Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

Germany, 1921
75m (USA), 94m (Germany – restored version shown at Cannes in 1995)
35mm film, black and white, 1.33:1
silent, Dolby Digital (re-issues)

A German horror film directed by F.W. Murnau. It was an unofficial and unauthorised adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula and the writer’s heirs successfully sued to have all prints of the film destroyed though at least one print survived.

Plot Summary

Thomas Hutter, a real estate agent’s assistant, is sent to the imposing castle of the Graf Orlok to help in the sale of a new home for the ancient aristocrat. But Orlok turns out to be a vampire and sets his sights on Hutter’s wife Ellen.

Credits

Crew
Directed by: F.W. Murnau
Jofa-Atelier, Berlin-Johannisthal, Prana-Film
Producers: Enrico Dieckmann, Albin Grau
Freely composed by Henrik Galeen
After the novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker [uncredited on original prints]
Photography: F.A.Wagner
Music: Hans Erdmann; Carlos U. Garza; Richard O’Meara; Wetfish; Peter Schirmann (1969); Club Foot Orchestra (Richard Marriott, Gino Robair) (1989); Gérard Hourbette and Thierry Zaboitzeff (1989); Timothy Howard (1991), James Bernard (1997)
Music Performed by: Art Zoyd (1989)
Costumes: Albin Grau
Sets: Albin Grau
English Version Inter-titles, Credits and Animation Created and Produced by: IML Digital Media, Melbourne
Locations: Dolin Kubin, Vratna-Paß, Germany; Helgoland, Germany; Lauenburg, Germany; Orava Castle, Oravsky Podzámok, Slovakia; Rostock, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany; Wismar, Germany

Cast
Max Schreck (Count Orlok)
Gustav von Wangenheim (Thomas Hutter)
Greta Schroeder (Ellen, Hutter’s wife)
G.H. Schnell 1A pseudoym for Georg H. Schnell] (Harding, a ship-owner)
Alexander Granach (Knock)
Ruth Landshoff (Lucy Westrenka)
John Gottowt (Professor Bulwer)
Gustav Botz (Dr Sievers)
Max Nemetz (captain)
Wolfgang Heinz (first mate)
Guido Herzfeld (innkeeper)
Karl Etlinger, Albert Venohr, Heinrich Witte (sailors)
Hardy von Francois (doctor in hospital)

Alternative Titles

Nosferatu the Vampire
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Terror
Nosferatu: The First Vampire
– US 1998 reissue title
Terror of Dracula

Remake
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

See also
Discworld II: Mortality Bytes (1996)
…Hanno cambiato faccia (1971)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Extracts included in
78/52 (2017)
Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood (1996)
Dracula’s Widow (1989)
Fejezetek a film történetéböl: A német film 1933-ig (1989)
Heartstoppers: Horror at the Movies (1992)
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Killing Zoe (1994)
Die Nacht der Regisseure (1995)
Pale Blood (1990)
Scream 2 (1997)
Soulmates (1992)
Transylvania Babylon (2006)
Tuesday Documentary: The Dracula Business (1974)
Universal Horror (1998)
Vem var Dracula? (1975)
Vincent Price’s Dracula (1982)

Press

1974
The Observer 6 January 1974
Like most automatically revered classics, Nosferatu turns out to have plenty of faults, notably a disjointed plotline and a couple of ill-advised lurches into high-speed motion – though this experiment is balanced by an effectively ‘psychedelic’ use of negative to suggest the brainstorm-inducing qualities of a phantom forest. Some of the acting is chronically rustic, especially when Gustav von Wangenheim is on screen; as the estate-agent’s clerk, Wangenheim in fact resembles one of the more depraved senior-school louts at Tom Brown’s Rugby. […] The film depends almost totally on the central impact of Nosferatu himself, played by Max Schreck in bald wig, alarmingly hooked nose, elongated Spock ears, and a tight, quaint, lop-sided suit. Murnau creates for Schreck (the English equivalent of whose name would have to be something like Dudley Terror, or Ben Dread, and who was by all accounts a pretty limited actor in other contexts) an unforgettable presence, framing him in backlit doorways and chill castle arches, revealing him at rest in his earth-lined coffin, and having him move with a teetering, pigeon-toed stealth; his spider-fingers, of rather aptly variable length, dither at his sides and his rodent skull hangs forward in a slack-jawed gape that reveals the deadly teeth: two slightly irregular, splinterish little prongs (contrast the healthily carnivorous maw of Christopher Lee), set close together so as to dip into the flesh leaving marks small enough to be taken for insect-bites. The whole bloodsucking process is treated with a ghastly discretion. Even Nosferatus climactic assault on the blameless wife is a motionless activity, tucked away at the side of the frame. The vampire might be praying over his victim instead of preying on her. The smudgy, yet distinct, tones of the old print reinforce the gauntness of Murnau’s images; as so often, only the recently added music lets the presentation down. Syncopating cymbals and the flat plod of an electric bass do not make for haunting music, in any sense. – from a review (Getting the fangs in) by Russell Davies

