Starring Max Schreck
aka Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror and Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens
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I saw this movie many years back and it still scares me today. "Nosferatu" is a scary vampire thriller from 1922 about a vampire who terrorized the countryside.
Seeing the vampire back then really scares me and the mood of this film is by itself spooky. A rare treat from the silent age.
The vampire movie has attracted audiences almost as long as movies have been shown. Most owe their characterization to the enormously successful and popular performance by Bela Lugosi in the 1931 "Dracula", based on the popular London and Broadway stage success which had featured Lugosi. This prototypical characterization differed from the image of the Count in Bram Stoker's original novel (as did the popular movie image of Frankenstein vary from the original Mary Shelley creation) and still stands today as the most common image to come to mind at the mention of the character's name. But still another concept of the Count's persona was realized in a German silent film made in 1922 called "Nosferatu", directed by the brilliant Expressionist director, F. W. Murnau. His Count Orlac (so named because Murnau was unable to obtain Stoker's widow's permission to film the book) is a strange, eerie animal-like creature, with the look of a hyena (in which form we first see the shape-shifting vampire)... long, pointed ears, sharp rat-like teeth, long. claw-like hands and wide, staring eyes.
What is significant about the movie is the eerie, haunted quality it achieves. There are no horror-movie scares. the story is simplistic and unlikely and the acting, apart from Max Schreck as Orlac, overwrought and unconvincing. But Murnau's camera (cinematography by Gunther Krampf and Fritz Arno Wagner) is a window into a world of eerie beauty, strange visions and chilling atmosphere. The plot, roughly following Stoker's, is easily forgotten, but there are many images that will etch themselves permanently into the memory of anyone who sees the movie. Interestingly, unlike all subsequent vampire movies, there is no religious iconography (no crosses or hosts). But Murnau does add to Stoker's legend by introducing the concept that the vampire moves only at night and will die in the light of day. (Murnau's vampire is also visible in a mirror.) Fortunately, there are now good restorations of the movie to its original 80+ minute length. Murnau's striking image of the vampire Count has been used a few times since, most notably in the 1979 TV movie "Salem's Lot" and in Werner Herzog's superb re-make of "Nosferatu", also in 1979. [E. Elias Merhige's movie "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000), starring Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich, relates a fictional version of the making of "Nosferatu" based upon the conceit that actor Schreck was, in fact, a vampire.]