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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (Kino on Video's Restored Authorized Edition DVD) » User review

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Kino on Video's Restored Authorized DVD Edition of the classic 1922 vampire film.

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"From Belial's Seed There Sprang the Vampyre Nosferatu, Who Liveth and Feedeth on Human Bloode"

  • May 5, 2009
Rating:
+4


-This review pertains to Kino On Video's Restored Authorized Edition DVD of Nosferatu-


Perhaps the greatest horror film of all time premiered on March 4, 1922 in Berlin. The film would become a classic of both the German cinematic movement of the '20s, as well as being the film that would launch the career of one of cinema's most talented directors, F.W. (Friedrich WilhelmMurnau. The film was Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens (the title's translation from German to English is Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror), an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. What makes Nosferatu one of the eeriest and most memorable of horror films? Well, for starters, unlike most adaptations of Dracula that followed, Nosferatu's vampire count wasn't a suave foreigner in gentlemen's attire. No, he was a repulsive rat-fanged predator, who lurked in the shadows before striking out at his victims.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok
The conception of Nosferatu as a film is typically credited to Albin Grau, the film's conceptual artist, costume and production designer, who also served in the role of what today we would call a producer. Grau had first become interested in telling a vampire story when he watched a spider methodically wrapping up its prey before feeding off of its vital life juice. Grau felt, similarly as did Murnau, that the Great War (WWI) was an ultimately futile and pointless exercise in violence and that as humanity progresses in a technological sense we are regressing spiritually and intellectually. With the inevitable rise of fascism not far ahead, Grau and Murnau took a deeply pessimistic view of the world. In their eyes we, the human race, were becoming parasites like nosferatu, feeding off of the lives of others to ensure our own sickly survival. The age of vampirism had arrived.

 
Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe was born in Westphalia, Germany on December 28 of 1888. During his early years he lead a quiet life, preferring the company of books and political magazines to the company of his own peers. Much like his mother, Otilie, Friedrich showed a natural appreciation and understanding of the arts. He would often help his siblings put on puppet shows, which he would usually create the sets for.

Later, Friedrich decided that he would pursue a career in acting, which greatly displeased his stern father, Heinrich. However, Friedrich refused to compromise himself. He could not win the respect of his father as an actor and he could not earn his acceptance as a homosexual, so he left his home and sought out the world of art and theatre. In 1910, and some would say that this was his attempt at disassociating himself with the family that he felt had rejected his true nature, Friedrich changed his last name to Murnau, which was the name of the Bavarian town that he visited with his lover, the poet Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele.

When war broke out, both Friedrich and Hans enlisted as soldiers, but only one would survive the bloody horrors of the trenches. Hans died in 1915. After about eight months in the trenches Murnau became a reconnaissance pilot. During one fateful flight he was forced to make a landing in neutral Switzerland, where he would begin directing plays and would later draw the attention of the government, which hired him to direct some propaganda films. Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's passion for filmmaking had been ignited and it would burn brightly. In short time, he would become a true film director and a master of the early German cinema.

 

Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens, as I've mentioned before was freely adapted from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. The screenplay was written by Henrik Galeen, who had previously written the film Der Golem - Wie er in der Welt Kam (which translates to The Golem: How He Came Into the World in English). Galeen was a friend of both F.W. Murnau and Albin Grau, and like them, he had a deep interest in the occult. Galeen's screenplay for Nosferatu would use the vampire as a metaphor for the destruction and violence of the war.

Since the Stoker estate had not sold the rights for Dracula to be made into a film, Galeen would make changes to the story and characters. Count Dracula became Count Orlok, Jonathan Harker became Thomas Hutter, Wilhelmina Murray-Harker became Ellen Hutter, Professor Abraham Van Helsing became Professor Bulwer, Doctor John Steward became Professor Sievers, and R.M. Renfield became Knock. Also, certain elements of the story were changed for either legal or artistic reasons. Most notably, Count Orlok became a plague-spreader and Ellen, unlike Mina Murray-Harker, would sacrifice herself to save her beloved husband.

Because of the fact that the filmmakers neglected to get legal permission to adapt Dracula into a film, Florence Stoker, Bram Stoker's widow, sued Prana-Film, the film company that released Nosferatu. As a result, the courts sided with Florence Stoker and ordered that Nosferatu not only be pulled from theatres, but also that all prints of the film should be destroyed. Fortunately, a few copies were saved from the destruction and Nosferatu can still be seen in all its glory today.

 

  

The story begins in 1838, when young Hutter is sent to Transylvania by the sinister estate broker Knock, where he is to deliver documents to Count Orlok. Once there he encounters many strange things and the mysterious Count reveals himself to be a vampire. The Count finds a picture of Hutter's young innocent wife, Ellen and then journeys to Wisborg, Germany to find her. Hutter is left behind in the vampire's eerie castle until one night when he manages to escape. By the time Hutter returns to his own home in Wisborg, the Count has spread a plague across the countryside. Too weak to battle this nefarious monstrosity, Hutter unknowingly leaves Ellen vulnerable to Orlok's attack. But Ellen, having read Hutter's journal and a book about Nosferatu, prepares to destroy the Count the only way she can. She plans to sacrifice herself to the undead Count and in so doing distract him until the sun rises since the first rays of the morning sun are lethal to the Nosferatu. In the final climactic scene Count Orlok creeps into their home and feeds on the virginal heroine's blood and then he meets his demise. Ellen's self-sacrifice and her defeat of Count Orlok lifts the accursed plague from Wisborg forever.

