Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922): Murnau’s Horror Masterpiece

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (aka Nosferatu), F. W. Murnau‘s 1922 German Expressionist horror silent, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok, remains one of the great masterpieces of world cinema.

I had seen the film as a student at Columbia University back in the 1980s, but it was a pleasure to wake up early on Monday morning, July 8, and to see it on TCM (even though I would have preferred to watch it at night)

The film was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1897 book, as the Stoker Estate had refused permission.  This necessitates that various names and other details be changed from the novel: “vampire” became “Nosferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok.”

Stoker’s heirs sued, and a court ruling ordered that all copies of the film be destroyed. However, some prints of Nosferatu survived.

The film was released in the US on June 3, 1929, seven years after its premiere in Germany.

In 1838, Thomas Hutter lives in the fictional German city of Wisborg. His mysterious employer, estate agent Herr Knock, sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client named Count Orlok who plans to buy a house in Wisborg. Hutter entrusts his wife Ellen to his good friend Harding and Harding’s sister Annie, before embarking on his journey.

On his way, he stops at an inn, where the locals become frightened by the mere mention of Orlok’s name and discourage him from traveling to his castle at night.

Hutter takes a coach to a high mountain pass, but the coachman declines to take him any further.  A black-swathed coach appears after Hutter crosses the bridge and the coachman gestures for him to climb aboard. Hutter is welcomed at a castle by Count Orlok.

When Hutter is eating dinner and accidentally cuts his thumb, Orlok tries to suck the blood out, but his guest pulls his hand away.