Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht
Studio: Anchor Bay
Film Length: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
The thing I enjoy most about being a reviewer
is having the opportunity to receive and watch
DVD titles that I would probably pass up otherwise.
With that being said, I am very happy that I had
the opportunity to watch Werner Herzog's 1979
remake of the legendary 1922 horror classic,
Let's face it -- the vampire genre has been
plagued with its share of lackluster vampire films.
It seems that every film about the legendary Count
Dracula made over the past 80 years has had a
different vision of story, so much so that it's
very hard to find the true telling of the legendary
tale. I am certain there are many besides Herzog
that will argue that the original Nosferatu is the
definitive screen adaptation of Dracula. Watching
this film, I can see that his vision of Dracula is
deeper and more thought-provoking than any of its rivals.
Herzog's Noseferatu is not your ordinary
Dracula movie. Kinski's Dracula is unlike any
other interpretation of the character. Visually,
the count is bald-headed with pointed ears, rat-like
fangs and clawed hands. He isn't a nobleman nor
is he romantic like American movies of the past
have portrayed him. Make no mistake about it, he
is a twisted creature who only seeks affection as
much as he seeks death.
The story is pretty much the same as every
Dracula story told to date. Jonathan (Bruno
Ganz) travels to Transylvania to complete a
property transaction with Count Dracula despite
the fears of his wife Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) and
the townsfolk that warn him of the pending doom.
When Johnathan meets the count, he is entertained
with dinner and wine only to be attacked later by
the nosferatu who sucks on his neck for lunch.
One night Jonathan awakens to find the count
loading a carriage with coffins. Jonathan
surmises the count is planning to set sail back
to his home town. Jonathan attempts to return to
town, and Lucy before the ship does.
How is the transfer?
It is my understanding that this is the second
time this film has appeared on DVD. The previous
release did not support an anamorphic transfer.
For reviewing purposes, I watched Disc Two
which contains the original German version of the
film (Herzog also shot an English version at the
Having never seen the previous DVD release, I don't
know how to compare the transfers, but I must say,
this transfer will not win over any rave reviews.
The transfer contains an awful amount of film
grain. You would expect such grain to be worse
in the darker scenes, but it is quite evident in
the day lit scenes. The picture is not overly
sharp, and colors are muted. There seems to be
a greenish cast in some of the scenes. White
backgrounds suddenly become greenish. Overall,
this isn't anything less than I expected from a
low-budget European film.
I don't blame Anchor Bay for the way this film
looks -- it's obvious that all the shortcomings
are in the way the film was shot.
Although the German version contains a Dolby
Digital 5.1 mix, it's very sloppy. There is no
distinct directionality of the sound. Most of the
film's soundtrack is gravitated to the center
speaker, which takes on not only the film's
dialogue, but music and action as well. The rears
remain mostly silent, adding only wind and howling
effects from time to time. The film's hypnotic score
comes across a little brash at times, almost rising
to the point of overmodulating.
In case anyone is wondering why I did not review
the English version on Disc One, the reason
is simple: these are essentially the same films.
The German version was the version Herzog envisioned.
The English version is a mono release while the
German version has been mixed for 5.1.
Anchor Bay has released Nosferatu as a
deluxe 2-disc set. Disc One contains the
English version while Disc Two contains
the original German release. Inside is a pamphlet
that contains the poster art for both versions of
the film as well as the chapter stops.
I had the opportunity to listen to pieces of
the audio commentary on Disc Two
which comes across as rather dry. Norman Hill
is more or less interviewing Werner Herzog.
Herzog talks about the filming in Mexico. The
skeletons you see at the start of the film are
absolutely real, and Herzog talks about carrying
the lightweight remains on his back. Filmed in
the Chec Republic near the Polish border, Herzog
talks about the real gypsies used for the film's
most essential and standard sequence. Herzog
feels it is essential for a vampire film to lapse
into a separate reality, and he compares his film
to Coppola's version. In a scene where a coffin
is opened on ship, Herzog proudly exclaims that
this is his hands and feet rummaging around the
dirt infested with rats.
There are two U.S. Trailers as well as a
Making this film was a huge challenge for
Director Herzog. In a short 13-minute featurette,
The Making Of Nosferatu, Herzog claims that
the original film was the most important film
ever made in Germany. This is a linking between
the great expressionists cinema of Germany's past
with the new renaissance of today. His style
of filmmaking doesn't come out of his own pleasure,
but his own pain. We watch the Director shoot
many of the vampyre scenes with Kinski and Roland
Toper (Renfield). How do you make extras not
seem like extras? Shoot the movie without them
knowing you are shooting. Quick snippets of film
show the makeup being applied to Klaus Kinski.
Rounding up the extras is a talent bio of
Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog.
Although filmed with stylish photography and
sporting masterful performances from Klaus Kinski,
Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz, Nosferatu
is not for those with short attention spans. It's
not really for fans of horror films. This is more
of a slow-paced art house film with a European
touch. It's not scary, and it's certainly not gory.
What it does remain to be, however, is a very
unique vision of Dracula filled with a lot of eerily
I enjoyed this European version of Dracula, and
recommend it to anyone looking to broaden thir
horizons and revisit a known story presented in
as a very unique cinematic experience.
Release Date: Now