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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blu-ray Review - Nosferatu the Vampyre

By Adam Ruhl

I think this might be the first Scream Factory film I've reviewed since our big Halloween series. I’m not sure and I’m too lazy to check, but I think so. In the six months since Halloween, they have continued their streak of hits and do a phenomenal job of preserving and presenting horror films in stunning quality. Their latest release really falls in the top five of what they've put out so far; both in terms of quality of the movie and care taken with the disc. Since I like the format we used in October, I thought it right to use it again here as we take a look at the Scream Factory release of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Nosferatu the Vampyre. (Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht)

The Film:

This is Herzog’s homage to the 1922 German film also called Nosferatu. The original was a retelling of Dracula without getting the legal right to do so. In spite of a court order for all prints to be destroyed, it survived and is now widely considered one of the greatest German films (an opinion shared by Herzog that caused his desire to remake it). This 1979 version recreates much of the style of Nosferatu while openly connecting itself to the Dracula story (which is now in public domain and no chance of a lawsuit). Klaus Kinski’s look in the film is styled after Nosferatu, with two center, pointy, buck teeth instead of fangs, but he is actually called Count Dracula in the 1979 version. Several scenes in the film have shot for shot remakes of the corresponding scene in the 1922 original.

The story is close to Dracula; Jonathan Harker is a real estate agent (this time in Germany rather than London) who is sent to sell a property to Count Dracula. He leaves behind his fiancĂ© (her name and the name of her friend are reversed in this version) and travels to Transylvania. Once there he becomes a prisoner of the Count who becomes obsessed with Jonathan’s fiancĂ©. Dracula departs for Germany to pursue her, leaving a path of death in his wake.  

Haunting and creepy, this film has more existential dread than outright scares. Unlike Bela Lugosi, this Dracula is a pathetic and craven creature. He despises himself and his inability to die; this makes his desperation even more disturbing. To really get the full effect of the performance, watch the German language version.

The Disc:

If you love films of the 1970’s, you want them to look like the era they were shot in. Film stocks of the times were very distinctive, with large grain, muted color, and a sometimes gritty feel to them. Nosferatu is presented just as it was shot and it is glorious. There is nothing sadder than a film that has been scrubbed within an inch of obliteration. In Nosferatu, the night shots grain is so big that you can see them dance on the screen. The pools of light and dark perfectly recreate the expressionist style they pay homage to. This is must have for a horror collector, just as much as Universal’s Dracula or the original Nosferatu.  

The case features the poster cover art with a black background. The reversible cover is the same in a white background.

The disc is a little light on extras but there is a ‘making of’ featurette and a notable commentary by the director.

The Features:
Audio Commentary with Werner Herzog.
Both German and English Language versions of the film. (Remember these were shot in different takes so performances vary slightly between them, WATCH BOTH!)
Vintage Making of Nosferatu
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible cover that is the same with a white background.

The Specs:
1080p Hi-Def widescreen 1.78:1
DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
English or German w/ Subtitles (can be turned off if you speak German or want learning practice.)
Original Release: 1979
Runtime: 107 minutes
Rated PG

Final Grades:
Story: A / Dracula, Nosferatu, it’s a great story either way and much more terrifying in German.
Presentation quality: A / Rich blacks and plenty of original grain. This is a real 70’s gem.
Scare factor: B+ / Great atmosphere, builds dread slow and steady. Klaus Kinski is terrifying to look at.
Gore Factor: B / Not really that kind of movie but does open with real mummified bodies.
Repeat view-ability: A / Show this to your friends at parties.  

Add Nosferatu the Vampyre to your collection, click HERE!

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