Sunday Express 6 January 1974
There are no gimmicky effects here, no thrusting of wooden stakes into hearts spurting Technicolored blood. Yet the film is good and creepy. Dramatic use of lighting lends it an uncanny atmosphere in which Max Schreck stands out like a corpse brought back to life. Horror addicts can have a good shudder. – from a review (A thrill for horror addicts) by Richard Barkley

The Sunday Times 6 January 1974
[I]t looks splendidly creepy; and it was a great pleasure to see on the screen the figures and the gestures which for so many years I have known merely from stills. – from a review by Dilys Powell

1997
Evening Standard 13 November 1997 p.16
[Murnau’s] is the most nightmarish and potent of all cinematic versions. Images, once seen, are never forgotten: the eerie little Baltic town, the undertakers’ mutes in top hats and frock coats, the doomed plague ship and the Count himself like a vast rodent rearing up on its hind legs… The unexpected angles, the use of slow motion, stop-action photography and the chiaroscuro camerawork of Fritz Arno Wagner create an Expressionist masterpiece. – from a review by Alexander Walker

2004
The Guardian: Section 2 20 November 2004 p.17
Drawing on the traditions of German romanticism, Murnau returned Dracula to its middle-European mythic roots. He also created one of the most enduring icons of cinema, which has been reinterpreted in every generation, from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee to Klaus Kinski. So persistent is this mythologising that Shadow of a Vampire (2000) [sic], a fictional treatment about the making of Nosferatu, posited that Schreck himself was a vampire. – from a review (Adaptation of the week no.35 Nosferatu (1922)) by Andrew Pulver

2007
The Independent 26 October 2007 pp.10-11
Now released again in a fully restored version, with its original score available for the first time since 1922, it has lost none of its impact, unlike many of its imitators. That famous image of Max Schreck’s hollow-cheeked, bald vampire rising from his coffin still has the ability to send shivers through the most hardened and cynical viewers. […] As played by Schreck, the vampire Count Orlok isn’t a sleek, caped, matinee idol-like seducer in the vein of Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee but a verminous and utterly malevolent figure. Bat-eared, with his enormous hands hanging like talons from his side, he is the kind of figure that inhabits a child’s nightmare. […] [I]t remains a film to freeze the blood. – from an article (Resurrection of the vampire by Geoffrey Macnab)

