Nosferatu the Vampire (Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht) (1979)

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Released 21-Jul-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Werner Herzog (Director) And Norman Hill (Journalist)
Featurette-Making Of
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Herzog Collection
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 102:30 (Case: 107)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:06) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Max Schreck
Greta Schroeder
Gustav Von Wangenhelm
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    In 1979 Werner Herzog set out to make a remake of the unauthorised 1922 Dracula adaptation Nosferatu, which was directed by F.W. Murnau. The plot is similar to the 1922 film, but the execution is quite different.

    Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) is sent by his employer to stitch up a property deal with Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski) in the mysterious Transylvanian mountains. On the way he discovers that the locals fear the name Dracula and no-one will help him get there. He eventually has to walk most of the way until picked up by a mysterious carriage driver. The Count turns out to be a bald and weird-looking man, who perks up at the sight of blood. And at the sight of a cameo of Harker's wife Lucy (Isabelle Adjani). While leaving the weakened Harker in his castle, Dracula sets forth for his new residence in search of love, the love of Lucy.

    A slow moving and seemingly ponderous film, this version of the oft-told tale is one of the most stylish. There are some extraordinary landscapes, superb production design and excellent cinematography that make this a treat to look at. Dramatically it may bore some viewers, as the slow pace is accompanied by deliberate and mannered acting. Perhaps this was intended to add a dream-like quality to the proceedings, and in some ways it is quite successful.

    Both Kinski and Adjani are made up to look like their counterparts in the 1922 original, and while Kinski does not look quite as alien as Max Schreck he portrays a more human and sad vampire, cursed by his inability to die and the absence of love in his life.

    There is no gore and very little blood in this Dracula adaptation, and it relies more on brooding horror for its chills than the current penchant for shocks and violence. It succeeds well on those terms but viewers seeking someone with action in it should look elsewhere. Two versions of the film were made, with one in German and the other in English. Each scene was shot twice, once in each language, though some of the actors (like Adjani) are still dubbed. The English language version supposedly runs about 12 minutes shorter than the German version, however this may simply be due to distributor cuts and not directorial vision. Only the full-length German version is included on this disc.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is transferred in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a reasonable transfer but it is not especially sharp or detailed. Like the other releases from the 1970s in this set it is grainy, and the image is lacking in finer detail. Call me daft, but I prefer it this way. It feels to me that the quality of the image somehow improves the visual aspect of the film. To be honest I have only seen this movie on VHS and television, so I cannot comment on whether it looked better in the cinema.

    I also find the colour pleasing. It is somewhat muted but adds to the period feel. Flesh tones seem washed out, though that could be explained by blood loss.

    There is some telecine wobble visible from time to time. Some Gibb Effect can be seen, and also mild aliasing as well as edge enhancement. None of these artefacts are particularly severe. There are few film artefacts visible.

    Optional English subtitles are provided in yellow font with American spelling. The dialogue all seems to be translated and the subtitles are well-timed.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted. The layer change is foolishly placed at 72:06 during an extended scene which is meant to create horror in the viewer, but only the positioning of the layer change actually creates the horror in the viewer. This is not one of the better examples of layer change positioning that I have seen and it is quite distracting, even though my player negotiated it smoothly.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The default audio track is German Dolby Digital 5.1, with an alternative German 2.0 track thrown in.

    Dialogue is clear throughout. There is little in the way of hiss or serious distortion, though there is some sibilance at times. Audio sync is variable, though that is due to the dubbing of some actors.

    The surround mix is quite undistinguished. Apart from some of the music being directed to the rear channels, there is little to distinguish the soundtrack from a mono soundtrack. To be fair there is little in the film requiring a substantial soundstage anyway.

    The score is a mixture of some eerie sounds by Popol Vuh and some classical music, notably the Introduction to Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner, well utilised in the scenes where Harker approaches Castle Dracula.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features some of the music from the film.

Audio Commentary-Werner Herzog (Director) And Norman Hill (Journalist)

    Another fine commentary in which the director discusses his intentions in making the film, the issues he had on the set with Kinski and some of the problems he faced with certain scenes.

Featurette-Making Of (13:02)

    This is a featurette used for publicity purposes prior to the release of the film. We hear superimposed interview snippets in English from Herzog and Kinski, and we see footage of the latter being made up and directed on set by Herzog. Unfortunately these sequences are in German and there are no subtitles. Oddly this material is presented window-boxed at about 1.85:1 but is 16x9 enhanced. One wonders why it wasn't blown up to full-screen size.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Single page text biographies of director and star.

Theatrical Trailer (2:27)

    An original trailer in English for the American release.

Trailers-Herzog Collection (14:15)

    Trailers for the five other releases in the Herzog-Kinski Collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are two US Region 1 releases from Anchor Bay, both of which contain much the same extras as the Region 4, but the second release also has the English-language version on a second disc. The UK Region 2 has the same specifications as the US re-release.

Summary

    A moody, unusual but compelling vampire tale.

    The video quality could have been better.

    The audio quality is good.

    Some useful extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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