Nosferatu – The Vampyre (1979)
Cast: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani
Director: Werner Herzog
Nutshell: Atmospheric, beautiful remake of the original classic
Reviewed by Dr. Ali Khan
“decidedly off beat production that plods along” Creature Features
“fascinating but flawed” Time Out
“stunning – maybe the best dracula ever” Blockbuster Video
“should please dracula fans of all persuasions” Maltin’s
Nosferatu – the Vampyre is a faithful update of Murnau’s classic vampire tale. As with its predecessor the story is an adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula. Jonathan Harker, travels across the Carpathian Mountains to assist a sinister Transylvanian Count in choosing a property abroad.
Harker ends up imprisoned in the vampires castle while the Count travels in search of his imprisoned victims beautiful wife, spreading a path of death and destruction. The film progresses with increasing bleakness as the vampire’s quest for Harker’s wife, Lucy brings the plague to the small Dutch town of Delft.
In a particularly melancholy, surreal sequence a group of stricken villagers are shown eating their last supper amidst the death and destruction surrounding them. The film is particularly strong in creating a moody, silent menace. The overwhelming shadow of death lurks in the shadows as Nosferatu’s army of rats overruns the town.
Herzog’s film is stunningly mounted and visually majestic, taking us from the gloomy mists of Transylvania to the eerie cold of Delft. There are clear similarities between some of the ideas in Coppolla’s Dracula and Herzog’s Nosferatu, especially in the wonderful eeriness of the shadows and mists that surround the vampires castle.
The silent screen formality and minimal dialogue of the acting also add to the atmosphere of the film. Klaus Kinski is all dark, sinister menace in a portrayal that is a worthy successor to Max Schreck’s earlier Nosferatu.
In contrast, Adjani, pale and beautiful, provides the ideal foil. Ganz struggles with Harker’s role – always less interesting than that of the vampire. If anything, only the ending appears out of place in Nosferatu the Vampyre; a well crafted, serious and thoughtful film. Wonderfully gothic and atmospheric.