Nosferatu (1922)


PLOT:Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife.

What do you do when you want to make an adaptation, but can't get the rights? You just rename everyone and make it anyway. That's what F.W. Murnau did, and he was eventually vindicated, as Nosferatu has become one of the most famous and enduring horror movies of all time. Which is crazy, as Bram Stoker's family sued the shit out of this production and all the prints of the film were supposed to be destroyed. But a few didn't, and you're still getting releases of it nearly 100 years later. 

If you've read Dracula, or seen basically any vampire movie, you know the plot to this movie: Dude travels to a creepy mountain town to work for a creepy count who happens to be a vampire, vampire tries to kill dude, vampire tries to kill dude's girl, vampire gets killed. The majority of the secondary characters from Dracula are excised or combined, and everyone gets renamed. Vampires become nosferatus (although vampyre is used in the movie a few times), Count Dracula becomes Count Orlok, Jonathan Harker becomes Thomas Hutter, Mina Harker becomes Ellen Hutter, Renfield becomes Knock, Lucy becomes Annie, Van Helsing becomes Professor Bulwer, and so on. 

In America, Dracula had already lapsed into the public domain, so when one of the prints that was to be destroyed somehow made its way stateside, the Stoker's copyright case from Germany held no weight in America. Therefore, the print was protected from destruction and became a cult classic until the 1960s, when Dracula became public domain worldwide, allowing for Nosferatu to finally, legally, be shown worldwide. And despite Nosferatu being an unlicensed knock off, it actually would influence nearly all vampire movies going forward, including actual Dracula movies: Death by sunlight was introduced in this film. 

While it is certainly no longer scary by any means, there is a lot of nifty artistry and techniques used that would influence film in all genres, such as stop motion, matte paintings, cross-fading to give the impression of Orlok vanishes or appearing out of thin air, and even color grading in some versions. It's a very frequently referenced movie in the horror genre, perhaps most famously in Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Certainly worth a watch for the visuals more than the story, which you're likely to be overly familiar with if you've seen any vampire movies. 

This movie would be remade by Werner Herzog in 1979 in both English and German, although using the Stoker character names. There was also a fictionalized version of the making of the movie in 2000 called Shadow Of The Vampire, which posited that Max Schreck was actually a REAL vampire. Starring the Green Goblin himself, Willam DaFoe as Max/Orlok. 

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