Blu-ray review: NOSFERATU (1922)

PrintE-mail Written by Joel Harley

Review: Nosferatu / Cert: PG / Director: F.W. Murnau / Screenplay: Henrik Galeen / Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder, Alexander Granach / Release Date: November 18th

The most relaxing horror film you'll ever watch. Terrifying as it may have been at the time, Nosferatu makes for some remarkably laid-back viewing in this age of screeching soundtracks; jump scares and that Inception noise that tends to accompany every film with half a budget. It's not as scary as it once was, but Nosferatu remains one of the most beautifully soundtracked films of all time. It took me several attempts to watch it all the way through, simply because classical music always makes me feel like dozing off.

Visually, it's also quite lovely. Age may have dulled its power to terrify, but Nosferatu is one of our earliest horror films and maybe the defining vampire movie. Much credit must go to Bram Stoker's Dracula, which it rips off so shamelessly, but the rodent-like, otherworldly Count Orlok is an incredible creation – one of the greatest cinematic vampires of all time. It's ironic that this adaptation of Dracula should be an unofficial one, since it's one of the best and most faithful out there. With an amazing lead performance from Max Shreck and gloriously Gothic, expressionist visuals from F.W. Murnau, it deserves to be seen – and owned – by any self-respecting fan of horror and the cinematic arts. It's hard to be scared, still, by images which have since been spoofed and copied to kingdom come (notably in Leslie Nielsen's Dead and Loving It, among others) but there's no denying their imagination and iconic power. The use of colour tinting on this print is nothing short of incredible, putting to shame those modern filmmakers who think that the only way to light a horror film is by turning the lights off and relentlessly throwing cats and dogs and jump scares at the audience, one after the other.

This Masters of Cinema release treats the film with the respect and care it deserves. Visually, it looks great, with the print having been cleaned up, sharpened and relieved of many of its troublesome scratches (so much so that you can occasionally see the seams in Shreck's makeup). This being a silent film, the soundtrack is all-important. Here you're given Hans Erdmann's original music, performed by full orchestra, as it should be. This is available in stereo or 5.1 surround sound, with or without subtitles. The possibilities are endless! Accompanied by a host of commentaries, documentaries, artwork and special features, this is, at last, the definitive Nosferatu.

Extras: Audio commentaries / Video intros by Abel Ferrara and Kevin Jackson / The Language of Shadows – 50-min making of doc

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