2020 Blind Spot Series: Nosferatu



What I knew going in: That nearly every horror director out there credits this film for inspiration at some point in their careers.

Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) is an estate agent sent out to Transylvania to meat Count Orlok (Max Schreck) as he wants to purchase property. Hutter begins to suspect that Orlok may be a vampire.

Silent films are not for me. I can admit that, I don't think I've ever truly connected with one. Nosferatu however is easily the most enjoyable time I've had watching one. A big part of that is the score. It's beautiful. I absolutely loved the glockenspiel at the beginning. It's such a lovely score it's hard to think of this as a horror film.

I think I expected a bit more horror element to the film itself, but there really isn't. I can see why the creepy makeup job they did on Orlok would inspire a lot of horror fans, but with the amount of praise this film gets I had expected more of it. I really liked von Wangenheim though, I thought he was wonderful. A lot of times I don't care for the over the top acting in these types of films, and there's a lot of that here, but he was never like that.

I feel odd saying a film that's 80 minutes long can drag, but a lot of the scenes that were meant to build suspense felt a bit dull. I kept focusing on the music and losing focus of the story. But overall, I enjoyed it for the most part.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Your precious blood!" - Count Orlok (Max Schreck)

Comments

  1. I like Nosferatu, but I see exactly where you are coming from. Silent films don't always translate that well, and while horror can work well and there are a few rare dramas that still work, most of the silents that are still entertaining are comedies.

    This is one to see more for history than for anything else these days.

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    1. I agree, Chaplin's slap stick seems to be more watchable than dramas but of the silent dramas I've seen, this is probably the best.

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  2. Silent films are a tough sell to people not into them. Glad you were able to enjoy it. I also liked it, but don't love it. I appreciate its place in film history more than anything, though. I will say that the makeup job still holds up. Even to this day, Orlok looks amazing.

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    1. Definitely. I have a lot of appreciation for it, and I agree on the makeup.

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  3. The issue is it is a silent film and almost 100 years old so it is hard for most people to get into the feel of it. People are still not sure if Max Schrek was his real name because Schrek, in German, means Terror. This filmsho ked the audiences of the time and really freaked them out because, just 20 years before people fainted and ran screaming from their seats when they saw this cowboy point a pistol at them from the film screen. They really thought they were going to be shot at. The author of Dracula( man his name escapes me at this moment) was dead but his widow was very much alive and sued Murnau and the German studio but she didn’t win..I think. This is why it is called Nosferatu instead of Dracula. The feel of this film, the German Expressionism, the makeup, all of it was very shocking for its day and, I guess, I can travel back to that feeling which is why I love it so much. Think of a film that scared the pants off you and was a huge hit and influenced film makingnow and you can guess how much this film affected people. Have you ever seen Shadow of the Vampire? Willed Dafoe gives a bravura performance as Count Orlak.

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    1. I can imagine it was really out there for its time. I'm glad silent films still have their fans, I just struggle with them personally. I'm spoiled by color and sound. lol

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  4. I actually do like this film a lot. I do have a fondness for silent films as it played into what filmmakers had to use at the time since sound was unavailable then. Still, it did at least tell this great story. It is an incredible film.

    There is a good remake of the film by Werner Herzog starring Klaus Kinski in the titular role.

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    1. I saw there was another version when I was pulling on this one's IMDb page. I'm somewhat curious to see how that goes.

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  5. Two years ago I had the opportunity to watch Nosferatu at the cinema accompanied by live piano music - that was quite an expierence.

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    1. That sounds great! Seeing this in an older theater would've been a cool experience.

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  6. I thought this was more admirable for its craft than entertaining. I can see why the film is so influential though. Not so much for gore or horror but mood, technique and the look of the film all of which has been borrowed and played with from that day to this.

    Silent film isn’t something that you can just jump right into. It takes a mood adjustment and some reworking of expectations and understanding of the times when it was made. What seems prosaic now was very much experimental at the time and what we see as tropes didn’t exist so they were fresh to the audience. That helps with some films and not with others.

    Way Down East for instance outside of that very impressive final race to save Lillian Gish from the ice floe is dull as dishwater. The epic Intolerance is aptly named, I watched it for historical purposes (same with Birth of a Nation) but it was interminable! Many say comedies are the place to start but they rarely work for me. Even with a performer whose work I admire like Mabel Normand I find them mostly frantic and silly.

    My way in was through adventure films such as The Thief of Bagdad, The Mark of Zorro and The Black Pirate where I was somewhat familiar with the story and relied more on action keeping the intertitles to a minimum. Once I got use to the rhythms of how the films were composed it was much easier to venture into other genres.

    Easier but not infallible. Like all cinema you often have to like the performers or in some cases the director and their style who are enacting or spinning the story. For instance I will watch anything with Clara Bow, she’s always vibrant and very alive on screen. But despite multiple tries I can’t abide Mary Pickford who was the biggest of the big in her day. I find her puerile and affected, but that might be another hint as to why silents are impenetrable to some. Maybe you had to be there to understand the appeal for a lot of them.

    I’ve also found that the closer you get to the sound era the better the silents are. When film was nascent anybody with a camera could and would crank out quick product to meet the demand leading to a lot of slapdash junk, at least in the States early European silents tend to be more innovative….those that have survived that is-90 percent of silent films are lost. But as those involved became more comfortable and expert with techniques so too did the quality of what they were turning out improve. In a way silent film truly did communicate with the international language. Not reliant on dialog or dubbing films from any country could play anywhere in the world merely by a substitution of title cards. It also allowed the performers great latitude in what they played since it didn’t matter how they sounded.

    Of course that bit some of the actors and actresses when sound arrived. For instance Vilma Banky a huge star of the day was typed as the All-American girl next door but she was Hungarian born and sounded like Natasha from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons so once talkies came in her career was effectively over. Fortunately she had invested heavily in California real estate so she withdrew with her millions and lived happily into the early 90’s. But others went so lucky.

    If you were interested in exploring any further I’d say look into Lon Chaney films. His lean more toward the macabre as opposed to outright horror but he was constantly striving to test the ways the medium could be used. The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera are his most famous but He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three and The Unknown (his leading lady in that one is a very young and somewhat unrecognizable Joan Crawford!) are all worth the time. AVOID his Mr. Wu though, it’s ghastly.

    Also the director of Nosferatu, F. W. Murnau made some fantastic films-The Last Laugh and especially Sunrise which came just at the end of the silent era. He only made only one sound film, Tabu (well he made one with some sound sequences called 4 Devils but it’s lost) before his death in a car crash in 1931.

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    1. I'll keep that in mind! Hunchback and Phantom might be good ones for me since I'm already familiar with the stories.

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  7. I think What We Do In The Shadows forever ruined Nosferatu for me - not that I was a huge fan or anything. I just can't help but think of Petyr being burnt to a sizzle. lol Nice review!

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    1. I really need to watch that movie again. And then start the show like I keep saying I will. lol

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  8. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was surprised by effective the film was, especially for a silent film.

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