“Nosferatu” (1922) may be the most influential and greatest horror movies of all time. This Friday, Oct. 29, the Ulster County Performing Arts Center will show this classic film just in time for Halloween. Musician Kevin Krasinski will play the organ for some spooky accompaniment.
“Nosferatu” is a silent German film based off of Bram Stoker’s 1887 novel “Dracula.” It was directed by F.W. Murnau. Today, his most famous project is “Nosferatu” but at the time of its release it was not so much of a success. Most probably because of the copyright issues. Murnau thought he could rip off “Dracula” if he changed the name of the story and the characters. Nosferatu, a word referenced in the novel, comes from the Greek word “nosophoros” which translates to “plague carrier.” Stockers’ estate never gave movie adaptation rights to any director and when the film was created, the estate sued Murnau. The court ruled in favor of Stocker and almost all copies of the film were destroyed but luckily some were saved.
Murnau directed three other films with Fox Studios: “Sunrise,” “4 Devils” and “City Girl.” Sunrise is still a critically acclaimed movie and to some directors, it’s regarded as the greatest movies of all time.
The vampire, named Count Orlok, is played by actor Max Schreck. This was Schreck’s second film role but became his most iconic. He had smaller roles after “Nosferatu,” but his career fell short when he died from heart failure at age 56.
Today the character of Count Orlok would not be considered the most politically correct. Of course, with the political climate in the country at the time, there were anti-Semitic themes in the movie. Count Orlok, the villain, was created with stereotypical caricatures of Jewish people and the prosthetic makeup and costume he wears is quite terrifying. Count Orlok is a greedy, blood hungry vampire, who becomes obsessed with his friend’s wife Ellen. When murders start to pop up in the nearby town, suspicions arise and finally Orlok kills Ellen.
Vampires have been a common theme in horror used for decades. One of the most popular movie series in the last decade “Twilight” portrays attributes from “Nosferatu.” The idea that vampires are pale mysterious creatures who lurk in the dark is an idea that can be traced back to “Nosferatu.” Horror and Halloween themed movies have continued to use the setting of Transylvania. “Rocky Horror Picture Show’s” iconic soundtrack mentions Transylvania multiple times and most recently the children’s movie “Hotel Transylvania” obviously takes place in Transylvania, and yes, it stars Count Dracula and his daughter Mavis.
This copyright nightmare turned horror movie classic went down in cinematic history. You can get tickets to see “Nosferatu” on Bardavon.org and your “spooky season” will be complete.