Nosferatu, the first film to be made from Bram Stoker's novel, was directed by F. W. Murnau in 1921. It follows the book in a sense - after it was made, Murnau got sued by Stoker's widow, who correctly realized that they were ripping off the plot of her husbands book without giving him any credit. Names were changed in the move (The vampire is Count Orlock, not Dracula) and everyone was sort of happy. Otherwise, the plot is pretty similar.
The movie isn't scary by any means, but it does stay in your head. Max Schreck, who plays the vampire, is pretty scary looking. He is tall and skinny with long nail and freakish eyes and fangs. He doesn't look like a what we think of vampires looking like - but it really is the strength of the movie. Ebert writes that the movie is a great film because "The film is in awe of its material. It seems to really believe in vampires" (The Great Movies, 329). I think that you can see this idea in the way Count Orlock is dressed and his makeup is done - it feels like what someone afflicted with a curse would look like, what a vampirism as a disease might look like.
I know that silent movies aren't everyone's favorite things to watch, and I understand. The images in this film are worth checking out, though. The soundtrack is really interesting and unique as well, and it gives a cool feeling to the whole film. Just to see the makeup and effects for Count Orlock are worth your time. There are other cool effects as well that give the movie a creepy atmosphere - the strange, weird horses and carriage that carry our hero to the Count, and the shocking speeds they move at. The white trees on the way to the castle.
I know I have said in so many words why I think silent movies are worth acquiring a taste for, but Ebert sums up why silent horror is so very worth checking out, better than I ever could, writing, "It is commonplace to say that silent films are more ``dreamlike,'' but what does that mean? In ``Nosferatu,'' it means that the characters are confronted with alarming images and denied the freedom to talk them away. There is no repartee in nightmares. Human speech dissipates the shadows and makes a room seem normal. Those things that live only at night do not need to talk, for their victims are asleep, waiting" (The Great Movies, 333). If you watch this movie, think of that. It makes it a bit more exciting, I think. The film is old and seems to be constantly streaming from pretty much anywhere, so let me know if you check it out!
Have any of you seen Nosferatu? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Nosferatu