Blu-ray Review: Nosferatu The Vampyre

When Germany’s F. W. Murnau made his version of Dracula in 1922, he ran into a major issue. He didn’t have the rights to make Dracula. His silent black and white film was altered to feature Count Orlok instead of Count Dracula. He renamed the title to Nosferatu. The story still was reflective of Dracula, but you won’t confuse it with the Universal Horror. Actor Max Schreck was given alien features of a huge white head and long sinister fingers. He was not the suave creature of the night persona done by Bela Lugosi. Nosferatu gained a major following by horror film aficionados. In 1979, German filmmaker Werner Herzog remade Nosferatu except he was able to do it right. Nosferatu The Vampyre brings out the horrific beauty in 1080p.

Because Dracula had fallen into the public domain, Werner’s Nosferatu can refer to Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski) instead of Orlok. Jonathan Harker (Wings of Desire‘s Bruno Ganz) is sent to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula at his castle. The rather deformed nobleman has plans to move to Germany and needs a house. Dracula really wants to make the move after he see Jonathan’s picture of his wife Lucy Harker (The Tenant‘s Isabelle Adjani). Things don’t go well for Jonathan. The Count books passage on a boat. Instead of a sleeping compartment, the count travels in his coffin along with some fine Transylvania dirt. The ship arrives in Germany with the crew replaced by thousands of rats. The count keeps a low profile in the town. He only comes out at night. People begin dropping dead. Lucy thinks it has something to do with the Count. But the townspeople swear it’s just another plague. What can she do to save her town?

This isn’t merely a remake since Herzog is able to bring sound, color and properly credit the source material. His Nosferatu doesn’t try to overpower the original with modern wham-ban Hollywood special effects. Kinski’s vampire doesn’t race around the screen and overwhelm his victims. He’s a pained and methodical undead character. The film is a proper mix of horror and art house. The film was made in both English and German at the same time. There’s no great difference between the two performances. Kinski does sound more ominous speaking German. Nosferatu The Vampyre is a horror film for people who enjoy being scared in subtle ways.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the detail in Kinski’s make up. He is such a primal creature. The audio is 5.1 DTS HD and 2.0 DTS-HD. The creepy soundtrack surrounds your ears. The German version of the film features 5.1 DTS HD German Master Audio 2.0 DTS German Master Audio. The movie is subtitled in English.

Audio Commentary with Werner Herzog. What’s great is that Werner Herzog has two tracks. One has him talking in English while the other lets him chat German with subtitles. He’s full of stories about what it took for him to make his own vampire tale. He has a great story about the mummies in the opening titles. These aren’t special effects mummies. He explains his influences.

Making of Nosferatu
(13:06) is a vintage featurette about the movie. Werner is so young as he shows off the Dutch town that he would attack with a vampire and rats. He talks of how the original movie means so much to German cinema.

Trailers (6:47) do their best to create an ominous mood.

Still Gallery (3:06) is great for shots of Herzog and Kinski.

Nosferatu The Vampyre is a great example of non-exploitative horror. There are no real cheap scares on the screen. There is a reflective glory to Herzog’s nightmare. Kinski merely scares by staring and breathing. The bonus features do a fine job in letting us know what drove Herzog to remake Nosferatu without trying to modernize the action.

Scream Factory presents Nosferatu The Vampyre. Directed by: Werner Herzog. Written by: Werner Herzog. Starring: Klaus Kinski, Bruno Ganz and Isabella Adjani. Rated: PG. Running Time: 104 minutes. Released: May 20, 2014.

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