 

  

Nosferatu features a talented cast, which was headed by intense character actor Max Schreck, whose name literally translates to "maximum terror". Schreck played the vampire Count Orlok, not as a sex symbol or a handsome yet violent monster, but rather as a vile rat-like being that felt no human emotions; only a parasitic bloodlust. The rest of the cast included Gustav Von Wangenheim as Hutter, Alexander Granach as Knock, Greta Schroeder as Ellen, and John Gottowt as Professor Bulwer.

 

Kino On Video's Restored Authorized Edition of Nosferatu is fantastic, though it's not without its flaws. This particular restoration of the film is impressive, though inferior to the one found on the Image Entertainment DVD. The newly translated title cards are closer to the original text, but they are presented in a hideously bright green color that is terribly distracting and feels out of place with the rest of the film. Also, the image quality is grainier than that seen on the Image release.

The DVD features two separate scores. The first is composed by Donald Sosin with vocals by Joanna Seaton. This score is effective at conjuring up the haunting vampiric themes of the film and evokes images of the beauty and danger of Eastern Europe's ancient forests and ruinous castles.

The second score is composed by Gérard Hourbette and Thierry Zaboitzeff and was performed by Art Zoyd. Unfortunately, this score is too hectic and so discordant that I wasn't even able to listen to it in its entirety. However, the half hour that I was able to tolerate was terrible and it totally overwhelmed the emotions of the film. Luckily, you can choose between the two scores, so it doesn't ruin your viewing experience.

Supplemental features include archival excerpts from six of Murnau's films, a gallery of photographs and artwork, and a scene comparison that explores the similarities and differences between Bram Stoker's novel, Henrik Galeen's screenplay, the final film, and a radio play performed by Orson Welles.

Restored Authorized Edition DVD
Still, for those cineastes looking to complete their silent film collection and for those unfamiliar with the legendary film, this DVD is essential, but not perfect.

Here is a link to Kino's official website, where you can purchase the Restored Authorized Edition DVD of Nosferatu and other classic films:
Nosferatu (Restored Authorized Edition)

Orlok Arises
Albin Grau's Initial Poster Nosferatu Restored Authorized Edition DVD cover Albin Grau's Concept Art Opening Title Card

What did you think of this review?

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October 18, 2010
Amazing review Count, love this film and the releases I have of it. I even have one edition that was released with Type O Negative music on it, didn't like it at first but it kinda goes with it now. It also has an introduction by David Carradine, but still the Ultimate Edition of this film is the one to go with.
October 18, 2010
Yeah, Kino's Ultimate Edition blows away all of the competition and this particular DVD release. I've yet to see the edition with the Type O Negative score. I'm guessing that I would find it to be distracting at first too.
 
February 03, 2010
Whew. It took me a little while to get through this updated version because I wanted to check out all the new bells and whistles and my computer has been giving me trouble this week. Everytime I checked one it wouldn't return me to the review so I'd have to search for NOSFERATU again and start all over. =) You've certainly covered most of the bases if not all of them. (There ARE only 3 bases aren't there?) But if there's more to know about this film I have no doubt you'll ferret it out and add it on for us! Great job.
February 03, 2010
LOL! Well, this is my second review of it. My first one that I was telling you about was the one on my profile page. Sorry about the confusion. It'll only get worse though, because I'll be reviewing it two more times before I've dished out all that I have to say on this silent film gem! ; )
February 03, 2010
Really? I checked out all the beels and whistles for nothing? Save me!
February 03, 2010
LOL! Sorry. I'm starting to fall asleep, so I'm probably not of much help. Plus, I'm a little peeved because I wrote a response to someone's comment that was quite long and well-thought out and then that person deleted their original comment which took my response with it. Now my head is spinning and I'm tired. At least the two go together, right?
February 03, 2010
As far as I know, but then what do I know?
February 03, 2010
A lot more than I do at the moment. : )
February 03, 2010
I have a headache now too.
February 03, 2010
I've had once since yesterday, but I've begun to get used to it, which is pretty sad. Try massaging your temples.
February 03, 2010
I get better result when I massage the top of my head. Go figure.
February 03, 2010
Can you do that while patting your stomach? I never understood why some people thought that was hard.
February 03, 2010
It's a co-ordination thing. No I can't
 
