Ironically, one of the the most infamous and well-regarded adaptations of Bram Stoker’s seminal novel Dracula, and one of the most influential vampire movies in the history of cinema, is not actually an official adaptation and would be lost today if it weren’t for some happy circumstances. It is the German color-tinted silent film Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie Des Grauens, literally Nosferatu: A Symphony Of Horror but also known in English as Nosferatu: A Symphony Of Terror, Nosferatu The Vampire and Terror Of Dracula.
Directed by the legendary F.W. Murnau (Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans) and written by Henrik Galeen (The Golem), the film follows Dracula‘s story pretty well, mainly omitting some characters and changing names and locations. A real estate employee named Hutter is sent by his boss to meet with the reclusive Count Orlok and sell him a house. Strange events surround him as he arrives and he eventually realizes that Orlok is a vampire, and that his eyes are set on Hutter’s wife Ellen. Trailer and review after the jump.
As I stated earlier, we are damn lucky this film still exists. Indeed, with it being a shameless Dracula rip-off, Bram Stoker’s widow Florence sued the production company Prana Film and won. Thus the company went bankrupt and it was ordered that all existing copies of Nosferatu were to be destroyed, but thankfully the film had already been distributed worldwide and at least five prints survived. It would have been a humongous loss considering the importance this film has had over popular depiction of vampires. Indeed, Nosferatu is the first true vampire film in history and its touch is still felt today. For example you know that little thing about sunlight being fatal to vampires? Yeah, well here’s where it comes from.
Aside from its historical significance, Nosferatu remains a great watch. Split into five acts, the Expressionist film impresses with its atmosphere, its visual power, its metaphorical representation of post-war Germany and its acting, mainly that of Max Shreck, the man portraying Orlok. I don’t have much to say other than anyone interested in cinema should watch this seminal classic, viewed has one of the greatest films of all time. Due to its troubled history several versions exist, including black & white and color-tinted versions, with many different musical scores. Contrary to popular belief, the tinted version is the actual true intended version, not the black & white. So watch that one with, if possible, a reconstruction of the original score by Hans Erdmann.
Nosferatu spawned a remake in 1979 which itself had a sequel, and in 2000, the film Shadow Of The Vampire told a very fictional account of the movie’s production in which Max Shreck actually really was a vampire. Other obvious homages include the character Max Shreck in Batman Returns, The Master from the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the Reapers in Blade II. The film is now in the public domain and can be legally downloaded or streamed for free at the Internet Archive here, or streamed online on Google Video here or YouTube here, here and here. The public copies are unfortunately black & white, so I still recommend seeking out a restored color-tinted DVD, but you have no excuse if you don’t want to shell out cash.