• Nosferatu (2-Disc Deluxe Re-mastered Edition)



    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: November 12th, 2013.
    Director: F.W. Murnau
    Cast: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder, Alexander Granach
    Year: 1922
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    The Movie:

    Directed by F.W. Murnau in 1922, Nosferatu was intended to be an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but as the producers could not secure the rights, they simply made a few changes and retitled the picture. Stoker’s estate wasn’t too happy about this, and they sued, which resulted in pretty much all of the elements of the picture being destroyed. Thankfully, a print survived and since then the movie has gone on to be rightfully recognized as a classic.

    The picture tells the tale of a man named Thomas Hunter (Gustav von Wangenheim) who is sent from his town of Wisborg by his boss, Knock (Alexander Granach), to visit a client named Count Orlok (Max Schreck) in his native Transylvania. Recently married, Hunter leaves his beautiful wife Ellen (Greta Schröder) with their friend Harding (Georg H. Schnell) and his sister Annie (Ruth Landshoff) and heads off to work. Along the way Thomas stops at an inn where the locals refuse to discuss his client and warn him not to go out at night for fear of a werewolf in the area. He later hires a coach but the driver will only take him so far and he has to make the rest of the journey to the eerie mountaintop castle on foot. Shortly after he starts his journey, another couch whisks by and stops to let him onboard. It takes him to the castle in the middle of the night where he meets its nocturnal owner who invites his guest to dine with him. Hunter agrees and while slicing some bread he cuts his finger – it’s then that the count becomes unusually excited, trying to suck the blood from Hunter’s thumb and ranting about the precious blood and its life giving properties.

    Understandably upset by all of this, Hunter retires to his room for the night. He wakes up the next morning to find the place completely uninhabited and two large marks on his neck. He writes his wife about this and complains about the mosquitos in the area. Soon enough, Hunter does some research and finds that Orlock may actually be a vampire. As the day turns into night, he becomes fearful of his host and as the clock chimes midnight, Orlock lets himself into Hunter’s room and Hunter faints. The next morning Hunter decides to explore the grounds of the castle during the daylight hours and he comes upon a coffin which Orlock uses to sleep in and shortly after this he decides to leave the castle but gets injured and wakes up in a hospital. When he wakes up he heads home as quickly as he can. Orlock had shown an unusual interest in his wife and had talked about buying up an abandoned building across from their home. As Hunter has been in the hospital for some time, the count got a head start as the people of the town start to show signs of affliction from the plague…

    As eerie and atmospheric as anything you can imagine, Nosferatu has a decidedly dark tone throughout that makes it a pretty effective horror movie by any standard you’d care to hold it to. Producer Albin Grau’s interest in the occult works its way into the film in strange, subtle ways while the poster art of the day (most of which was also by Grau) promised the sort of strange, shadowy macabre dealings that the picture actually managed to deliver. There’s an air of sinister menace throughout the entire picture, and while the cinematography and expert direction to a fantastic job of not only ramping up the tension and showing off some amazing locations, its leading man Max Schreck who really winds up personifying the evil of the film so well.

    Made up to look like one of the rats he is so often surrounded by, Schreck’s Nosferatu is almost otherworldly, an alien on this planet out to feed upon its populace more than a suave, romantic vampire as envisioned in most other takes on the source. He has surround him a touch of decay, of ugliness and ungodliness, we don’t sympathize with him or feel any sort of connection to him, rather we realize he is wicked and foul. Schreck plays this creature incredibly well. Of course the makeup helps immensely but he moves with such predatory grace and at the same time such unfamiliar awkwardness that it’s fascinating to watch him. Obviously as this is a silent film he has to communicate as much as he can with body language and he shows amazing skill for this. The rest of the cast all do fine work here, but had this been nothing more than Schreck skulking around shadowy castles followed by a small army of rats it would still be completely captivating.

    A masterpiece of the darkest of expressionist filmmaking, Nosferatu’s ability to not just hold our attention but completely envelope its audience remains remarkable. It’s an important historical achievement not only because it deals so well with such dark subject matter but because it shows incredible technique as well.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both versions of the movie (English intertitles on disc one or original German intertitles on disc two) are presented on their own disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.33.1 fullframe, as it should be. The image quality widely surpasses previous DVD releases in terms of noticeable detail and texture while the enhanced resolution offered by the format does allow the print damage to be a bit more visible. Overall though, this is a very nice upgrade. The framing looks good (though the framing is tighter on the English intertitle version and Nosferatu’s head does get slightly trimmed in the infamous ‘rising from the coffin’ sequence) and the color tinting never saps away any of the detail. Things look considerably more film like here, individual strands of hair are now obvious as are fibers in the costumes worn by the cast. There are no compression artifacts and if any noise reduction has been applied here, it’s not noticeable.

    DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio or Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo options are provided for the feature and the original Hans Erdmann score sounds fantastic in lossless quality here. The orchestral music makes great use of the surround channels and really fills the room beautifully. Every instrument used in the score comes through with crystal clear precision. The levels are always nicely balanced and there’s excellent depth and presence throughout playback. English subtitles are supplied for the German intertitles version.

    The main extra on disc one is the fifty-three minute documentary The Language of Shadows, which serves as both a biographical piece covering the early stages of Murnau’s life and times and a look into the making of Nosferatu. It’s a little dry in its delivery but it relays a whole lot of interesting information, not the least of which as to do with Alan Grau’s interest in alchemy and the occult and how that worked its way into the film. We also learn a lot about the locations used for the movie and what they look like today and how the press reported on the film at the time of its production.

    Also on the first disc is an extensive collection of clips from different films made throughout Murnau’s career. Included in this collection are highlights from Journey Into The Night, The Haunted Castle, Phantom, The Finances Of The Grand Duke, The Last Laugh, Tartuffe, Faust and Tabu.

    A promo spot and a still gallery round out the extras, alongside menus and chapter stops for both discs which are housed inside a Blu-ray case that fits inside a slipcover featuring identical cover art.

    The Final Word:

    This is a very nice looking and sounding presentation of a genuine classic. Kino haven’t added anything new to their disc in terms of extras but the increase in detail and resolution over the previous DVD release is substantial and the movie itself plays as well now as it ever has.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!