bekkypk: (Nosferatu)
[personal profile] bekkypk
I said a few days ago I'd been given a copy of Nosferatu for Christmas and that I'd like to review it. Now, I'm not a lot of good at reviewing - I get too over excited about films I love. I also took nearly 800 caps of the 90 minute film while I was watching it, so you could also say I'm not really a good judge of how best to cut down that number. Theres a lot of caps behind this link (But don't worry, it's less then a hundred. If you have a lot of trouble downloading it might be best for you to check out the gallery ( and view them one by one. A lot of my review is done in comments to the caps. It's also become less a review, and more a noting of key points and thoughts, as the story progresses.


I recently argued with somebody over why Nosferatu should still be around at all. Nosferatu is not... scary. Not to people in this modern age. But it still sends a tingle down my spine. It employs the old tactic of minimal use of the monster, to produce maximum effect.

I hope these caps help show people why the film deserves to be remembered, inspires some people to go out and buy the film, and encourages people to watch it from time to time.

So, here we go!

Horrifying :D

A couple of notes :

Tinting black and white films isn't everybody's cup of tea. But in this films case, the filming of everything - even night scenes - during the day is greatly aided by the tinting. It makes the film make more sense even without subs.

Also note that the pretty caps seen here are the DVD copy I was bourght for Christmas. There is a link below to a website where you can watch the out of copyright, B&W version that I saw on Sky TV eleven years ago. Obviously, the copy on the site is therfore in a pretty poor state. I've offered one cap as comparison but it pained me having seen the DVD copy to watch the whole thing on the website.

The captions in my copy are in their original German, and for the most part (by my choice) untranslated. In the link I've supplied, the captions are more modern and English, and the people have been given the character names from Dracula itself.

You can't tell, but my DVD copy contains the original score, which is fairly unintrusive and serves to set the mood nicely, whereas the edition I've linked to seems in places to intrude upon what's going on. Part of why I like silent films is that theres nobody forcing me to feel things. It's subtle.

And a little history : Nosferatu was made/first shown in 1921/2. It's a black and white, silent film, based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. Because it was so close to Dracula without having permission, certain names and events were changed. We're very lucky to still have Nosferatu to watch today, and the second cap below will explain why.

Let's go, for real this time :)

I love this Art Deco opening.

Florence Stoker tried to have every copy of the movie destroyed. She failed.

I left the subtitles on for certain shots, but only a few. Frankly I know the story well enough not to need them, and there's only a few instances that I wish I could read more German for.

You can see every tile, almost! When the film started up I nearly cried at the depth to which it had been cleaned up :)

A comparison shot from an online copy of the film.
Hutter (Johnathan Harker if you've only read the original Dracula) Hutter (Johnathan Harker if you've only read the original Dracula)
Interestingly, his lady love only calls him Hutter in this version. Does he have a first name? Who knows... Apparently this poor fella was only the third choice for the role.
Ellen (Mina) Ellen (Mina)
The letter of dooooom (tm) The letter of dooooom (tm)
From Count Orlok (Dracula) to his homie, Knock (Renfield). In this film, Renfield is an estate agent, rather then your average loony. So thats one thing Nosferatu set a precedent for.

If you're looking for an early appearence of Max Shreck (Count Orlok) He's behind Mr. Hutter here :p Apparently Max was hired for the role of Orlok because they thought he was astonishingly ugly. I really don't think he's that bad.

This is what the Count's after. By the looks Knock gives it in the film, he's had this planned for some time. It's been a while since I read Dracula (I was still at school when I did) but I'm not sure this building quite lives up to the book's description. It looks more like an abandoned factory then anything else. However, it does have some interesting architecture, and not being familier with pre-1900 German buildings, Its not a grinding problem for me personally.

Ahhh, Tucking in his labels. I like the camerawork in these sort of shots, blacking out the corners. It does feel a little more intimate, as if you're watching through a keyhole :)

Ah! It is night! And more beautiful camerawork.

A wild Walrus appeared! Seriously, this is the head of the village pub, evidently warning Hutter of his destination's seedy reputation. I thought he was going to punch him rather then talk to him though.

From what I can gather and have read, this is meant to be a werewolf (Though clearly these days, to the eyes of those with a wider view of animals of the world, it's a Hyena). I guess it's classed as another of those unclean creatures of the night.

Dusk and Dawn are both represented by this pale red-pink tint. They've done a really nice job with the tinting, it must be said. For only three colours, it makes a perfect mood.

Bonus shot of Hutter getting his kit off. :p

The warning : The Sun Sinks! ... i.e., you're on your own, buster!

