One hundred years ago this month, March 4, 1922 to be exact, a German-made movie based upon Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released in Germany.
It stars Max Schrek as Count Orlok, a vampire who moves to the German town of Wisborg, where he begins preying on the wife of his estate agent, Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim). It’s an example of the German Expressionism of the 1910s and 1920s, which focuses of art and emotion and rejects realism.
In this era, of course, movies had no audio, and dialogue was instead put up in text form on screen in frames between shots with accompanying music being played live or by phonograph in the theater. It was a totally different style of acting than “talking films” that began replacing silent pictures in 1929. It was really almost more a form of art, relying more on usually-exaggerated physical acting and emotions, suiting silent films perfectly to Expressionism. This is also much of the reason why many silent film stars were unable to transition to sound films, a subject explored in the wonderful 2011 move The Artist.
Nosferatu:A Symphony of Horror (the actual full title in English) is, in my opinion, extremely well done and scary even a century later. Many put Max Schrek at the top of the list for most frightening movie vampire ever.
Although Prana Film based the movie on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, they changed the vampire’s name, the setting, and the other characters’ names, but that didn’t prevent them from being sued. The court ruled all copies of the film to be destroyed, but thankfully several were not, and we still have this film today, which is regarded to be a classic horror masterpiece.
Here is a free, full, HD quality version of the film on YouTube which you can either watch on your computer, or better, stream on a big-screen TV.