Release: 23rd November 2015
In this highly influential silent horror film, the mysterious Count Orlok (Max Schreck) summons Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) to his remote Transylvanian castle in the mountains. The eerie Orlok seeks to buy a house near Hutter and his wife, Ellen (Greta Schroeder). After Orlok reveals his vampire nature, Hutter struggles to escape the castle, knowing that Ellen is in grave danger. Meanwhile Orlok’s servant, Knock (Alexander Granach), prepares for his master to arrive at his new home.
No matter what way you look at it, Nosferatu is genuinely one of the biggest instances of creative theft done proper. Modern cinema is riddled with awful rip-off bargain bin tripe; films that take an original property and bastardize it. Whether it is Transmorphers to Transformers or Ninja Panda to Kung Fu Panda, the works of studios such as Asylum are just cinema poison. So it is a wonder that a blatant piece of criminality such as Nosferatu is so damn good.
Gloriously restored by the BFI, this release boasts original coloring and ‘correct’ title cards. The film looks, sounds and feels at its best. Murnau was a seasoned filmmaker when Grau approached him to direct this now iconic horror. But the stars must have aligned when Nosferatu finally when in front of the lens, because only once before or after did he manage to create such masterful cinema; namely with Faust in 1928.
From the looming wide shots to the chilling shadow play, Nosferatu is still as terrifying today as it was when the Stoker estate first tried to bury it. Max Schreck’s Orlok is like a possessed rodent who floats around tormenting poor Hutter and his wife. His make up is the all the more haunting because it is so leftfield; so utterly unique. Even in moments that now seem hilarious (the Benny Hill-esque horse and cart, or Orlok carrying his coffin like a drunk hobo), a sense of foreboding still looms.
Maybe it’s Nosferatu’s cheap and cheerful style which benefit it most (much like the early works of Carpenter, Craven and even The Blair Witch Project) But it still creeps right under your skin and stays there for days to come.
Film Grade: A
As you would expect from the BFI. This release of Nosferatu comes with a heavy emphasis on academia and restored films. Inside the case comes a lovely Illustrated Booklet with essays and a recycled article from Fortean Times. If you wasn’t already aware of the turmoil surrounding Nosferatu’s release and the trouble it caused with the Stoker estate. The be prepared to read about it, alot, here. There are also some very illuminating notes on Albin Grauy and his occultist obsessions.
On the disc we get a lovely Video essay by Christopher Frayling on Nosferatu, and some great original artwork in the form of Photo Gallery.
Short ‘educational’ film La Vampire, is at once hilariously ill advised, fascinatingly well made and tragically arrogant.
Once you are done with all this, there comes a beautiful little gem in restored short film The Mistletoe Bough.
Special Features Grade: B+
There is no denying Nosferatu’s power and brilliance. If you don’t already own it, then this is a great time to purchase your copy. BFI have done the film proud. However, if you want more engaging special features, might is suggest Eureka’s Master of Cinema version; released a few years back.