September 6th, 2011: Nosferatu (1922)

What It’s About: Realtor Knock (Alexander Granach) sends his young agent Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) to the castle of Count Orlok (Max Schrek).  Orlok seeks to by property in Wisbourg.  Unfortunately for Hutter, Orlok is a vampire or Nosferatu.  Can Hutter return to Wisbourg in time to save the city, and more importantly his wife Ellen (Greta Schroder)?

Why Watch it Today?: Actor Max Schreck was born today in 1879, unless you believe that yarn about him actually being a vampire that director F.W. Murnau hired for his film (a myth that served as the basis of Shadow of the Vampire in 2000).  Of course, as my pal Edward puts it, if that were true Schreck would be the Step’n’Fetchit of vampires (there’s also the little fact that Schreck made movies before and after Nosferatu, including the early European sci-fi epic The Tunnel).

In any case, Schreck’s Orlok (and his make-up) are more well-known than the film itself, thanks to the film’s public domain status, a 1979 remake from German art house favorite Werner Herzog, and works influenced by Nosferatu, such as Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.  Not bad for a film that was nearly lost for all time thanks to Bram Stoker’s widow, who sued Murnau for filming  Dracula without paying for the rights.  All known prints were destroyed, but copies sent to foreign markets survived, but Schreck’s decidedly unromantic vampire was displaced in the public imagination in 1931 by Bela Lugosi’s highly imitated depiction of the count in the first official film version of Dracula.

Where to Get ItPublic libraries, or Watch Online at Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix

A clip from Turner Classic Movies:

Watch the entire film at Hulu or on YouTube:

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