Kino International's 2-disc DVD release of the classic silent vampire film directed by F.W. Murnau.< read all 5 reviews
-This review pertains to Kino International's 2-disc Ultimate DVD Edition of Nosferatu-
In 1922, German director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau released his film Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens (in English this title translates to Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror), which not only brought the thirty-three year old director into prominence among Germany's greatest filmmakers, but also gave the world what is perhaps the greatest horror film ever made.
Loosely based upon Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, the screenplay was written by Henrik Galeen. However, either Murnau and the other filmmakers didn't understand the complexities of copyright law or they simply didn't bother to get legal permission to adapt Stoker's novel into a motion picture. In vain they tried to avoid having legal action taken against them by changing the names of the characters from the novel.
The film's shoot, which commenced early in July of 1921, took Murnau, his cast and crew across Germany. Nosferatu was released through independent production studio, Prana-Film, which was a German studio founded by Albin Grau, a noted producer, artist, and occultist. It was Albin Grau who first suggested Bram Stoker's gothic horror novel as a potential film project for the foundling studio. Other than Murnau, it was Grau who was responsible for the eerie, expressionistic atmosphere of Nosferatu, as he was not only the film's producer, but also the costume designer, set designer, and artistic director.
The film would finally be released on March 4 of 1922 and despite an extensive marketing campaign and great critical acclaim, the film was only a modest commercial success. Bram Stoker's widow, Florence Stoker, felt that the film too closely resembled her late husband's book, so as a result she sued Murnau and the film's small studio, Prana-Film. She had the courts order the film to be pulled from theatres and worse, she demanded that all prints of the film were to be destroyed. Thankfully some copies survived destruction or else we should not be able to view Murnau's penultimate masterpiece today.
Nosferatu featured 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.
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.
As a fan of both German expressionist films from the silent age and of the Dracula theme, this film has become my all-time favorite film. When I heard that Kino International was going to re-release the film in a 2-disc Ultimate DVD Edition, I was thrilled. Having now seen the restoration, I must say that I am in awe. The quality of the transfer is greater than that found in any other available version. In fact I almost felt as if I were one of those lucky people who viewed this masterpiece during its original release.
There have been many, many releases of Nosferatu on DVD, and most of these are put out by small distribution companies. These DVD versions are typically of a very poor quality and as such are available at low prices. However there have been two prestigious distribution companies, Image Entertainment and Kino International (a.k.a. Kino On Video), which have created high quality transfers of the film. For the latest and most impressive release, Kino International has united with Transit Film and the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung (translates to Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation). Utilizing the highest quality prints of the film available, they have to the best of their ability duplicated the look and sound of the film as it was shown in theatres in 1922. And for the first time ever, the film features the original score as composed by Hans Erdmann.
This 2-disc Ultimate DVD Edition includes the gloriously restored film in two versions; one with newly translated English intertitles and the other in the original German. This excellent DVD also includes "The Language of Shadows: Murnau - The Early Years and Nosferatu" documentary, which explores Murnau's early career and his connection with the occult, archival excerpts of eight other Murnau films, "Nosferatu: An Historic Film Meets Digital Restoration" featurette, an image gallery, and a scene comparison that examines the similarities and differences between Stoker's novel, Henrik Galeen's screenplay, and the final film. Overall this set is spectacular, but where some may be disappointed is with the content on disc two, which only contains the film with the original German intertitles. Kino could have at least included a commentary track with a film historian or an alternate score such as they di with their prior DVD release. But unfortunately this was not to be the case. Now, all said the film restoration is beyond fantastic and the special features on disc one are great which earns the Ultimate DVD Edition my highest recommendation, though I wish that disc two had been more elaborate in its content. Any minor complaints aside, this DVD makes a perfect gift for cineastes and horror fans alike. This DVD is a wonderful tribute to Murnau's legacy as a filmmaker and a triumph in the art of film restoration.
Here is a link to Kino's official website, where you can purchase the 2-disc Ultimate DVD Edition of Nosferatu and other classic silent films:
Nosferatu (2-disc Ultimate DVD Edition)
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SEE The Unbelievable HD transfer
THE ULTIMATE DVD EDITION
A cornerstone of the horror film, F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU is triumphantly
reborn in this breathtaking new restoration by the F.W. Murnau Foundation.
Backed by an orchestral performance of Hans Erdmann's 1922 score (recorded
in 5.1 stereo surround), this Kino International edition is derived from a
new high-definition transfer of Murnau's masterpiece, with unprecedented
visual clarity and historical faithfulness to the original release version.
This double-disc collection presents the film with the original German
intertitles as well as with newly-translated Englishintertitles. Accompanying the film is a
52-minute documentary by Luciano Berriatúa which provides a detailed account
of the production and explores the filmmakers' involvement in the occult.
NOSFERATU - Eine Symphonie des Grauens
NOSFERATU, A Symphony of Horror
NOSFERATU: A Symphony of Horror
Germany 1922 94 Min. Color Tinted 1.33:1
Directed by F.W. Murnau Photographed by Fritz Arno Wagner
Screenplay: Henrik Galeen Art Direction: Albin Grau
With Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Alexander Granach, Greta Schroeder
Restored by Luciano Berriatúa
Reconstruction of Hans Erdmann's original 1922 score by Berndt Heller
Performed by the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Berndt Heller
Sound Recording: Saarländischer Rundfunk, Saarbrücken
DVD Special ...