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Nosferatu, The Vampyre (1979) (Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook) - Blu-ray Review

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Nosferatu - Blu-ray Review 1979

2 stars

In 1922 a naughty fledgling German production company stole the story of Dracula by Bram Stoker and made one of cinema’s most revered horror movies: Nosferatu. Prana Film went bankrupt with their first and last production after Stoker’s widow successfully sued them for copyright infringement. All copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed. But one survived…

Through the decades that past, director F.W. Murnau’s seminal expressionist masterwork gained a rabid cult following and an almost universal appreciation for its technical brilliance and oft repeated style. It is seen, by some, to be the template for modern horror and the touch stone of German expressionism in film. Countless authorised—some also revered, some not—adaptations of Dracula followed in the next 50 years, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that another German director of critical acclaim decided it was time to remake it.

Werner Herzog, freed from copyright as Dracula entered the public domain, set upon making a respectful version to the film he regarded as the finest to have been made in Germany. Like the original, his version would stray somewhat from the novel’s plot, but this time the names from Stoker’s beloved tome would be included.

With Klaus Kinski as Dracula and French actress Isabelle Adjani as Lucy Harker, he set out to make both a German and English version simultaneously, at the appeal of 20th Century Fox. With minimal budget and crew, he set to work.

In this version, Jonathon Harker is sent to help Count Dracula acquire some property in Wismar, Germany. When Dracula becomes aware of Jonathon’s beloved, Lucy, he covets her affections, and brings his tortured soul and death to their once peaceful town.

Bones of the story are similar to the novel, with many characters being omitted of transferred to another character. This, unlike many Dracula adaptations, makes the count a pathetic creature, lonely and unenviable in his immortality. There is certainly great effort applied to deliver a nuanced evil.

This version, it has to be said, is the English speaking version, and by all accounts the actors, none of them native English speakers, deliver a far more effective performance in their native tongue. I found Shrek’s Dracula to be the standout of the cast; Academy Award nominee Adjana walks around like she’s on Zanex and just got shot with a tranquiliser dart—there’s just no peak or valley to her at all; but the prize for one of the most annoying portrayals of madness ever committed to screen has to go to Roland Topor’s Renfield, with his interpretation of insanity being reduced to this repetitious, irritated giggle attached to the end of each line. How in any suspension of disbelief our protagonist would entertain any direction from this idiot is beyond me.

The score, which incorporates a little Wagner, by German group Popol Vuh, makes elevator music sound pleasurably. It’s bland, un-emotive, dull stuff. The cinematography, although beautifully framed, also does nothing to add any atmosphere, and considering they do some shot for shot nods to the original, that’s a real let down.

This film has almost universal praise from critics, with a following that parallels the original, but this reviewer can’t see it. It didn’t enthral, it grated; it didn’t scare, it bored; it didn’t revolt, it affected nothing.

Also of note, it is alleged that animal cruelty was rampant on this production. If that is true, then this reviewer has no qualms in considering this film a complete failure. It doesn’t do its job in the slightest. Herzog has much better offerings out there than this.

Nosferatu 1979 - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
107 mins
Director
: Werner Herzog
Writer:
Werner Herzog
Cast:
Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
Nosferatu
Memorable Movie Quote: "The absence of love is the most abject pain."
Distributor:
518 Media
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 1979
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 20, 2014
Synopsis: Jonathan and Lucy live in Wismar and the Count wants a house there. Varna is a port on the Black Sea, close to Dracula's castle.

Nosferatu - Blu-ray Review 1979

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 20, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
German: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; German: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

This UK Steelbook has beautiful cover art adapted from the period. The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 transfer is a victim of rushed or inconsistent de-noising. Some scenes look clear as a bell; others are as grainy as TV stock footage. It’s noticeably and jarring. Colours are well balanced, natural looking and faithful to Herzog’s de-saturated palette.

Sound is better for the German version, with a DTS-HD 5.1 remaster offered or a 2.0 version; the English version only offers the 2.0. It’s not a bed mix, but the German version has extra speakers so is more nuanced.

Special features are relegated to a period 13 minute making of featurette and Herzog commentaries on the German version, both in English and German. Nothing too spectacular there.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • English Commentary with Werner Herzog
  • German Commentary with Werner Herzog (Subtitled)

Special Features:

  • German and English Versions
  • Trailers
  • Still Gallery

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