HTF REVIEW: Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jul 9, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht

    Studio: Anchor Bay
    Year: 1979
    Rated: PG
    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
    same time).
    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.
    Special Features
    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
    Spanish trailer.
    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.
    Final Thoughts
    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
    beautiful images.
    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
  2. Rich Romero

    Rich Romero Supporting Actor

    Jun 6, 2002
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    Glad ya liked it, Ron. I knew ya would. Even though your more of a mainstream fan, you can't deny certain scenes and shots in this film. Klaus Kinski is brilliant and you never really know what his character is thinking. I'll be picking this great flick up for sure.
  3. Christopher_J_F

    Christopher_J_F Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 23, 2002
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    There is one part of this film that really slays me though. I am always surprised no one ever points out how stupid the town's people are!
    I can imagine the conversation after the ship docks:

    VERN: "Hey Bill, them sure is an arful lot of furry critters (rats) coming down the plank. They look ta be takin' over the town. Do you thinks we should kick the plank in the water and maybe sets fire to the boat or somfin?"
    BILL: "Nah."
  4. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

    Jun 15, 2001
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    I'm a real sucker(pun intended) for vampire flicks, so I'll get this set despite the shortcomings mentioned. I also plan on getting Kino's new version of the original "Nosferatu". But I must take issue with Mr Herzog's claim that the original film was the most important film
    ever made in Germany. IMHO that honor goes to Lang's "Metropolis" :wink:
  5. Bill McA

    Bill McA Producer

    Oct 18, 2000
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  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    My mistake.

    The specs are on a template that I use
    over and over again. Sometimes I forget
    to change values within that template.

    The proper running length is 107 minutes
  7. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    Ron, I'm glad you enjoyed it. If you liked the imagery in Nosferatu, you'll definitely want to check out Herzog's other films when you get a chance. Speaking of said imagery, what'd you think of that final shot? Stunning, no?
  8. rhett

    rhett Supporting Actor

    May 11, 2001
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    Just to add to Ron's review, the original disc had tons of artifacting because it was only on a single layered disc. The older version has slightly muted colors compared to this new transfer, but because Anchor Bay practices a policy of using DVNR to get rid of grain, the newer print looks much softer than the original master.
    Both also discs feature the same supplements other than the two filmmaker bios.
    Nosferatu is a fantastic film, very slow moving, but undeniably beautiful. I can't agree more with Ron's assessment!

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