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Review - Nosferatu (1922) (DVD-2007)
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Nosferatu (1922) (DVD-2007)

Kino International Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

 

The great silent film classic Nosferatu has had numerous incarnations on DVD.  Some of them contained excellent print transfers, commentaries and special features.  Others were clearly low-quality cheapie transfers of a film that was in the public domain.  Now, Kino International has unveiled, on November 20th, 2007, a brand new set--what it refers to as the ultimate DVD edition of Nosferatu.  More on that in a moment.

 

Released in 1922, masterfully directed by legendary German director F.W. Murnau, with striking photography by Fritz Arno Wagner, Nosferatu is the unauthorized first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

Set in 1838, in a fictitious city on the German Baltic coast, it tells the tale of Count Orlok, played by Max Schreck, an entity half-man, half creature whose nightmarish visage and taloned claws are worthy of Bela Lugosi’s famed descriptive phrase ‘children of the night’.

 

Though Nosferatu is based on Dracula, the film departs from the novel in number of areas.  It is also remarkably sophisticated and ahead of its time for a film made in 1922. 

 

Dracula’s creator, Bram Stoker, had already passed on before Nosferatu premiered. But Stoker’s widow, Florence, relentlessly pursued legal action over copyright infringement since Murnau’s adaptation had not been authorized.  She was successful with her lawsuit and the court ordered that all negatives and prints of Nosferatu be destroyed.  This action curtailed the initial financial success the film may have enjoyed.

 

It also made subsequent restoration of the film difficult as optimal film elements no longer existed.  But some prints of the film did indeed manage to survive  And, truth be told, such is the effectiveness of Nosferatu, along with many of the great silent films, that it retains its power even when shown in scratchy, worn and incomplete prints.

 

Of course nothing can compare with a properly restored and complete silent era masterwork.  Fortunately for us, Kino’s new edition of Nosferatu is a restoration in every sense of the word.  The high-definition transfer is based on a 1922 nitrate element containing the original color tints.  The print used is the only copy that has been preserved from the film’s period of origin.  The original German intertitles and inserts were utilized, and the set contains a more substantial English translation of the titles.

 

Kino promised that this would be a stunning film transfer, and stunning it is--with a stabilized image of unprecedented clarity and detail.  It can’t be praised highly enough.  And, the inclusion of Hans Erdmann’s original score, thought to be lost for many, many decades, newly recorded in 5.1 stereo, some of which you’ve been hearing in the background, is the icing on the cake.  Extras in the set include documentary material and a short restoration feature as well as excerpts from other Murnau films included on the previous Kino edition.

 

Nosferatu is the quintessential silent vampire film.  Its frightening and disturbing images have been burned into the mass consciousness and the film remains involving, creepy and impressive still, to this day.   If you don’t own a DVD of the film, and, even if you do, this new Kino Ultimate DVD edition is a set that belongs in your film library.

 

2007 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams

 

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