Release Date(s)1979 (May 20, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: C
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Nosferatu the Vampyre (also known by its German title Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht) is a 1979 horror remake of (or rather a homage to) F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, the silent film from 1922. The film was directed by Werner Herzog and was shot simultaneously in both English and German for release in different territories. Although it was mildly successful upon release with positive critical response, it has since grown in higher estimation among both film fans and horror fans.
Herzog’s reimagining of the classic Bram Stoker tale isn’t much of a remake, in my opinion. It pays tribute to the original Nosferatu film by including the appearance of Count Orlok (now changed back to Count Dracula as in the original novel), but otherwise, it does its own thing with Bram Stoker’s material. For instance, Mina and Lucy’s names have been switched between characters, making Lucy Jonathan Harker’s love interest instead of Mina. It also doesn’t concern itself with very much dialogue, only what’s necessary. Werner Herzog felt that the original film was the best to ever have come out of Germany, and you can certainly see that he didn’t necessarily want to try and recreate it. The film can be both frightening and atmospheric, as well as beautiful to look at, but never seen as a duplicate of the film that inspired it.
And one can’t talk about the film without mentioning Klaus Kinski, whose portrayal of Count Dracula is one of the more underrated performances of the character. Most actors portray him with a sense of sadness, but never once do you feel any sympathy for this character through Kinski. He’s very creepy and you know immediately that he isn’t out for the love Harker’s life; he’s after her blood. The rest of the cast does a very fine job, but Kinski towers over them with a sense of dread and unease, and you remember his character long after you’ve shut the movie off. Overall, Nosferatu The Vampyre is a beautiful and well-put together horror film, as well as a worthy successor to the original film.
Unfortunately, the debut of Nosferatu The Vampyre on Blu-ray suffers from a lackluster presentation. Well, that’s not to say that it’s bad, but it IS problematical. The grain structure for this release is, in a word, uneven. What might appear as pleasant in one scene might appear to be just noise in the next, or just appear too clean altogether. That’s the major problem with it. I have a feeling that it’s a transfer that’s been outsourced, and if that’s the case, I can’t fault the good folks at Shout! totally for it. You work with what you’re given, and in this case, I think they had to work with a ported presentation. There are also some compression artifacts here and there. Otherwise, the film looks ok. Colors and skin tones are very nice, and both brightness and contrast are acceptable. The film’s soundtrack (which is in English or German, depending on which version of the film you’re watching), has two channels: 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. I personally preferred the 2.0 mixes more, but the 5.1 mixes do offer up a bit more room for the score and sound effects to open up in. Dialogue is always clean, clear and audible on all tracks. There’s certainly nothing robust about any of these tracks, but they’re all pleasant and work with the presentations just fine. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
As for the extras, it should go without saying that this release contains both the German and English language versions of the film. But in addition to that, you get two audio commentaries with Werner Herzog, one in English and one in German with subtitles; a Making of Nosferatu vintage featurette; 3 theatrical trailers; and an animated still gallery.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call Nosferatu The Vampyre a perfect film, but it’s certainly one of the better tellings of the Dracula tale on film. And for fans of Werner Herzog, this release is a very good primer for the upcoming Herzog Blu-ray boxed set, which is also being released by Shout! Factory. It may not carry a perfect video presentation, but it’s still a good addition to a horror fan’s collection.
- Tim Salmons