NOSFERATU (1922): Silent classic horror film with live organ accompaniment provided by Wayne Zimmerman, who, since 2011, has captivated our Cape May audiences with his original compositions.
Hutter, a real estate agent from Bremen, Germany visits Count Orlok at his remote castle in the Carphathian Mountains because the count wishes to buy a house in town - "a deserted one." On his way to the castle, Hutter visits an inn, where all of the customers fall silent when he mentions Orlok's name. Outside, horses bolt and run, and a hyena snarls before slinking away. He laughs off all the signs of gloom and doom, until, while dining with the count, he cuts himself with a bread knife and the count comments, "Blood - your beautiful blood!''
The full title of the film, "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror," lives up to its name. Max Schreck, who portrays the count, behaves more like an animal than a human being, with ears like bats, claw-like nails, and fangs that are in the middle of his mouth like a rodent's. Special effects add to the uneasy atmosphere: the disappearance of a coach, the count materializing out of thin air, and photographic negatives used to give the appearance of white trees against a black sky.
In spite of the film's director, F. W. Murnau, changing the characters' names, it is obvious that he's telling the tale of "Dracula" created by Bram Stoker. Stoker's widow went to court, demanding in vain, that the film be destroyed. Ironically, Murnau might have been the making of Stoker because "Nosferatu'' inspired dozens of other "Dracula" films, none of them, according to many critics, quite as artistic or unforgettable, with the possible exception of Werner Herzog's 1979 version with Klaus Kinski.
Film critic Roger Ebert notes that "'Nosferatu' is more effective for being silent. 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."