Hello there, Max! Orlok appears in the darkness of an enclosed forest path. A lot of his more frightening featurs later in the film are hidden in these early parts by hats and bulky coats. He gets a lot more striking later on.

The coach here is a genius piece of work. The cloth sides give the impression that the coach is gliding, rather then the wheels turning. The footage is also slightly sped up when the coach is in motion, leading to a very surreal experience. And thats before we get into the forest proper...

...upon which point this negative-image shot becomes more then a little horrifying.

Hutter is ordered to the building, and Orlok guides the horses away pretty darn fast.

And then he appears... (Actually, I've never noticed that symbol on the wall before)

You are late Sir, and after I cooked for you! *huffs* ... j/k. I like this shot though. Note Orlok is still hiding his ears.

This is a creepy-as-hell little clock, but I rather like it. I also like how the 'daylight' orange-yellow tint is used to great effect indoors as firelight.

Hutter didn't expect the Count to be THIS friendly...

...And in the morning...

But until now, we've not yet seen the Vampire. This is the long shot Hutter is treated to the following evening, when he, spooked, prises open his (handleless) door. The close up shot I've left out, as its a rather popular one and I don't really want to be all that predictable :p

Hutter runs to his bed, but the door swings open of its own accord. This isn't the first time clever tricks are used to good effect, and it won't be the last. Hutter pulls his sheets over his head... the dread creature approaches. Theres a slightly later shot I like a lot better then this, but this is how he appears in the doorway first. The later shot has him breaking through the light source ahead of him, casting his shadow (who you'll see used to great effect again later) across the doorframe.

One of the film scenes that's stuck with me, and the inspiration behind this image --> I find it a really powerful shot, not just because of the framing, or the shadow, which is always more effective then the Vampire themselves, but because when you watch the film you see that the Count as the Vampire very rarely moves his arms from his sides. Even when he's reading the house documents, in a cap I've not shown you, his arms are folded close to his body. The raising of the hands away from what looks to be a frail, slim frame, is really very alien to the character.

Ellen feels Hutter's fear (Either because shes just that good a partner, or because the Count here has seen her image, when her portrait fell from Hutter's bag) and reaches out, begging for his life, or maybe calling Orlok away. Orlok draws back, and for some reason, this shot rather then him turning over his left shoulder as if towards her seems particulaly striking.

Whatever Ellen has done, the Count leaves, and the door swings closed behind him. Another really neat image to watch unfold.

In the morning, a terrified Hutter searches the castle. In a basement he finds a coffin, and through the splintered wood he sees this. I note here that according to several sites I've read, Max Shreck (Playing Orlok) only blinks once in the course of the film. I can assume this is intentional, and it's one of those little details that really sets him off as a character. As a side note, this is a very popular image of Orlok, used on a lot of sites. I'm really pleased my screencap came out right :)

More fantastic imagery here, that double-exposed piece of wood leaning against the cart is actually a piece of wood that moves in stages up onto the top coffin to cover the Count who lies within.

Meanwhile, Ellen waits at the local beauty spot...

So much texture picked up here on the ships sails. The people producing and filming this piece should have had every right to be proud of themselves, I feel.

Look at the fluff on that ship's captain :p

More brilliant film trickery here. Can you see the Count?

How about now?

The lead up to another famous shot from the film, and used again and again in documentaries, Orlok rises from his coffin, disturbed by a terrified ship hand with an axe.

I always think he looks about as scared as the ship hand. But he has just been woken up very rudely.

The ship hand jumps overboard, and Orlok moves from the hold. He doesn't move smoothly, or particularly fast or gracefully, like a lot of movie vampires. He depends more on his prescence and stealth to terrify his prey into staying still. He moves slowly, mechanically. I don't think I've seen another movie vampire move the same way.

The ship's Captain, the sole survivor of the trip, simply watches the creature move towards him. Again, you don't see Orlok, which makes this a pretty powerful scene. What I haven't uploaded, because I don't know if it's deliberate, is that as this scene fades out, in the top left of the screen appears something which may be a sleeve, which descends downwards across the corner. If its deliberate, I'd have to say I doubt it's in the right location for Orlok's arm. It's not the last time I'll ponder about an odd angle either.

Again with the imagery! Th cover over this hatch pulls back in stages, and the hatch door opens in similar fashion.

I like this shot. Its one of the few times you see anything resembling emotion on the Count's face. You can imagine, after a long voyage, with only rats and the odd ship hand for food, how glad he must be to be docked and able to walk into a town full to the brim with fresh life.

