Nosferatu: Original Version: Special Edition

First time watching the movie, and so far, I’m less than impressed. In the first place, it’s awfully slow in getting to the meat of the story, you know, the vampire bits.

But apart from the movie itself, the modern soundtrack to it is HORRIBLE. It’s this incredibly assertive New Age freeform crap that sounds like it was done on a Casio keyboard circa 1981. Just terrible.

And the werewolf is a hyena? WTF?

And it’s not helping me that Hutter looks like Beck.

Hutter - I hate this fucker. He has this constant shit-eating grin. I want him to get his throat torn out.

Nice creeptastic effect on Orlok’s carriage and the way it moves. Very unnatural.

Who’s doing the soundtrack? There’s a group called the Alloy Orchestra that plays live music to screenings of classic silent movies, and Nosferatu is one that they do. They’ve released videos of some movies with their accompaniment.

In fact, the only time I’ve seen Nosferatu was in a theater with them doing the music. I loved it, but maybe it’s better to be there in person.

Well, as it turns out, there were two possible soundtracks on the DVD. One was the godawful syntho-horror one by the Silent Orchestra. The other was much better: a pipe organ soundtrack by Timothy Howard.

And in the final analysis, it was quite good after all. Max Schreck was a creepy bastard, with his thin features, his bony hands, and the strange, unreal way he moved. The scene where he stalked the captain of the Demeter was freaky as all hell, and of course, there was the iconic scene of Orlok stalking Mina across her bedroom as nothing but a shadow. He spreads death and disease wherever he goes. Very effective.

But one other short complaint: it looks as if they kind of colorized the film. Different scenes have different looks, some look as if an orange filter was applied, and some look as if a blue filter was applied. And no, it doesn’t seem to correspond with nights and days. Very distracting.

Actually, many black and white films of that period used colour tinting and those that did are known to have included Nosferatu. This page discusses that issue, along with much else, in some detail.

It’s some time since I saw it and, from what I can remember, I would agree that it’s a bit slow at times, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

I take it you haven’t seen too many movies from the 1920s? Many of them use this incredibly cheezy color tinting effect. It’s been like that since the beginning.

I greatly prefer the organ track to the orchestra…it just works so well with the atmosphere. There have been hundreds of vampire movies made, and I honestly think that they’re all downhill from this one. The Bela Lugosi films were garbage.

Hey!I liked Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstien

The only other time Bela Lugosi played the Count on film was Dracula. As much as you may have hated it you have to admit the guy made a huge fingerprint on the role with one film. (Ok two if you include the Abbott and Costello flick)

Anybody else catch the film a few Halloweens ago at St. John’s Cathedral in NYC? Awesome. Now that was a soundtrack!

2Thanks for the comments, all. In all, I found the movie to be good. Not great, but good. It was, as fusoya said, probably the best true distillation of what the vampire myth meant to Romanians…that is, the absolute soulless representation of evil, disease, corruption, and plague. Max Schreck’s Nosferatu is unforgettable and horribly effective. His stiff, unnatural movement, the makeup, the dead, unblinking eyes. Nasty stuff.

However, it was riddled with problems.

  1. The pacing, especially in the beginning, was atrocious. I was tempted to turn it off at the scene where Knock and Hutter were discussing how much money could be made via Count Orlok. They grasped each other and grinned like cheesy maniacs for what seemed like 30 seconds. Ugh.

  2. The acting by everyone except Schreck was horrible. I wanted to rip Hutter’s throat out myself.

  3. Too little attention was paid to why Orlok was attracted to Ellen, thus removing the sexual aspect of the vampire from the story…an element that was present in Stoker’s novel, and most other vampire adaptations. As an aside, this, in my opinion, is where most other vampire movies go wrong. The vampire is supposed to be a powerfully sexual monster. Most directors recognize this, so they cast and shoot the vampire as a handsome, debonair charmer, rather than recognizing that the monster’s sexuality has nothing to do with his looks, but is more about his power to mesmerize and dominate.

  4. Orlok died in the end not because anybody was hunting him, but because he screwed up and mistimed his predation. Pretty lame. He’s been doing this for how long again? I know Ellen supposedly sacrificed herself so he’d forget that dawn was coming, but I never felt a visceral connection between them that would signify that Orlok would lose himself altogether. Unsatisfying.

The effects and camera shots used in conjunction with the monster were masterful, though. I loved the Demeter scenes. The bowsprit camera, the shot of the ship from another, approaching ship was almost like a Steadicam shot. Nicely done. I also liked the Demeter sailing into port as a death ship. Furnau really nailed the whole almost Medieval feeling of Black Plague.

I don’t think the nosferatu is supposed to have that quality. They’re not sexy, they’re repulsive. As you said, they’re the embodiment of the plague. Unless I have it backward and most nosferatu portrayals stem from this movie, that is. But I think the type was already well-established.

Those were the moments that I liked most about the film; the ones where the creepiness was quiet, but very assertive. The ship was great, and a single shot while Hutter is looking around in the tomb really stands out, too.

Sure. I was just assuming that the element of sexuality is supposed to be in there, since the movie is pretty well a straight adaptation of Stoker’s novel, and it was definitely in there. Also, there were a few references to sexuality in the movie, but nothing that really underlined that aspect. The remark in the book that if a maiden (a virgin) were to voluntarily give her blood (be ravished) to the monster, and make him forget the crowing of the cock (keep him up aaaaaaall night long boom chikka chikka wow,) then the nosferatu could be vanquished is an idea lifted straight out of vampire mythology and is dripping with sexuality.

I dunno. Maybe my tastes are too jaded and dulled by modern cinema to pick up on a theme that Furnau intended, and maybe thought was extremely obvious.

You might enjoy Furnau’s Faust, then. It’s a lot less subtle (although it does carry the Faustian themes very well), but it’s rich and gorgeous. As an artistic accomplishment, I feel easily it outstrips Nosferatu.

[nit]It’s Murnau.[/nit] The version I saw had Timothy Howard’s score; I don’t know what you had to endure, Ogre.

Fuck. Sorry about that.

I’ve seen Nosferatu a couple of times with a live accompaniment - my favourite was seeing it with Krautrock metal-bashers Faust providing the music. They didn’t use their concrete-mixer, though!
They have a live cd available of their soundtrack called ‘Faust play Nosferatu’

The other time was a bit more traditional - a bloke playing a hammer dulcimer.

I actually own two copies of Nosferatu. The first is an el cheapo VHS tape from one of the fly-by-night video outfits; the second is a nice restoration by (I think) Image.

The fly-by-night one is missing significant sections, especially near the end; the image one is a lot clearer, the transfer is a thousand times better, the whole movie is more compelling. The point being that perhaps what you saw was one of the inferior, chopped-up prints (which I wouldn’t blame you for finding uninvolving and confusing), in which case you owe it to yourself to get hold of the Image version and watch that, so you can see the movie in its original form.

Ah; here’s a comparison of the various versions: