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Nosferatu
Force Entertainment/Force Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 81 mins . PG . PAL

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The legendary German expressionist director F.W. Murnau decided, back at the start of the 1920s, to make a film based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel, which at the time was still long away from the mass popularity it now enjoys. But Stoker’s estate would not give Murnau permission to film the story, and so the director promptly changed the title, location and character names and Nosferatu was born. With the impossibly gaunt Max Shreck playing the title role, Murnau’s ambition of making a “realistic” vampire movie was about to be fulfilled. Nosferatu, in fact, still stands up today as a genuinely creepy movie. Unfortunately, Murnau’s cunning plan to get around the Stoker estate’s objections was to no avail. Murnau and his fellow producers were sued, and the court’s ruling was that all copies of the movie - as well as the original negatives - were to be destroyed. And - incredibly - they were. Luckily, at least one print of the film survived in Germany.

Nosferatu offers plenty to the horror fan even now, nearly 80 years after it was made. Indeed, the very age and decaying quality of the film gives it a certain sense of darkness and dread, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if today’s movie audience got the impression they were watching rescued documentary film of something more real than this very fictional story. Max Shreck’s vampire is so eerily menacing, so unnatural and downright creepy, that the images alone have a profound effect even now - and you can’t say that about many films of this vintage.

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Obviously Nosferatu, as a film that’s fortunately survived rather than having been revered and preserved, is a welcome sight in any condition. The print used for this Force Video release (which is actually a title authored and released by Eureka Video in the UK and replicated here) bills this as the “original full length version” and presents the film in a format common at the time, with each monochrome scene tinted according to the scenario and mood. Modern telecine purists will be aghast - not surprisingly, the entire running time is riddled with scratches, brightness changes and other film damage - but generally this transfer is a good representation of the film, complete with the “vignette” effect common in films of this vintage. The transfer appears to have been sourced from a relatively recent English-language print of the film, with the English intertitles revealing film damage not inherent in the surviving film itself. More annoying, though, are the added intertitles that have been done for (and obviously on) video, which date back to the ‘80s judging by their video quality (or lack thereof). The colours used in some of these titles are purely obnoxious, as well.

A film from the silent era, Nosferatu is presented on this disc with a musical score by Timothy Howard, played in suitably vintage style on what sounds like a rather large-scale organ; the music track is very well recorded in stereo with plenty of resonance and detail, and is flawlessly clean and clear.

There are no extras on the disc aside from a two-page summary of the film’s history, and a set of scene selection manus that, unlike many recent big-studio titles, have the decency to offer text titles for each chapter.


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  •   And I quote...
    "Nosferatu offers plenty to the horror fan even now, nearly 80 years after it was made."
    - Anthony Horan
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