Starring: Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Ruth Landshoff
Director: F.W. Murnau
Released: March 4, 1922
MPAA Rating: PG
While far be it from me to condone direct theft/plagiarism, I will say here, that even though this movie was a direct rip-off of Bram Stroker’s Dracula, as a motion picture, it remains superior to any subsequent attempt to film the Dracula story, even to this day.
This is another review from the big 50-pack horror movie box set I bought a few weeks back. This was one the wife insisted on, and I could tell from the smile on her face that she enjoyed this one quite a bit.
How times change, as 90 years and some change ago, I imagine nobody was smiling their way through this one.
Nosferatu is still the king of all vampire movies for me because of its complete and total lack of self-aware irony or any attempt at shtick. Audiences in 1922 didn’t have Count Chocula and a million other cartoons as a reference point for vampires. They didn’t even have Bella Legosi’s famous films yet, so this movie is just about the straight up terror of a cursed entity stalking his prey.
As Roger Ebert pointed out in his review of this movie, Nosferatu also deserves praise as a great title also. As he wrote, “Say’ Dracula’, and you smile. Say ‘Nosferatu’ and you’ve swallowed a lemon”.
Max Schreck is the embodiment of creepiness here. Count Orlock would send a chill so far up Dracula’s spine that he would double-bolt all the doors at his Transylvania estate. His vampire isn’t charming or winsome in any way. He is a cursed, wretched monster who stalks the corner of the screen. The world he inhabits is equally off-kilter, as Murnau showed masterful touches in early uses of tilted angles and placing the main action off-center.
For a modern audience, this movie is more haunting and poetic than it is frightening (hence the wife’s constant smile) and that’s all right with me.