Rating 4/5 Stars
As always, beware, spoilers follow:
Sorry for the delay on this one. Although the full moon in August actually fell on 8/13/11 (as stated in the title of this post), my wife, her friend, and I watched Nosferatu, a 1922 black and white silent film, on the 14th. The original was, apparently, in German. Silent films, however, have the benefit of needing neither subtitles nor voice-dubbing. The only actor’s name most modern American readers will recognize is the iconic Max Schreck. For many of my readers, that name probably raises images of Christopher Walken‘s character fromBatman Returns.
This was my first experience viewing a silent film. That’s probably a shame, now that I look back on it, though I enjoyed the experience at the time. Let me be clear: I’m not ashamed that Nosferatu was my first silent film. It’s a creepy, atmospheric movie, and it was actually pretty easy for me to put aside the weird color-timing choices (sepia tones and blue tones to represent day and night, apparently) that had been added years later to what was originally a black and white movie. No, the shame is that I saw this in my living room, on my laptop computer. This would have been an excellent drive-in or theater experience. The movie’s signature effect, of Count Orlock rising, stiff as a board, from the grave, is iconic and well done. Max Schreck’s performance is really pretty chilling, and his presence is felt throughout the film. This is despite the fact that, apparently, he’s actually only on screen for about 9 minutes.
You should all, by now, be familiar with the setup of this movie. It’s based on the original Dracula novel, after all. If you haven’t read that book, then perhaps you’ve seen one of the 240 films and tv episodes where that character makes an appearance? You’ve probably seen this setup in other movies, too, like An American Werewolf in London. Still not convinced? Okay, it goes like this:
An innocent, bright-eyed hero is sent, for some reason, into a remote region. Usually in Europe. Usually Transylvania. He’s on his way somewhere, and wants to travel through the night. He stops in a local pub, mentions his destination and intention to push on through the night, and all the villagers go quite. They tell him not to venture outdoors at night, and in some versions of the story, they warn him not to go to his destination at all. He goes anyway, proclaiming that he doesn’t believe the villagers, and encounters a monster. Later, he has to fight that monster.
In Nosferatu (which may be the first filmed version of this now-standard horror movie plot), it’s interesting to note that the monster the villagers warn Hutter (the hero) about is not Count Orlock, the vampire, but rather a supposed werewolf that looks suspiciously like a hyena. The “werewolf” gets only seconds of screen time, so you can see, vampires have been stealing the spotlight from lycanthropes for nearly a century. Hutter’s only warning about vampires comes from a little book left by his bed at the inn. By the Transylvanian chapter of the Gideons, no doubt.
I’m aware that there is another version of this movie, also available to view instantly through Netflix, that has a German Industrial soundtrack, rather than the more original soundtrack featured here. (I say “more original” because the soundtrack that I heard was clearly not the actual original recording. I assume that it was based on the same music). I’d like to watch that some time, and see how it measures up. But first, I need to look into getting a projector and a movie screen for my home, so I can see (if not hear) this film as originally intended.
Until next time.