Nosferatu (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Directors Suite) (1922)

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Released 21-May-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire Audio Commentary-Saige Walton and Martyn Pedler
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Language of Shadows (52.37)
Featurette-Making Of-Nosferatu: An Historic Film Meets Digital Restoration (3.15)
Booklet-Extract from Dracula and Essay by Peter Otto
Gallery-Photo
Script To Screen Comparison-Dracula and Nosferatu (4.09)
Bonus Episode-Archive of Murnau Films - Extracts
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1922
Running Time 93:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By F.W. Murnau
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Max Schreck
Gustav von Wangenheim
Greta Schröder
Alexander Granach
Georg H. Schnell
Ruth Landshoff
John Gottowt
Gustav Botz
Max Nemetz
Wolfgang Heinz
Albert Venohr
Case Slip Case
RPI ? Music James Bernard
Hans Erdmann
Carlos U. Garza


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Nosferatu, does not this word sound like the call of the death bird at midnight?
You dare not say it since the pictures of life will fade into dark shadows;
ghostly dreams will rise from your heart and feed on your blood.

Of all the things that could be said of legendary German silent film director, F W (Friedrich Wilhelm) Murnau, it could never be argued that he lacked enterprise. After having his unauthorised adaptation of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde destroyed, due to his failure to take the step of obtaining the production rights before filming, Murnau licked his wounds for a brief 2 years before making his adaptation of Bram Stokers Dracula and again neglected to obtain the necessary rights. It is a great irony that some of Murnau's films no longer exist or are in piecemeal form, yet Nosferatu (in its full name Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (A Symphony of Horror)), which was required to be destroyed by court order, now graces our small screen in a lovingly restored version.

Murnau and Nosferatu continue to be shrouded in rumours. Murnau's career in Hollywood was brief but spectacular. He made Sunrise , which scored the first Oscar for Best Film. Three films followed in quick succession until 1931 when he died in a car crash. The fact that his car was being driven by a 14 year old male valet, combined with Murnau's open homosexuality , provided grist for the rumour mill for years to come.

Nosferatu had less salacious, but perhaps more sinister innuendo surrounding it. The fact that the skeletal, truly frightening vampire Graf Orlok was played by an actor named Max Schrek (German for fright or terror) gave rise to the suggestion that the actor's name was false and that he was a creature of the night playing himself. This interesting story (which ignored the lengthy previous film and stage work of Schrek) was so enduring that in 2000 John Malkovich and Wilhelm Defoe starred in Shadow of the Vampire, a movie about the "making of" Nosferatu. In that film, Wilhelm Defoe plays Schrek, who is unquestionably a vampire causing mayhem on the set of the film.

Nosferatu enjoys a special pride of place in the vampire sub-genre. Since the film was made, there have been no end of vampire movies including those where the dark master is elegant and sensual (Dracula), downright sexy (Underworld) and gory and feral (30 Days of Night). Of all these characters, Nosferatu stands alone. As played by the creepy Schreck he is a creature at the borderline of light and dark, eccentric when in polite company yet unspeakably evil when on the hunt. In fact, the character bears closer relation to Samara from The Ring movies than a classical vampire. He is human in manners but inhabits a world at the edge of reality.

Nosferatu was written by Henrik Galeen and photographed by regular Murnau collaborator Fritz Arno Wener. Although Murnau should have known better after his experience with Dr Jekyl, he chose to keep the plot similar to Stoker's original.

Thomas Hutter, an employee at a real estate firm in the German city of Wisborg, is sent by his employer Knock to visit the mysterious Count Orlok deep in the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania. The journey is prompted when Knock receives a letter from Orlok telling of a desire to buy property in Wisborg. This could be the making of Hutter!

Hutter leaves the comfort of his home to complete the sale. Of course, as he approaches his destination he finds that Count Orlok carries a strange reputation with the locals. So much so that he finds a book on vampires in his hotel bedroom. Unnerved, but undeterred, he continues to the castle.

As with the Stoker book and many other cinematic versions, he endures a frightening carriage ride through the forest to the castle. Orlok creeps out the young Hutter but business is business. When he wakes in the morning with strange bite marks on his neck he puts it down to mosquitoes.

Eventually Hutter learns of the evil plans of the deathbird He intends to leave the castle by ship to drink the blood of the innocent, including Hutter's young wife Helen! Can he save Wisborg from the plague that follows Nosferatu? Can he protect his virginal wife from the evil creature?

Nosferatu helped refine some of the elements which are now second nature to vampire movies. A key plot device relates to the inability of Orlok to bear the light of the day. In Stoker's original tale Dracula did most of his business at night but could also be seen walking the streets of London by day. Yet not all is in keeping with the bumper book of vampires. Orlok casts a shadow and can be seen in mirrors and all the traditional religious iconography, including the ubiquitous garlic is noticeably absent. Ultimately we are left with a vampire that obeys his own set of rules.

