Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

When I first began to explore silent film, one of the earliest movies to convince me of the power of the silents was 1922’s landmark horror film, Nosferatu, a Dracula adaptation in all but name.

I say in all but name because the film was intended to be an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but the studio could not obtain the rights the story. A few name changes and plot tweaks and wala! A brand new story … sort of.

Nosferatu is one of the great silent films and is still one of the great horror films, relying on a creepy, moody approach rather that jump-at-you scares and gore. The film is in the public domain, so that means you can watch it in full, for free, legally. And you can do it right now:

A few things to note:

* You can’t see it in the video above, but the original version of the film was heavily color tinted. Quite effectively, too. If you want to see the difference color tinting can make, look at this 10-minute clip, which showcases the yellow tinting (for day) and blue tinting (for night): (UPDATE: I’ve since replaced the video with one that has the proper color tinting.)

* There are about eight gazillion versions of this on DVD. Don’t settle for a cheap version. The two best feature excellent restorations, the original coloring, and copious extras. They are the Masters of Cinema release or fantastic Kino edition.

* This film was almost lost. Under a settlement with Bram Stoker’s widow, all know prints were destroyed. However, other prints later surfaced — and thankfully so, because this picture is a landmark.

* Due to the horror, the film was banned in Sweden until 1972.

* The versions available for home viewing are NOT the full version. A full restoration of the original film exists, cobbled together from four separate prints, but it’s not available for home viewing. Goddamnit.

2 Comments

  1. M.T. Carpenter, Sr.

    Are they tinted on the Masters of Cinema release and/or the Kino edition?

  2. admin

    Mr. Carpenter, you'll find the original color tinting on both of those releases. Both look fantastic. You can't go wrong with either.

    The MoC version has an excellent commentary track, and both have the same 52-minute documentary.

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