November 20, 2009
How does this version compare to the later DVD version we have?
November 20, 2009
Well, it has all of the same special features except for the documentary and the featurette. The restoration here is the third best of all the high quality "Nosferatu" DVDs, so it's not bad, but the other two are excellent. Also, this version features some rather strange choices in music as well. The first music track is really atmospheric and eerie, the second one is kind of painful. I bought this edition in the original F.W. Murnau Collection that Kino put out in 2003 and I absolutely love the set, but this particular DVD was a little bit redundant. Since, you've got the Ultimate Edition, I wouldn't bother with this one. But for a hardcore collector or a newbie, it's still quite nice. I love the packaging with the purple, black and green. Very Gothic!
November 20, 2009
Thanks. I'm glad I got the ultimate set. I remember watching this film in the theater in college and now I know why it was not impressive -- it was black & white, no tinted color, and it was boring. With this new set, watching it was a pleasure and I can discern the director's creativity in this product. As an aside, someone on Amazon criticized me for writing "too many" reviews ("Good Lord, 178 reviews? You need to get out more.") and he thought they were too long, should be more capsulated apparently. I don't know, should I block him or ignore him?
November 20, 2009
Don't ask me, personally, I got so many negative comments that I just kind of started to agree with them and ironically praise their evaluation skills. Usually, they figured out who was smarter and buzzed off. Vultures only feed on the injured and dead, remember that. ; )
November 20, 2009
Good points, all, thanks. Oh my, we have the first New Moon review up. Shudder!
February 03, 2010
I'm trying to decide if I still want to review it or not. From what I've read, it's worse than the first film.
February 03, 2010
The book I felt was just lazy writing. I really hoped the movie scriptwriter would tighten it up, but wasn't it Meyer who helped write the screen play? They did play the werewolves fairly OK. The film was faithful to the book, warts and all.
May 01, 2010
Nah, Meyer was there as an associate producer and a creatibve consultant I think, but she wasn't involved with the writing of the screenplay.
 
June 02, 2009
Kino should've hired you to write this review as a freelance writer. I'm sure they really appreciate this fine review of yours & this brought you one step closer to building a mystery.*Grins* Thumbs up!!
June 02, 2009
Funny you should say that because I actually tried to get a job reviewing films for Kino, but they politely declined. Bummer. Nice Sarah McLachlan reference. I love that song and, for that matter, that entire album. :)
June 02, 2009
Damn, that sucks! You are a great writer & you would've sold me on purchasing this film had I not already bought a copy. I hate that! I love Sarah too & will buy any album she makes honestly. I think my all-time fav is Fumbling Towards Ecstacy & Solace is right behind it. Surfacing is a very beautiful record though & I do love all the tracks on that CD too.
 
May 07, 2009
awesome review. Sadly I don't own this movie yet, but I will soon rectify that mistake. This is a true masterpiece of classic horror films.
May 07, 2009
No, not you too. How many so-called horror fans don't have at least one version of this film in their collection? Aaaarrrghhh! Anyhow, Woo, if you're going to buy it go with the Ultimate DVD Edition, for which I also wrote a review. Superior quality, both as far as audio and video go. More expensive, sadly, but the best available edition. This one here would come in as the third best available edition.
 
May 05, 2009
Sorry about the fact that I recycled my old plot summary and cast info. I'll try to re-edit in the near future so that it doesn't seem quite so redundant. Anyhow, happy NosferaTuesday! ):-=
May 06, 2009
Because puce wasn't available?
May 06, 2009
Yeah, and mauve was apparently out of the question. :)
 
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Quick Tip by . February 05, 2010
Not the best available DVD of Nosferatu, but very likely the one with the coolest cover. Nice addition to any vampire fan's collection. ):-=
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Product Info:

An unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nosferatu is the quintessential silent vampire film, crafted by legendary German director F. W. Murnau (Sunrise, Faust, The Last Laugh).

Rather than depicting Dracula as a shape-shifting monster or debonair gentleman, Murnau's Graf Orlok (as portrayed by Max Schreck) is a nightmarish, spidery creature of bulbous head and taloned claws -- perhaps the most genuinely disturbing incarnation of vampirism yet envisioned.

Nosferatu was an atypical expressionist film in that much of it was shot on location. While directors such as Lang and Lubitsch built vast forests and entire towns within the studio, Nosferatu's landscapes, villages and castle were actual locations in the Carpathian mountains. Murnau was thus able to infuse the story with the subtle tones of nature: both pure and fresh as well as twisted and sinister.

Special Features:
 

  • Lengthy excerpts from other films by F. W. Murnau: Journey Into the Night (1920), The Haunted Castle (1921), Phantom (1922), The Last Laugh (1924), Faust (1926), Tabu (1931)
  • Choose from two musical scores in digital stereo. Score by Donald Sosin with vocals by Joanna Seaton OR Music composed by Gerard Hourbette and Thierry Zabiotzeff performed by Art Floyd.
  • Photo gallery
  • Scene comparison: novel, screenplay and film
  • New and improved English intertitle translation
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL Dual-layer edition
 
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Details

Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, Horror
Release Date: March 4, 1922
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Henrik Galeen
DVD Release Date: September 24, 2001
Runtime: 93 minutes
Studio: Kino, Kino On Video, Kino International, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Prana-Film
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