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Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Directed by F.W. Murnau

"Nosferatu. Does not this word sound like the call of the death bird at midnight? You dare not say it since the pictures of life will fade into dark shadows; ghostly dreams will rise from your heart and feed on your blood." That is how this landmark in silent cinema opens and what follows is the story of "Dracula" re-told with the names changed and with a hideous, gaunt, cadaverous bald creature replacing the more appealing Count of the novel. These changes were a weak attempt to cover copyright infringement. The author Bram Stoker had died less than ten years before filming started in Germany and when his wife Florence found out she understandably raised hell. Florence Stoker, by the way, was quite a lady who was also courted by the flamboyant Oscar Wilde. But I digress. Regardless of the ethical shortcomings Murnau was guilty of when mounting this project, the results are spectacular. Because this isn't some film school lesson I won't bother with listing the innovations and technical mastery that Murnau displayed here but let's just say that he crafted a multi-layered work that can be appreciated from a variety of critical angles. On a base level (which is where my running commentary unfortunately tends to reside) the star of the proceedings is, of course, the vampire played by Max Schreck. Images of him rising stiff as a board out of his coffin or creeping forward into a blackened castle doorway can still deliver the shivers.


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