Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
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Often touted as the first Dracula movie, 1922's Nosferatu cannot claim that title,there is a lost Hungarian movie that takes that honour, although that movie doesn't have much similarity to the novel of Bram Stoker, so technically Nosferatu is the original Dracula movie.
Nosferatu, from director FW Murnau,wasn't made with the rights to the story, so it doesn't use any names from the novel, and it switches the setting from London to Bremen in Germany, however, the likeness didn't go amiss on Stoker's widow, who sued the makers of this movie, a move which lead to nigh on every copy of it being burned. Thankfully a few survived, and it is now one of the most popular classic horror movies of all time, and actor Max Schreck a bit of a cult icon for his portrayal of the dreaded Count Graf Orlok.
Presented in it's silent form, with a soundtrack by god-knows who, Nosferatu can be found on 2-Disc Region 2 DVD, with one disc containing the movie in a Sepia tint, and the other the straight 'B&W'
The movie roughly follows the story of Dracula. A young real estate agent named Hutter(Gustav von Wangenheim - The Stone Rider) works for a chap named Knock(Alexander Granach - The Seventh Cross), who sends him to the darkest depths of Transylvania to sell the house accross the road from his to Count Orlok.
Hutter leaves his wife Ellen(Greta Schroder - The Golem) with his friends, much to her despare, and sets off for the Carpathians, where he discovers that the locals are terrified of Count Orlok, and he finds a book on local superstitions, most notably Vampires, or 'Nosferatu',Hutter laughs this off and continues to Castle Orlok.
When there, he notices there is something decidedly strange about the Count, especially when he goes into a frenzy at the sight of Hutter's cut finger. Not to mention his appearance, lanky, with clawed fingers, a long nose,pointy ears and deep set eyes making up the features of his bald head.
As the days go by and he is trapped in the Castle, Hutter notices he has two peculiar bite marks on his neck, and that the Count is quite taken by a photo of Ellen he has. One morning, he also discovers the Count asleep in a coffin. The next day, Hutter is locked in his room and he witnesses the Count leave the castle with 5 Coffins filled with earth from Plagued land. He realises he must escape, and get to Ellen before Orlok does.
Orlok is heading to Germany via ship, a ship in which he kills the entire crew on route to London, and when he emerges, he brings with him a fleet of plagued rats.
It also turns out that Knock has been in league with him all along, and he is committed for insanity by the local doctors due to his constant babbling about the 'master'. The city is declared a plagued area, and people cannot leave their homes, which makes it a perfect cover for Orlok's schemes. Things look bleak, until Ellen reads something about a sinless woman being able to end the curse...
I have to admit that I quite liked the addition of the 'plague' to the story, the film was in danger of following the Dracula story a little too close until that key element was introduced, and personally I feel it adds to the story, unlike some other Dracula movies that added elements to the plot (looking at you Coppola version).
Some elements of the plot are rather incomplete though, I heard that some versions of the movie removed the Knock sub-plot in its entirity, and to be honest, I don't think that would have harmed the movie all that much, while the scenes of the mob chasing the escaped Knock, who turns out in a manner that reminds me of Warwick Davis portrayal of the Leprechaun, is entertaining, it seems to be there almost just to add runtime. That's one thing that should be mentioned, Nosferatu isn't a short movie like most pre-50s films I've seen, it runs at a length comparable to most recent movies.
The movie could also be accused of being rather slow, and I have to say that I do agree with this sentiment a little. While I wouldn't say the movie was boring or at too slow a pace throughout, there were sections that definitely dragged on.
The acting in the movie is fairly standard for a silent, the actors are all having to over-do it a bit to get their emotions accross, and while none of them sunk below acceptable in my eyes, it has to be said that the show was outright stolen by Schrek, with his portrayal of the vampire earning this movie another star from me alone. He gives one of the two defining Vampire performances ever, with the other being Lugosi. While Lugosi made Dracula an elegant and seductive demon, Orlok, as portrayed by Schrek, can only be described as a beast. I find it important that he has the appearance of a rat, when he is followed by packs of them, instead of the vampire's usual companion, the bat. Schrek uses his body to convey the ominous and stalking nature of the character wonderfully. Watch how he moves his fingers, he even does a simple act like this with menace.
The special effects, for the time, are pretty good in some aspects. Schrek's make-up is absolutely awesome, he looks on par with the Universal monsters of a decade later. The sets are also impressive, and with a style of their own, and my only complaint is the fact that several scenes that clearly should be taking place at night are blatantly filmed during the day, making it look like Orlok can easily walk in the sunlight.
On the whole, I feel that while Nosferatu may be slightly overrated, it's still a timeless piece in the way that a heavy amount of it is memorable, and still atmospheric to this day. While I personally feel the Lugosi Dracula from 1931 is a far more accessable classic vampire movie, cinema fans not put off by the silent nature and the fact it isn't completely perfect shouldn't miss out on watching this at least once, the same goes for horror fans, if only to see the absolutely masterful portrayal of the vampire in the movie.
Nosferatu is a flawed classic, but a classic nonetheless, and while I didn't quite enjoy it enough to give it full marks, it certainly had enough impression on me to warrant 4 stars.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12