F.W. Murnau's quintessential vampire movie, "Nosferatu" (1922) has arguably never been topped for atmospheric direction and Max Schreck's career-defining performance in the title role. However print quality on this film has varied wildly over the years, ranging from partially restored clarity to heavily duped and barely discernible images from low rent video distributors.
Kino Classics now offers, on DVD and blu ray, the best version of this classic, drawing from a variety of top level elements found in various archives, the restoration, according to notes on the DVD pacakaging, performed by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. This restoration has carefully presented the film as closely to its original presentation as possible, including the right musical accompaniment (by the Saarbruken Radio Symphony Orchestra), reconstructing Hans Erdman's original 1922 score conducted by Berndt Heller. This version eliminates all others, offering unprecedented visual clarity and historical faithfulness to the original release version.
It is perhaps unnecessary to review the film itself, "Nosferatu" being such a key component to cinema's history, anyone bothering to read this review will likely already be aware of its enormous significance. However, its history is not quite as well known. We are lucky we have "Nosferatu" at all. The film was, of course, based on Bram Stoker's book "Dracula," but because Murnau could not secure the rights, the vampire was known as Nosferatu, while the character Count Dracula was renamed Count Orlok. Representatives for Stoker's estate sued in court, and it was ruled that all prints of the film be destroyed. However a few prints (some reports say only one) were already being distributed around the world, so the few surviving ones have lived on and, despite variable quality, the film has maintained its reputation as one of the most brilliant filmed and most highly influential works in motion picture history.
Perhaps it is not "scary" to modern audiences as it was to viewers in 1922, but its brilliance of conception and presentation, as well as its creativity in filmmaking, is undeniable. It is the best movie of its kind, even surpassing such later classics as "Dracula"(1931) with Bela Lugosi, or "Horror of Dracula" (1958) starring Christopher Lee.
Kino's two-disc set offers the film with English or German subtitles, and the discs also offer special features. There is a 52-minute documentary on the making of the film, as well as excerpts from some of Murnau's other productions.
There are some films that belong in any library or collection, movies that are staples of cinema's foundations. "Nosferatu" is one of these, and this new restored version is the only version to own.