Several websites say that rats *follow* the Count. We only see the rats twice, both times around the ship (They're kept in coffins alongside the Counts) So I surmise they may be Orlok's packed lunch rather then directly following him.

Coffin surfing!

This cap is mostly included for the long shot, which is beautiful. It's funny too, when everybody clears off leaving the ship Captain's dead body in the middle of the floor. You can imagine some narked off cleaner coming in with a pair of tongs and a really big wheelie bin...

Hutter brought naughty paintings back from his travels, and Ellen enjoys them! *cough* Actually, she's reading the book on Vampires that Hutter *ahem*stole*ahem* acquired from the pub for his evening reading material.

This is really a note as to what the book page pieces are like. It's also the piece I wonder about the meaning of (I neglected to faff about putting the subtitles back on), and I wonder if the last line in particular is something to do with this phrase going around in my head... 'She gives of her own free will her blood.'

In another amusing scene, a hundred million people try to fit inside this small house in a desperate chase after Knock, who has escaped the asylum where he had been locked up, and is now suspected of being the vampire! This is the scene that I always remembered Nosferatu by, before I became interested in it as more then a passing interest on a rainy day (when nothing else was on Sky movies)

The murderous crowd rip apart a scarecrow in their bloodlust. How Ironic.

Meanwhile, the Count lives just opposite Hutter and Ellen, and as perverts do, he spends every evening at his window, gazing at her.

Ellen opens the window to the count, thus inviting him over. Orlok : I'm gunna get laid!

Another popular image of Orlok's shadow. Unlike how we've seen him move before (Except when he moves from Ship to his dwelling) he is fast and nimble, suggesting 1)He really wants this one, and 2)The stiff skinny begger routine is an act, and he is very capeable of moving at speed.

As with other doors, Orlok's shadow itself appears to open them.

This girl is forever grasping at her chest. Pity she hasn't got a lot to grasp at. (I suspect she's actually trying to find her heart, which... isn't there, miss)

She falls to her bed, and the shadow falls across her...

...again, fondling at that chest of hers. Oh Orlok, I would have thought you'd have known anatomy... I guess at least you're on the left side of the body.

Morning has broken. Ellen has kept Orlok busy all night. And this is another of those looks that speaks volumes for what little emotion Orlok may actually have. Its also a very striking image, and one of the best we get of Orlok in the whole film. I'd go as far as to say it's beautiful.

Heres where the angle/lighting angle comes into play again.

The sun is obviously rising, but it looks like it's rising from behind the terrace that Orlok is currently in. Also, my brother says he has a hard time not seeing this as Ham acting. I think it noteworthy that being as how silent films have no sound (duh!) a certain amount of playing up is expected. Especially in this era, when cameras were not as clear. Orlok's facial expression is visible, but not enough to really make a statement. Also, I find it interesting that he mimics Ellen's heart-grasping motion from previously. Now, onto the most striking visual effect I find in the film...

The Count turns to leave, but is caught in the sunlight. Note the angling of the sun has changed slightly now.

He seems rooted to the spot, and turns to the sun, first defending his face, then reaching out in what I presume to be terror or despair.

And then...

...he leaves us. Now, you have to admit. For 1921, a fade-out like that is impressive. I hear that Nosferatu is the first piece of media that said Vampires are killed by sunlight. With that footage, who can blame people for emulating it?

Knock, caught once again and locked in his cell, proclaims "The master... is... dead." I actually prefer the German translation here. Theres something so delightfully final about the word 'Tot'. 'Dead' doesn't have the same feeling to it.

Ellen awakens, exhausted.

And I really like this shot. The dawning joy in her face.

Hutter appears with the professor (Who seems to play a much smaller role then Van Helsing... infact he plays bugger all role, just turns up in the middle to show some students some truly frightening nature)

We do hope Ellen is alright. It's left very much to our imaginations. If it mimics Dracula any further, she will be, they'll have a son, and live happily ever after, though always a little wary of that son...

Just because I liked that translation.

This I presume to be the Count's castle, much later.


Links (Remove the gaps) :

ht tp:// <-- a really fab little review of Nosferatu.

ht tp://w <-- A good article through and through, and this is the link where you can watch Nosferatu if you like. The copy here is mucky, dark and in bad condition, but this is how I first saw the film :)

ht tp://w <-- for R2 viewers, this is my copy. Cleaned and polished to perfection.

ht tp:// <-- the official website

And one last note...

I'm not a Vampire movie fan. This is the only Vampire film that has ever grabbed me, and I'd be quite happy if it never let me go :) Max Schreck may have died in 1936, but with any luck, his most famous role is going to keep returning. Sorry Ellen, but he's that hard to kill :)


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