AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Nosferatu (1922)
This is it. The final week of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week I’ll be looking at lots of Dracula movies. Let’s get this Dracula party started with one of the first filmed adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel. Nosferatu is a silent film from 1922 written by Henrik Galeen and directed by FW Murnau. Galeen originally wanted to do an adaptation of the Stoker novel, but the movie studio couldn’t secure the rights. So Galeen wrote the adaptation anyway and changed some of the character names and details of the story. He kept the main characters, like Jonathan and Mina Harker but changed their names to Hutter. And Count Dracula was changed to Count Orlock, which is a pretty bad ass name itself. This movie was the first time sunlight was said to be lethal to vampires. Stoker’s Dracula was not physically harmed by sunlight, only weakened. In order to make Orlock a little different, Murnau made sunlight lethal to Orlock, even using it to kill him at the end of the movie in order to avoid being sued by the Stoker estate. All instances of sunlight being lethal to vampires after this are based on Nosferatu.
Count Orlock was played by Max Schreck. Schreck was a popular stage actor at the time he was cast as Orlock. Many legends have been built up around Schreck. Some rumors say this was his only movie and he mysteriously disappeared afterwards. There are even rumors of his being an actual vampire which is why he played the part so well. Urban legends like this were examined in the 2000 movie Shadow of the Vampire starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe as Schreck.
In 1979 Werner Herzog remade Nosferatu with Klaus Kinski as the lead. As Stoker’s Dracula was now in the public domain, Herzog reinstated the original character names, changing Hutter back to Harker and Orlock back to Dracula.
Many people consider this movie the best adaptation of Stoker’s novel. I’ve watched this movie a few times and I do enjoy it. Schreck is pretty scary as Orlock and the sets and lighting are very effective. However, honestly, silent movies, for me, are a tough sell. Plus, Orlock is only on screen for about 9 minutes of the hour and twenty four minute run time. More fascinating to me than the story unfolding on screen is the fact that this movie was filmed in 1922. Watching the movie unfold it’s just mesmerizing to think that we are watching events that took place nearly 90 years ago. It just blows my mind to think about it. It’s like watching that Kodak color film test footage also from 1922. Those people were living in 1922. What was going on at the time? The Depression wouldn’t hit for another seven years. It’s just so cool to see all of this actual film footage for a time period we know very little about and mostly only know through black and white pictures and movies.
Anyway, being what this is, yes I can recommend it. It’s very atmospheric and it’s sort of fun to watch. However, if you are like me, your mind may wander a bit during certain parts but you’ll be interested again whenever Orlock is onscreen.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.