Confession time - for all my "Rain Man of Movies" (© 2010, CM Jayden Productions) type behaviour - there are still a LOT of so called classic films that I have not seen. And let's face it, even I am highly doubtful that I could ever see more than, say, 20% of all movies ever made. However, I do try to get as many of them seen as I can, even if only so I can say "yeah, I saw that, it was crap!" But, there are a lot of classics which are classic for a reason - they are indeed actually good. For me, I've found that a lot of them come from the horror genre, and today's film is not different. Today's film is the original 1922 vampire classic, Nosferatu.
Based very tightly on Dracula, FW Murnau’s film deservedly can be called a classic; not only of filmed horror but also of German Expressionist filmmaking. Much like the other big expressionist films of the day (and non-expressionist films of the day, such was the form’s influence), Nosferatu plays more with the viewers expectations of horror, implying rather than directly showing the viewer what is going on. In addition, much as I have mentioned in other reviews of other films from that era, even when the action takes place on screen, the use of shadow goes a heck of a long way to increasing the atmosphere and overall feeling of unease.
Speaking of unease, you can’t talk Nosferatu without mentioning the performance of the man behind the mask, Max Schreck. Contrary to popular belief, the man was not actually a vampire, having a 15 year career AFTER this film before retiring from acting. That being said, his take on the Count (in this case, being named Orlock) is like nothing seen before, and only ever having been attempted twice since. Playing the count as less a man with an affliction and more some otherworldly nightmare goblin, Schreck strikes one of the most memorable figures in film history, one that will stick with you, regardless of the fact of if you have seen the film or not. And, while this is primarily Schreck’s show, he is only as good as his supports, with a number of worthy actors surrounding him, in particular Greta Schröder as Ellen Hutter (the Lucy of the piece). In addition to some wonderfully expressive performances from all, she manages to bring an innocence and tenderness that plays perfectly with Schreck, making for some wonderful scenes between the two.
Because this is a silent film, yes, there is a rather whimsical little score over the top. Much like the film Metropolis, it depends on what version you see as to what score you get, but any of the base versions that are publicly available should come with the original score, which help a heck of a lot in not only setting scenes, but implying motivation, feelings, character interplay and a whole host of things that can’t readily be fed to the audience without the use of the spoken word.
And, as a very special treat (also, because it is available as part of the public domain), I am going to give you the entire film to watch as you please – this is the original English print, so all characters have been renamed into their Dracula equivalents. Thanks go to the good folk over at Archive.org for this.
 In fact, some would go so far as to say that Nosferatu was stolen, nickel and dime, from Dracula since the estate of Bram Stoker would not let Murnau have the filming rights to the book. So, he did what any enterprising director would do in such a situation – he changed all the characters names and made it anyway, claiming that it was based on a completely different vampire tale. And, since Stoker had not invented the concept of vampires, he could get away with it…up to a point. He did, however, change the ending, thus giving us the now popular vampire lore that sunlight is lethal to them.
Of course, with history being what it is, we can all admit that “yeah, Nosferatu IS Dracula”.