References

Periodicals

  • American Cinematographer vol.81 no.12 (December 2000) pp.68-75; 144 – illustrated article (Dark shadows by Ron Magid); illustrated article (Wrap shot by Ray Zone)
  • The Australian Journal of Screen Theory no.5-6 (January-July 1979) pp.138-162 (Australia) – article
  • Avant-Scène du Cinéma no.228 May 1979 p.3, 5-6, 7-27 – script
  • Cahiers du Cinéma vol.14 no.79 (January 1958) p.22 (France) – article
  • Cahiers du Cinéma no.333 (March 1982) p.XI (France) – article
  • Cinéaste vol.25 no.4 (October 2000) pp.48-50 – illustrated review (by Christopher Sharrett)
  • Cinéaste vol.33 no.3 Summer 2008 p.68-70 – DVD review (DVD Reviews – Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror by Michael Bronski)
  • Cinefantastique vol.30 no.7/8 (October 1998) pp.94-98 – illustrated article (The Horror of James Bernard by Randall Larson)
  • Cinefantastique vol.32 no.3 (October 2000) pp.10-15 – illustrated article (Shadow of the vampire by Alan Jones)
  • Cinéma no.243 (March 1979) pp.6-15 (France) – article
  • La Cinématographie Française no.2136 (13 November 1965) p.22 (France) – article
  • Classic Images no.138 (December 1986) pp.58-59, 63 – article
  • Classic Images no.334 (April 2003) p.25 – video review (Video views by John Nangle)
  • Classic Images no.302 (August 2000) p.28 – video review (Sam Rubin’s classic clinic by Sam Rubin)
  • Classic Images no.391 (January 2008) p.42 – DVD review (Video views: Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror by John Nangle)
  • Close-up vol.4 no.1 January 1929 p.71-72 (Switzerland) – article
  • The Cue Sheet vol.11 no.4 (October 1995) pp.17-19 – review (Two reviews: Music for silent films in contemporary performance by Lois DiLivio)
  • Dark Terrors no.15 (February 1998) pp.44-45 – illustrated interview with James Bernard (Nosferatu a symphony of horrors by M. Murphy)
  • Empire no.189 (March 2005) pp.119-128 – illustrated article (Lets Revise: Monsters by Kim Newman)
  • Empire no.201 (March 2006) pp.157-162 – advertisement (Empire Promotion: Hearts of Darkness)
  • Empire no.205 (July 2006) pp.152-153 – DVD review (At Home/All-Time 100: Month Nine: Horror by Ian Nathan)
  • Empire no.223 January 2008 p.201 – DVD review (At home/DVD reissues: Nosferatu by Ian Nathan)
  • F/Filmjournal no.23 (May 1980) p.52 (West Germany) – note
  • Film vol.3 no.6 (June 1965) p.57 (West Germany) – article
  • Film Comment vol.12 no.3 (May/June 1976) pp.4-19 – article (by Robin Wood)
  • Film History vol.14 no.1 (2002) p.25-31 – illustrated article (On the way to Nosferatu by Enno Patalas)
  • Film Score Monthly vol.3 no.4 (May 1998) p.45 – soundtrack review (Music, European style by Jeff Bond)
  • Film Studies no.8 (Summer 2006) pp.93-105 – illustrated article (Narrative Universals, Nationalism, and Sacrificial Terror by Patrick Colm Hogan)
  • Filmfax no.61 Jun/Jul 1997 p.49 – credits, review (Nosferatu by Gary D. Rhodes)
  • Films in Review vol.17 no.9 (November 1966) p.598 – note
  • German Films no.1 (2008) p.4-15 (Germany) – illustrated article (Silent Cinema by Ralph Eue and Michael Esser)
  • Gothique no.9 (October 1969) pp.4-8 – illustrated article (Back to Nosferatu! by John Ramsey Campbell)
  • Image et Son no.214 (1968) pp.100-112 (France) – article
  • Kinema no.16 (Autumn 2001) p.49-62 (Canada) – illustrated article (Murnau’s Nosferatu: Taming flames, pitch black, sleepwalking serpents and the words of ice that came from within by Julio Ãngel Olivares Merino)
  • Kino no.4 (1999) p.31 (West Germany) – illustrated article
  • Kultur February 1987 pp.13-14 (South Africa) – illustrated article (Nosferatu – Tinting for a Silent Film by Evelyn Roll)
  • Literature/Film Quarterly vol.7 no.4 (1979) pp.309-313 – article
  • Literature/Film Quarterly vol.24 no.3 (1996) pp.234-240; 241-254 – illustrated article (Eine Symphonie des Grauens or The Terror of Music: Murnau’s Nosferatu by Rona Unrau); illustrated article (Framing the Underworld: Threshold imagery in Murnau, Cocteau, and Bergman by Evans Kansing Smith)
  • Literature/Film Quarterly vol.32 no.3 (2004) p.229-236 – illustrated article (Absent presences in liminal places: Murnau’s Nosferatu and the Otherworld of Stoker’s Dracula by Saviour Catania)
  • Literature/Film Quarterly vol.30 no.1 (2002) pp.59-64 – illustrated article (The contribution of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu to the evolution of Dracula by Wayne E. Hensley)
  • Literature/Film Quarterly vol.38 no.4 (2010) pp.289-310 – illustrated article (“Belle et le Vampire”: Focus and Fidelity in Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Thomas L. Reed Jr)
  • Midi-Minuit Fantastique no.4/5 (January 1963) p.145 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.41 no.481 (February 1974) pp.37-38 – credits, synopsis, review
  • New Zealand Film Music Bulletin no.101 (February 1998) p.3 – soundtrack review (The Jeff Hall report by Jeff Hall)
  • Positif no.228 (March 1980) pp.47-51 (France) – article
  • Positif no.312 (February 1987) pp.44-45 (France) – article
  • Positif no.428 (October 1996) pp.73-76 (France) – illustrated article (Nosferatu et la terre qui flambe by Jean-Louis Leutrat)
  • Positif no.492 (February 2002) p.101 (France) – illustrated soundtrack review (Musiques du muet by Hubert Niogret)
  • Post Script vol.14 no.3 (Summer 1995) pp.25-36 (Australia) – illustrated article (Romantic Painting as Horror and Desire in Expressionist Cinema by Angela Dalle Vacche)
  • Shivers no.26 p.44 – review
  • Shivers no.49 (January 1998) pp.14-15 – illustrated interview with James Bernard
  • Shivers no.86 (February 2001) pp.16-20 – illustrated article (by Jonathan Rigby)
  • Sight & Sound Supplement no.15 (August 1948) p.6 – credits, article
  • Sight & Sound vol.36 no.3 Summer 1967 p.150-3, 159 – article (by Gilberto Perez Guillermo)
  • Sight & Sound vol.2 no.8 (December 1992) p.61 – video note
  • Sight & Sound vol.3 no.9 (September 1993) p.61 – video note
  • Sight & Sound vol.10 no.7 (July 2000) p.62 – note (DVDs)
  • Sight & Sound vol.11 no.2 (February 2001) p.12-15 – illustrated article (Six degrees of Nosferatu by Thomas Elsaesser)
  • Sight & Sound vol.11 no.4 (April 2001) p.64 – DVD review (Home movies: reviews by Danny Leigh and Geoffrey Macnab)
  • Sight & Sound vol.12 no.2 (February 2002) p.68 – illustrated DVD review (Home movies: reviews: silents by Brad Stevens)
  • Sight & Sound vol.17 no.12 (December 2007) p.100 – DVD review (Reviews: DVDs: Gods and monsters by Michael Brooke)
  • Soundtrack! The Collector’s Quarterly vol.15 no.58 (June 1996) pp.48-56 (Belgium) – illustrated interview with James Bernard (The James Bernard Dossier by John Mansell and Randall D. Larson)
  • Starburst no.271 (March 2001) pp.87; 91 – video review (Videofile by Ian Atkins); DVD review (DVD file by Ian Atkins)
  • Starburst Special no.45: Star Trek pp.92-97 – illustrated article (A legacy of terror by Nick Joy)
  • TV Times 11-17 January 1986 p.47 – credits
  • Video Watchdog no.19 (September/October 1993) pp.48-61 – illustrated article (Nosferatu – the unauthorised undead by David Walker)
  • Video Watchdog no.24 pp.4-6 – illustrated article (Nosferatu Update by David Walker)

