Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
A young married man named Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) is sent on a business trip by his employer Knock (Alexander Granach). The purpose of his trip is to help finalize the sale of a house in England to a distant customer, Count Orlok (Max Schreck) in Transylvania. Although missing his wife Ellen (Great Schroder). Hutter dutifully makes the trip. But the closer to the Count’s home he gets, the more the people become nervous and afraid for him. He can’t even get transportation all the way to his destination, as the driver refuses to go any closer. But as he sets out to walk the remaining distance, a carriage appears, and its strange driver beckons to Hutter to get in.
Hutter finds the castle eerie and the count peculiar. But business is business, and once he is done he can
return to his beloved wife. While going through some papers, Hutter accidentally drops a miniature of his beloved, which the Count picks up. The odd nobleman seems quite taken with Hutter’s pretty missus, to his consternation. Things get even eerier when at night, he spies the Count loading coffin-shaped boxes onto a wagon, all by himself! When Hutter investigates during the day, he discovers the Count lying in a coffin, and realizes he has to get out of there as soon as possible! But he is stricken by a strange illness, and begins to wonder if he will ever make his way home.
Ellen anxiously awaits her husband’s return, in the company of her husband’s friend, Harding, and Harding’s sister Ruth (Ruth Landshoff). In the meantime, the Count has acquired passage for himself and his boxes on a ship bound for England. But strange things begin to happen on this vessel. Sailors grow sick and die, but no one can determine the cause. And when the ship pulls into the port, there is no one left alive.
The village begins to be troubled by mysterious deaths for which the citizens find a scapegoat – the increasingly erratic Knock, who has fallen under the Count’s spell, albeit from a distance, and who looks forward to the master’s arrival.
Hutter returns at last, to Ellen’s relief, and she finds the book he was reading while in Transylvania, Nosferatur, which gave him such terrible nightmares. He warns her not to read the book but she can’t help herself, and finds herself drawn to the mysterious Count. According to legend, only a beautiful maiden can break the curse of Nosferatu, by keeping him in thrall until the cock crows, and with her blood. Ellen knows what needs to be done…
This is the German film that started it all, the first cinematic version of Dracula, even before Bela Lugosi enchanted us so so me years later. Director F.W. Murnau has given us a cinematic classic. The reason it wasn’t called Dracula, even though it’s taken from the novel by Bram Stoker, had to do with problems with the Stoker estate This film is silent, and being silent, of course everything is told in the actor’s actions, as well as the dialogue cards. To those unused to silent films, the action may come across as melodramatic and over the top. But even almost a hundred years later, Nosfterau has a presence that can’t be denied. The music, the cinematography, the editing, as well as the performances, add up to a classic horror film which stands the test of time. This is my first time viewing it, but won’t be the last. One of the scenes which impressed me was the arrival of the ship, an ordinary event, and yet so not ordinary considering what is about to unleased on an unknowing city. Next time I’ll watch it at night, I’m sure it will add an element of gothic horror.
I recommend this film, and give it a solid 4 stars.