Do you really need a summary? Yes? All right then…Do you know the story of Dracula? Blood-sucking Count uproots from Transylvania and causes utter havoc in another town?
”Dilapidated, dank house. Perfect for conversion or the ravenous un-dead. Inquire within.”
That ring a bell? Great, because this is the story of Dracula. The names have merely been changed to protect the pocketbooks of a few, “Oops! We forgot to ask for permission to do this and now we’re getting sued!” filmmakers. Because of that little “oops moment”, as the story goes, all copies of the film were supposed to have been destroyed. But turns out the film had a pretty dedicated fan base, even then, and the planned mass destruction didn’t end up happening. Which means that, lucky for us, the film, like all good vampires, was too hard to kill and a couple copies of the film ended up surviving. Good.
This film is probably best remembered for its imagery, it was once banned in Sweden for being too horrific after-all, so in that department it certainly delivers. The excellent use of shadow is probably one of the film’s most memorable features.
Damn bothersome groping shadows.
But Count Orlok also makes for an imposing figure as well, (or at least he does once he takes that ridiculous looking little beanie hat off his head.) The tall, slender frame, bald-head, pointy teeth, the way he rises out of the coffin and even the contrast of the dark coat and pale skin make for a striking image.
It’s creepy, right? I mean, just look at him. He’s like a vampiric Slender-man.
Although, even after the hat comes off there are still a couple of moments where he comes off looking a little goofy. I suppose with those teeth it couldn’t be helped.
Did anyone see that…. Nah, I’m probably fine.
The movie originally had a live orchestra, but unlike the film itself, the original score has since been lost to time. So since the film has now fallen into the public domain, the score you get will depend on what version you watch. For instance, the copy I have on my cheap collection of horror DVDs uses a score that focuses heavily on stringed instruments. But the one TCM tends to air was completely different and utilized more horns. Which was fine and dandy, but I felt that there were a couple of cues that bordered on the comical. Considering the rest of the score those two instances stood out quite a bit and temporarily sucked me out of the moment.
No…not Chopsticks…Anything…but that…
The film moves along at a pretty good pace, though it does have it’s slow parts. One in particular has Orlok spending five minutes wandering around town carrying a coffin filled with dirt. Why dirt? Because in order to retain his power he has to lug around a bit of unhallowed ground wherever he goes.
Thank you, movie.
And though a series of cuts you see him do this five different times.
Now we get to see the same thing, but on a boat…..wait, I thought vampires couldn’t cross running bodies of water? Foul!
LIke, I get it, movie. He has to carry his coffin of dirt. But was it necessary to show it that many times? Wouldn’t half of that been enough to get the point across? It’s a small thing to note, I know, but for some reason that really stuck out for me.
And really, it wouldn’t have normally bothered me, but this was also one of the aforementioned scenes where I thought the music in the version I watched was questionably too…humorous? Upbeat? So you end up with Orlok walking down the streets, carrying a coffin of dirt and looking around to make sure no one is following him, all set to a piece of music that was a little bit to bouncy for my tastes. And to top it off all I could hear in my head the whole time this was happening was Johnny Depp’s voice singing “I’ve got a jar of dirt. I’ve got a jar of dirt.”
Screw you, Jerry Bruckheimer.
I’m sure this movie was freaking terrifying to moviegoers in 1922, but it’s lost a bit of it’s bite (haha) since then. Still, it’s easy to see how this film has influences so many others. The films striking images and dream-like feel are still mesmerizing even after repeat viewings, and with it so easily available in DVD collections and Youtube there’s really no reason for horror and vampire fans not to experience it.
Nosferatu is available on a variety of streaming services.
It is also available on DVD and Bluray.