[Podcast] Nosferatu (1922) – Episode 21 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

Join the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew for this episode – Erin Miskell, Jeff Mohr, and Joseph Perry – as we take our second journey in a row to Transylvania, this time to take in the silent scream splendor of Nosferatu (1922), the first cinematic version of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 21 – Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu is most definitely based on Bram Stoker’s novel, but it is just as definitely an unofficial version. The filmmakers intentionally avoided obtaining the rights from the Stoker family, hence, the names along with a few other details, were changed to protect the not-so-innocent. As a result of their unsuccessful subterfuge, Dracula becomes Count Orlok/Nosferatu (Max Schreck), Harker is converted to Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), Mina is replaced by Ellen (Greta Schröder), Renfield is changed to Knock (Alexander Granach), and a new way to kill the undead is devised.

Directed by German expressionist legend F. W. Murnau, Nosferatu reinforces the director’s reputation as master of shadows. Jeff marvels at the shadows and shot composition of nearly every scene. This episode’s Grue Crew all agree that Henrik Galeen’s screenplay loses much of the character depth present in Stoker’s novel. Produced by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau, Nosferatu was most influenced by Grau who also served as art director and costume designer, and even created some of the poster art.

It is hard to imagine Max Schreck as a normal human being after witnessing his portrayal of Count Orlok. In fact, many people over the years have speculated he was a real vampire.

Joseph makes sure we discuss Alexander Granach’s performance. His version of Knock seems to have set the mold for future portrayals of Renfield. Erin expresses her concerns for the dangers of one-dimensional female characters, such as Ellen, who represent pure good and whose only purpose throughout the film is to sacrifice herself for the benefit of everyone else.

All in all, they all agree. If you haven’t seen Nosferatu (1922), what’s the hold-up?

We plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule is another James Whale classic, The Old Dark House (1932), selected and hosted by Chad Hunt.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era and what films you’d like to hear us cover! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email  (chadhunt@gruesomemagazine.com, erinmiskell@gruesomemagazine.com, jeffmohr@gruesomemagazine.com, or josephperry@gruesomemagazine.com) or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, the Horror News Radio App, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you for listening!

 

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an “Old Boy.” Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine and co-hosted the SQ Bloodlines podcast. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is co-host of the Decades of Horror The Classic Era and 1970s podcasts.
  • Alrighty then! I was all set: a full Sunday with the wife at work and the house to myself–movie marathon time! The menu consisted of Nosferatu (1922), Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht (1979) and Shadow of the Vampire (2000). I’d never seen the last two films and was all hep to engage my Comparing Brain against all three films before listening to the podcast. Alas, the fates did not favor me. Well, they kind of did, but they petered out along the way.

    I learned from past experience, when I opted for the free Prime Video version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari that you get what you pay for, so this time I skipped over Prime’s version of Nosferatu and paid a few bucks for a Kino Lorber restored edition. Boy, was I glad I did! A beautiful HD print, color tints to almost every scene, an extra 10 or 15 minutes of running time over Prime’s version, beautifully rendered title cards and a rendition of the original 1922 orchestral score–it was an amazing viewing experience. Makes me wonder if I would have sung a different Caligari-tune if I’d opted for a nicer transfer there. Anyway, it was a beautiful film to watch, this go around.

    And in spite of thinking Hutter’s face might split wide open from all the smiling he was doing in the first act, I was quickly taken with both he and Ellen, invested in them and what might or might not be their fate. Had a low growl in my throat upon meeting Knock. “He’s up to no good! He knows something we don’t!” I was thinking. And so it went.

    Point is, I was quickly immersed in the film’s world, and mostly stayed there throughout. Except… What the hell was that “werewolf” we saw running around for way too long just after the inn keeper tells Hutter “You can’t go any further tonight. The werewolf is roaming the forest”? That was the least frightening werewolf I’ve EVER seen portrayed on film. Pretty sure that “werewolf” was your garden variety hyena, if my childhood’s Wild Kingdom memories serve me correctly. (Speaking of which, none of you mentioned the werewolf scene, or the beautiful tints I was noting throughout. I’m wondering if you all saw a different print/transfer than I did….)

    Anyway, there were a few smile-inducing scenes as things went along: Orlock blurting out “Your wife has a lovely neck!” and, later, wandering around town with a coffin tucked under his arm, looking for his new address. But mostly I was riveted to my seat and comfortably immersed in the creepiness of it all. Great film overall.

    I took note of your high praise for The Transfiguration and will give that a watch. Don’t remember which one of you saw Nosferatu on the big screen, but I’m envious. When I lived in Salt Lake City, we had a big(gish) screen venue for silent movies. The Organ Loft, I believe it was called. You could go there and watch all manner of silents with live organ accompaniment. Pretty cool. I saw several great horror flicks there, but Nosferatu wasn’t one of them.

    I was impressed with your all’s discussion of Murnau, and will see what else of his work I can find to take a look at. Enjoyed the talk of Producer/Director occult ties, the Max Shreck rumors and their tie in with the 2000 film.

    Alas, my aforementioned Sunday movie marathon was not to be. After finishing Nosferatu, I mistakenly ordered up the English language version of the film, which I didn’t want to watch (kind of a purist that way, and I know Herzog purposely made the two versions, but still.) Turned out I couldn’t see the German version without subscribing to yet another service (so irritated that Amazon has started doing that), and I didn’t want to watch the 2000 film without seeing Herzog’s first. So my marathon became a one off and the other two movies are in Netflix’s DVD queue.

    Last bits:
    Was it me or did Orlock’s fangs and talons grow and diminish throughout the film?

    Jeff, pretty sure the movie with Lon Chaney and the obvious hand-hook was The Alligator People. I remember thinking the same thing when I saw that shoddy prop/effect.

    I definitely agree with Joseph–loved the Knock performance.

    And agreeing with Erin… Ellen was so sweet and gentle and helpless it made me nuts. And the whole “Sinless Sacrifice” thing she did at the end for the greater good. Not sure how I feel about that. Yes I am. That was lame. It would’ve been so much more powerful to see an ambivalent, more nuanced character struggle throughout the film and then come to that decision, versus having her character “start from the end” so to speak. Not that any of the other characters did a lot of internal journeying, as you all mentioned.

    So yeah, that’s it.

    Overall a great watch for me. As for the novel length comments, I’ve never been one to be brief when it comes to the written word (spoken word is another matter). And I’m not particularly attached to being read “on the air,” so no worries there. Feel free to pull an excerpt or skip it altogether; I’m really just enjoying the conversation, and enjoying you all as you do what you do.

    Cheers.