Newspapers

  • Evening Standard 13 November 1997 p.16 – review (by Alexander Walker)
  • Expresso, Antena 1 May 1999 – review (by Francisco Ferreira)
  • The Guardian 2 March 1984 p.12 – illustrated article (Vampire’s new bite by Richard Roud)
  • The Guardian 14 November 1997 pp.8-9 – illustrated interview with James Bernard (Fangs for the melodies by David Robinson)
  • The Guardian: Section 2 20 November 2004 p.17 – review (Adaptation of the week no.35 Nosferatu (1922) by Andrew Pulver)
  • The Independent (Eye magazine) 14 November 1997 p.12 – illustrated interview with James Bernard (Still ‘orrible after all these years by Steven Poole)
  • The Independent 26 October 2007 pp.10-11 – article (Resurrection of the vampire by Geoffrey Macnab)
  • The Observer 6 January 1974 – review (Getting the fangs in by Russell Davies)
  • Sunday Express 6 January 1974 – review (A thrill for horror addicts by Richard Barkley)
  • The Sunday Times 6 January 1974 – review (by Dilys Powell)
  • The Times 14 November 1997 p.44 – article (Rocky horror music show by Clive Davis)

Books

  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror (2nd edition) by Phil Hardy (ed) pp.29-30 – illustrated credits, review
  • Classic Horror Films and the Literature That Inspired Them by Ron Backer pp.68-71 – review
  • Count Dracula Goes to the Movies: Stoker’s Novel Adapted (3rd Edition) by Lyndon W. Joslin pp.10-21 – illustrated credits, synopsis, production notes, review
  • Dracula in Visual Media: Film, Television, Comic Book and Electronic Game Appearances, 1921-2010 by John Edgar Browning and Caroline Joan (Kay) Picart pp.136-137 – illustrated credits, synopsis
  • The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Films second edition by John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh 105-109 pp.illustrated credits, review (by J.C.T. [John C. Tibbetts])
  • The Hidden Cinema: British Censorship in Action 1913-1975 by James C. Robertson pp.19-22, 177 – article
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.286 – credits, synopsis
  • Horror Films by Subgenre: A Viewer’s Guide by Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay pp.203-204 – illustrated credits, review
  • The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide by Stephen Jones p.13 – credits, review
  • Lexikon des phantatischen Films 2 by Rolf Giesen pp.117-123 – review
  • Little Book of Horror Films by David Miller pp.8-9 – illustrated review
  • Movies of the 20s and Early Cinema by Jürgen Müller pp.118-123 – illustrated credits, review (by JH [Jörn Hetebrügge])
  • Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.340 – credits
  • The Stop-motion Filmography by Neil Pettigrew pp.508-509 – credits, review

Other sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide May 2019 p.21 – illustrated listing