Thursday, November 11, 2010
Welcome "John's Corner of Horror"
John became my friend years ago (he was once my boss), and we discovered we had a common interest in Dracula. I'd found that his knowledge of the old classic horror flickshas always kept me informed, enthralled, and entertained as well. I always know who to go to for some little tidbit about the old classics. If anyone knows about the old black and white horrors, it is John.
I've been able to persuade (manipulate, twist his arm, torture into submission, etc.), to do a spot for me occasionally here at my blog. I'm calling it "John's Corner of Horror".
John has delved deep into his catacombs, crypts, and/or vaults of information concerning a very, very old flick, in fact it was the very first Dracula film—or rather—it was based on “Dracula” Please welcome John:
Nosferatu is a silent film from 1922 which starred Max Shreck as Count Orlok. The movie was directed by F.W. Murnau who is today considered a genius in the art of film making and most certainly a prominent figure in the expressionist movement in German cinema during the 1920s. Nosferatu was to be the first film about Dracula but the Stoker estate would not sell Murnau the rights to the film so he took the script already written changed the title to "Nosferatu" and called Dracula "Count Orlok". He also changed all the English locations to German locations so as to avoid too much reference to Stoker’s novel. I think doing that made for a more unique vision as they made Orlok look like a giant hideous rat-bat like creature and when he came onto the screen he appeared almost to "ooze" from the shadows. The movie also benefited from on location filming and natural sets like Orlok’s castle which was not something designed for the film.
Orlok was also a carrier of plagues and rats so not only did he terrorize the town himself, but the healthy people that went unscathed had to worry about bubonic or something nastier. Anyway it might interest you to know that it is one of the first silent movies to use "special effects" and they are very interesting for their time. The average silent film was usually a melodrama or a comedy so movies like Nosferatu and “The Lost World” stood out from the rest.
The hero is actually a heroine and she sacrifices herself to save her town and husband. Unfortunately for the cast and crew Murnau was sued by the Stoker estate (Stoker's widow) and the court ordered all existing copies destroyed and the film banned from playing in Europe. It had few viewings, but did not benefit from those to help the film gain any sort of reputation.
It most likely would have been a classic horror film much sooner had it been spared the litigation. Fortunately someone was wise enough not to let the authorities get their hands on all of the copies and we have several beautifully restored versions of it today with symphonic scores and small group scores and organ scores to enhance the drama. The finest so far is available through Kino International which is a 2 DVD set entitled Nosferatu: The Ultimate Edition. This has the original score that was written for the film when it was debuted in 1922.
It also features the original movie tinted like it was then.
Another point of interest was that Max Schreck (Schreck is also the German word for fright, or terror) was a method actor and was never seen out of makeup or character while filming Nosferatu and a rumor spread that Murnau had hired a vampire to play an actor playing a vampire. This inspired the 2000 film Shadow of the Vampire which is a fictional account of the filming of Nosferatu starring Willem Dafoe as Shreck/Dracula.
If you are a fan of vampire movies and have not seen this movie yet you have not seen the first vampire movie that set a standard all that followed. I highly recommend it.
There you have it; John's first of many--I hope--instalments at Muse. Keep checking back next week for his next one.
And thank you John for the new-sized header!