I’ve been intending to see the original 1922 version of Nosferatu for ages. It’s one of the seminal horror films of our time (arguably even the most influential). I got to see it in the best possible way: in Bristol’s Victoria Rooms accompanied by original organ music — just as it would have been shown back in the day. (Enormous kudos go to David Bednall on the organ and his improvised score. It was incredible and I can’t believe how much talent must be needed to improvise something that awesome.)
I’m not sure if anyone could possibly complain about a review of an almost hundred-year-old movie containing spoilers, but if that sort of thing bothers you, consider yourself warned.
Nosferatu is a thinly-veiled version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The original script was the Dracula story, but the film makers couldn’t obtain the rights so they ended up changing the names and the ending. Unluckily for them, it was still close enough that Stoker’s heirs sued successfully over the adaption, and a court ruled that all copies be destroyed. Luckily for us, all copies weren’t destroyed. At least one survived to become one of the oldest and greatest horror movies of our time.
The film hasn’t aged nearly as much as it could have. It’s still relevant. Still scary in parts and it’s had me thinking about it on and off over the last few days. The most obvious difference to modern movies is the over-acting, but I really enjoyed that part of it.
Gustav van Wangenheim as Hutter was the most manically jolly character I have ever seen on the screen. It felt a little silly at first (there were a few titters in the audience), but it did mean that when he does finally realise the nature of the Count and cowers in his bed, terrified of the monster coming towards him, it felt like watching a happy, bouncy puppy realise it’s about to get a kicking. I haven’t felt that sorry for a fictional character in some time. Poor innocent little puddle.
Nosferatu (Max Schreck) was fantastic too. There was no angst or guilt or sparkles. He was just pure creepy vampire and I loved him.
Greta Schroder as Ellen was a surprise. I wasn’t expecting such a strong female character from such an old movie. I thought she was going to spend the film screaming and fainting. There was plenty of that but she was the one to save the day. She was certainly a lot cleverer and determined than her innocent puppy of a husband.
Ultimately, a fantastic film and one I was really pleased to have seen. It was even worth the wait to get to see it with such a fantastic live score. This evening I’m going to watch the 1979 remake. Let’s see how it measures up.