[The following is an encore piece that was originally published 15 February 2010]
German director, F.W. Murnau’s, Nosferatu is one of those movies that no serious aficionado of the horror genre should deprive him or herself from seeing. Not only was it the first adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it was also one of the first well known intellectual property cases with an awesome outcome notwithstanding the ruling.
Back in 1921, a German film production company by the name of Prana hired screenplay writer, Henrik Galeen, to write a movie based on Dracula. That Prana was not able to secure the rights from the Stoker estate to produce such a film was not a deterrent, however. Galeen merely made a few tweaks.
The title was changed to Nosferatu; the setting was changed from England to the fictional north German harbor town of Wisborg; Renfield became Knock, Jonathon Harker & his young wife Mina became Hutter and Ellen; Dr. Van Helsing became Professor Bulwer, and, Dracula became Count Orlok.
Given the times, the acting was pretty standard, but Max Schreck’s portrayal of Count Orlok was ground breaking. Orlok was a being who wasn’t concerned so much with nailing busty babes in skimpy attire, dressing in the latest fashion, creating other vampires, or even (shudder – cringe – puke – flatulate) falling in love with a teenaged girl. (Yes, Stephenie Meyer, I’m launching the explosive diarrhea missiles of scorn exclusively in your direction.)
Orlok was simply a creepy, rodent-like monster who desired blood above all else, and, there was nothing sexy, trendy or soul searching about it. That Schreck conveys the overall menacing dread of the character so convincingly is underscored by the fact that the movie is a silent one – No special CGI effects. No distorted voice-overs. No larger than life, egomaniacal, self-promotion (cough Gary cough Keanu cough Winona). Just you, Max, a few cinematography tricks, and, the ominous, shuddery, aural goodliness of Hans Erdmann and his orchestra. To describe the soundtrack as brilliant is being stingy. For audiophiles, the partial original score is available here.
By the time Florence Stoker (Bram’s widow) got around to suing Murnau for infringement, numerous copies of the film (some containing the names of the original Stoker characters) had already been made and distributed tither & yon. Hence the many versions of the film available for sale now.
Stoker’s 1897 novel sold for pennies when he was alive; Audiences just weren’t interested in Dracula back then, and, I daresay that it was not until after the release of Nosferatu that the book gained any popularity. But I suppose dear old Florence is beyond reproach.
The Dracula novel was her only gravy train, after all, so she was perfectly within her rights to stop others from sharing with the world her husband’s creativity. Before Nosferatu, the pages from the Dracula book were more likely to be used as toilet tissue than to be read, but that shouldn’t interfere with hoping to cash in on a big payday. Right, Florence?
Ultimately, a court ordered Murnau to produce the negatives of the film, and, it was then destroyed, but it didn’t matter because by then, there were so many copies in circulation that the film was able to survive for the past 88 years in spite of Florence Stoker’s ignorant and short-sighted attempts to keep the famous first vampire confined to relative obscurity.
If you have not had the pleasure as of yet to see the movie, then I encourage you now to go grab some popcorn, your favorite beverage, and, mentally prepare yourself for a special treat. Nosferatu has since passed into the public domain, therefore, the movie is available in its entirety online free from commercials, copyright infringement take down notices and other miscellaneous, unpleasant encumbrances that prohibit the enjoyment of your fair use rights.
Lastly, I zealously advocate that you exercise your middle finger by using it to stab directly into the collective greedhead eye of the entertainment industry by grabbing the torrent and downloading the movie since it is 100% legal to do so.
Or you can just watch it online right here and now, but my preference is that you just download the movie instead. I hear it keeps Dan Dickman up at night tossing and turning.
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