffin bearers in almost a choreographed march passing through the townsquare. Even more bizarre is the group having what they term ‘the last supper’ in the center of town where they suddenly disappear and we are shown the rats feasting on the meal instead of the people.

Colors are rich and stark, the food appearing to glow against the depressing background and against the bodies of the rats. Further, when Dracula finally confronts Lucy, begging her to release him from his loneliness, he scuttles away from her when refused rather than take her as he did in other films. I feel this adds to the demeanor of this vampire and his knowledge that his life is hopeless.

This is not a dialogue driven release, mainly exposing you to the actions rather than the speech of the characters. Scenes with Dracula are incredibly dramatic and over done, almost campy in expression. Gestures are drawn out, halted, and studied for dramatic impact. Often the director, Herzog, relies on a single long glance rather than the spoken word, and it has a greater feeling of the aura of the scene and the feelings expressed.

Only once do you actually witness Dracula taking blood, from Jonathan, but it is so tastefully done that it titillates rather than disgusts you.

The production has the feeling of a much older movie, both through the scenery and the actions of those involved. I was surprised to find this was released in the late 70’s because it definitely has a look and quality of older work. That is part of the magic of this film. Even more magical is the haunting music that accompanies the scenes.

The main theme that weaves through the movie, Brothers of Darkness, Sons of Light was written by Florian Fricke and performed by Popul Vuh. Das Rheingold written by Richard Wagner, Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Georg Solti; Sanctus by Charles Gounod, Zinskara by the vocal ensemble Gordela and Nacht der Himmel by Popul Vuh and performed by Dead Can Dance, all play their respective parts throughout, with almost dreamlike quality.

The entire movie was fraught with a surreal dream stanza to it, the heady overtones of the Germanic background, Herzog artfully plays camera angles, unique lighting and broad colors to enhance the film. As you can tell, I didn’t consider this your standard vampire film, but actually a masterpiece in cinema.

Nosferatu was awarded the Silver Berlin Bear for production design (Henning von Gierke) and nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear (Werner Herzog). In addition, Klaus Kinski received the Film Award in Gold for his achievement as the vampire, Count Dracula, in this production.

Masterfully directed by Werner Herzog, with writing credit as well. Stars: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, Roland Topor, Walter Landengast and Martje Grohmann as Mina (can’t forget Mina). OUTSTANDING!


***Compliments of: Department of Computer Science
School of Engineering, University of Virginia

PS - to those still interested, you still have one week - that's 7 days - before the It's My Life W/O being hosted by SurgRN911 and myself. Pick a movie that represents your life (past life, future life, any part of your life) and join us. Email either of us if you are interested


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More Nosferatu, the Vampyre reviews
review by . February 18, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    You know a classic film is close to somebody's heart when, to the Americans, it is foreign; but to the person describing the film, it is native - and yet the person goes on to describe it as the best motion picture ever to come out of their home country. In the case of Werner Herzog - that daring ground-breaker of a filmmaker - F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" is the best German production ever to grace the silver screen. Nobody just says something like this for …
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About this movie


Approaching the legendary German classic 1922 film NOSFERATU -EINE SYMPHONIE DES GRAUENS by F.W. Murnau with his own unique sensibilities, Werner Herzog establishes a link between himself and the classic days of German cinema and in the process crafts a lush adaptation as well as a classic in its own right. Stark, symbolic cinematography and intensely stylized performances create what Herzog refers to as a different plane of reality, injecting the age-old tale of Count Dracula with a modern sense of mysticism, desire, and wonder. <br> <br> Frequent Herzog collaborator Klaus Kinski portrays the Dracula character with a silent intensity, tingeing the vampire's inhuman monstrosity with a deep sense of pathos and longing. Completing a stellar international cast are Bruno Ganz (a regular in the films of Wim Wenders) and French film star Isabelle Adjani, both giving subtle yet compelling performances as the formerly happy couple who fall prey to Dracula's lust for life and love. From the opening image of rows...
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Director: Werner Herzog
Genre: Horror
Release Date: October 1, 1979
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Werner Herzog
Runtime: 1hr 47min
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment, 20th Century Fox
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