The Film (5/5)
While there were horror films dating back to the silent shorts of Georges Melies in the early 20th century, the feature length horror film seemed to come into its own around the early 1920's. A lot of the early classics seemed to revolve around the German expressionist movement with it's dark and unrestricted imagery creating truly haunting and memorable images. F.W. Murnau's 1922 film Nosferatu is one of this movement's greatest classics.
Nosferatu was one of, if not the earliest attempts to create a cinematic adaptation of Bram Stoker's literary classic Dracula. However, upon completion the Stoker estate whose copyright was very much still valid over the property were made aware of the films existence, and sued to protect the Dracula property. This caused an order to come down decrying that every print of the film be destroyed, and for a while it was thought this was the case. However, some prints survived and Nosferatu was allowed to become the classic it would eventually become.
Nosferatu may not be a film that modern audiences find themselves cowering in fear from, but the film has some amazing imagery that is as effective today as I imagined it would have been in 1922. Everything from Orlok emerging from his coffin whilst on the ship, to his shadow growing along the stair case wall, and more transcends time, and helps to create an effective and horrifying film experience. The performances across the board are excellent, but Max Schreck is phenomenal as the titular vampire, his every movement down to the slightest facial tic takes what could be a simple vampire caricature, and turns it into one of cinema’s first iconic monsters.
The film is essentially a spot on adaptation of Dracula (names and places changed to protect the innocent), with some minor liberties taken throughout. Hutter, the Jonathan Harker substitute is sent into the Carpathian Mountains to the castle of Count Orlok to help arrange a real estate purchase in his home village Wisborg. Upon arrival at the castle Hutter quickly comes to the realization that the Count is not the typical consumer, and is in fact a vampire. He quickly finds himself being feasted upon by the count during the night, and discovers that the Count has become attracted to his bride to be after seeing her picture. He attempts to make the journey home, but is badly injured allowing the Count time to set up residence in Wisborg, and unleash his vampiric plague upon the city.
Kino hits this one out of the park, and creates what could only be considered the definitive Region A edition of Nosferatu. The film is presented in its original 1:33:1 aspect ratio, in 2 different versions an English and a German variant (the German version has some original intertitles, and some which are recreated), both versions of the film looks absolutely fantastic, but the German edition is incrementally superior. There is a nice grain structure at play here, with excellent detail throughout, and strong, but natural color on the tinting. I have seen Nosferatu on TV, VHS, DVD, and the image here is better and more natural than I’ve ever seen it look.
The audio is presented in a recreation of the films original score in either a PCM 2.0 Mono track, or a DTS-HD 5.1 track, and either way will do you no wrong. The soundtrack sounds fantastic in both regards.
Kino Lorber has put together a nice package together for their release of Nosferatu. The disc kicks off with A Language of Shadows a 52 minute documentary that charts the life and career of F.W. Murnau with a particular emphasis on Nosferatu. We also get a series of film clips from other Kino supplied Murnau titles, a teaser for the Blu-ray, and an image gallery.
One of the first classics of horror has been lovingly restored to Blu-ray by those folks over at Kino Lorber. Nosferatu’s A/V component on this Blu-ray has never looked better, and the extras are a nice addition. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.