Nosferatu is crucial viewing for cinema enthusiasts and horror movie completists. Murnau is inspired in his direction, with revolutionary use of shadows and, looking beyond the silent film acting, there are some really creepy moments. The arrival of the death ship into Wisborg is one and another is when Hutter opens the coffin to find the sleeping Count. Of course, there are episodes of Teletubbies that are probably more frightening that this 1922 silent film but that is not the point. In its look and style and in its central performance by Schreck it is an important piece of cinema and belongs in every buff's collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Nosferatu comes from the dawn of cinema. The opening credits provide a detailed description of the restoration process which was carried out in 2005-2006 by Luciano Berriatu. A tinted nitrate print from Paris was used as the basis for the restoration. Missing shots were obtained from a a German safety print from 1939 and a 1962 safety print provided the original intertitles and inserts.

Of course, all the detective work in the World is only half the journey if the finished project is a shredded mess. Fortunately, the finished product is a thing of beauty to behold. Sure, it looks old and damage can still clearly be seen throughout. But to compare the original work, which you can do in the restoration extra, and this finished film is to marvel at the craft of the restorers.

I remember seeing the film at the cinema and finding it barely watchable, light years away from this product. As much as possible the restorers tried to eliminate defects and create a complete work. Much time and effort was put towards restoring the appropriate colour tinting ( I saw it previously in black and white). Such artistic choices may concern some enthusiasts but everything seems to have been intricately researched.

That still doesn't make it a recent film. There is a constant flicker, the odd missing frame and minor damage still present throughout in the background. Some scenes are better looking than others which seems to be hit and miss. I am amazed at Murnau's endeavour in shooting so many interesting exteriors.

Though the defects referred to above still exist I have rated the film highly on visual quality by comparison with other works from the era.

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

Audio

For this version of Nosferatu, a new recording of a reconstruction of the original 1922 score is provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and also in 2.0. The bitrates are 388 Kb/s and 224 Kb/s respectively.

The score is a real revelation. Whilst previous editions of the film have included interesting scores it is a treat to hear the Berndt Heller score in all its atmospheric glory. The recording is played with gusto and recorded crisply. The score makes full use of the orchestra with plenty of brass and percussion.

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

Extras

As might be expected from a 2 DVD "Special Edition" this release features oodles of extras.

Audio Commentary-Saige Walton and Martyn Pedler

The commentary track is an interesting affair. Putting together a "cultural critic" and a lecturer in cinema studies sounds on paper like an invitation to an argument but in practice the effect is a good complement tot he existing materials on the DVD. Walton and Pedler come on a little like breakfast radio but ultimately the effect is look at the film from a different viewpoint. Walton provides some facts and figures about the film whereas Pedler looks at the cultural significance of the film in a wider context. I doubt that there are many Nosferatu commentaries around that mention Buffy, Blade and other modern hip vampire creations.

The Language of Shadows (52.37)

This is a German made documentary which looks at Murnau and the influence of the occult in his early works. The film takes us to the filming locations to show how they have changed since the making of the film. Although an interesting idea I found the film a little clinical in its detective work. Film historians may well get a bigger buzz from it.

Nosferatu: An Historic Film Meets Digital Restoration (3.15)

This short but fascinating documentary goes through the steps that were taken, once the film had been transferred to computer, to remove all the nasties and generally make the picture sharper and better looking. A job well done!

Booklet-Extract from Dracula and Essay by Peter Otto

The Collectors Booklet comprises an 4 page extract from Dracula and a 14 page essay on the film by Peter Otto, Lecturer in English Literature Studies at the University of Melbourne. Not surprisingly, Otto provides a deep textual analysis of the film and compares it to Stokers Dracula and the overall "literary" context of the film. This is not a light read - Otto identifies considerable depth of psychology and repressed desire beneath the surface of the film. It is an absorbing study, however, and makes for essential reading as an accompaniment to the film.

Photo Gallery

A short series of stills from the movie.

Script To Screen Comparison-Dracula and Nosferatu (4.09)

This short feature presents a comparison between an extract from the Bram Stokers Dracula and the equivalent scene from Nosferatu enabling us to see how screenwriter Galeen and Murnau brought the book to life.

Bonus Episode-Archive of Murnau Films - Extracts

The DVD includes lengthy excerpts from other films by F.W. Murnau including Journey Into the Night (1920), The Haunted Castle (1921), Phantom (1922), The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924), The Last Laugh (1924), Tartuffe (1925), Faust (1926), and Tabu (1931). This is the true mother lode of the extras, enabling viewers to see a range of Murnau's works which are not easily available in a complete, restored format.

The excerpts are up to 10 minutes long and include intertitles so that it is possible to follow the action. For those interested in Murnau this is an ideal way to get an idea of his oeuvre.

R4 vs R1

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

This film exists in multiple DVD versions. It is in the public domain so you can watch it for free online.

The only two versions to compare it to the recent Region 0 versions by Kino and Eureka Masters of Cinema as they both use the same restoration as our DVD.

The Eureka has an 80 page booklet on the film and a commentary track as well as The Language of Shadows and the restoration demonstration. The Kino has those features and the archival extracts.

In this case Region 4 gets the best deal!

Summary

Nosferatu is one of the most enthralling silent films as it deals with a subject we know so well.

The transfer of this film is exemplary and the exciting score really helps bring it all to life.

The extras are varied and never less than entertaining.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, September 08, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
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Decapitation? -