Director – F W Murnau
Writer – Henrik Galeen (Screenplay) Bram Stoker (based on Dracula)
Stars – Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim
Category – Horror
Year – 19 May 1922 in Estonia
In the town of Wisbourg, estate agent Mr. Knock (Alexander Granach) is pleased to receive a commission from Count Orlok (Max Schreck) to find a house for him. He dispatches his assistant, Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) , to Transylvania near the Carpathian Mountains to Orlok’s castle. He is instructed to buy the home across from Hutter’s own, as the Count is quite taken with Hutter’s pretty wife. Hutter soon realizes the evil he’s dealing with and is locked away while Orlok makes his way by ship to Wisbourg. As Orlok travels to Wisbourg, plague descends in his wake and the people of Wisbourg begin to sense the coming of evil. Hutter eventually escapes Orlok’s castle determined to return home as quickly as possible but exhausted and ill, finds himself in hospital. Hutter nonetheless arrives home the same day as Orlok and the townsfolk begin to panic over the increasing number of deaths.
This film unfortunately does not really exist in its original state, as the copies of the film were ordered destroyed after losing a lawsuit to Bram Stoker’s widow. The film survives only due to second generation reels found in other countries.
From the IMDB notes – The film was loosely based on the Bram Stoker book but the characters’ names were changed in an attempt to prevent legal action (which failed). The subtitles were translated into French, then when the film went to the USA into English but with Stoker’s character names used. In the meantime the original prints were destroyed because of the legal action, so the original subtitles were lost. The American version went to the UK, and then was translated back into German for a release there. When restorers were about to make a definitive version, they were looking through a number of archives. Unfortunately, all of the prints they found had the changed subtitles, so they gave up hope of being able to recover the originals. They later heard of a good print in an East German archive. When they got there, they found out that the print had been loaned out. The restorers were then offered to have a look at another print from the archive, which wasn’t considered as good as the other one. When the restorers observed that print, they discovered that it had the original subtitles. It had been sitting there for half a century and nobody had noticed.
This is obviously a black and white, silent picture. It is likely not everyone’s cup of tea, but this is in my humble opinion a must see for everyone. Segments of this film have been seen by everyone, without likely realizing what the clips were even from.
My favorite black-and-white/horror/silent movie of all time!
Great point about the lack of original cuts. Also, this has been interpreted by so many different orchestrations that I’m not sure which is my favorite. I saw this being played live in Keystone, Colorado with a live band in the background! Thanks for writing this up!
EEK! Those long fingers! And, those ears! Reminds me of the TV mini-series Salem’s Lot 1979.
I also liked ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ by Hezog. It went well with this one.
I meant Hezog’s remake. But ‘Shadow’ is a good watch also.
Interesting history about how it was almost lost because of copyright infringement back then, but now, almost 100 years later the terms, names, plot, etc. has been copied countless times. So happy they found an intact copy of it. One of the creepiest vampire movies I have seen is “Let the Right One In.” My ex-bf had a series of films under the name of “Subspecies” that was really really scary. The vampire in them is haunting!