Tuesday, 20 November 2007


Well, it's here! and for the most part the news is good. The Masters of Cinema DVD series has released the newly restored version of F.W.Murnau's NOSFERATU and it is great to be able to report that this is a beautiful restoration by Luciano Berriatua - previously unseen shots, the correct projection speed, no pulsating of the image and the absolute minimum of scratches. In addition we have the original inter-titles where possible and where not there are sympathetic recreations based on the original text. Last and by no means least we have the original musical score written by Hans Erdmann which has been unheard for eighty five years. Previously, inferior prints of the film have been released with electronic score, jazz score and a new score written by James Bernard of Hammer Film fame. Enough to say that Erdmann's score magnificently eclipses all these. Included in the packaging is an eighty-page book containing several articles on the film, a newly translated piece on vampires by the film's producer Albin Grau and notes on the restortation.

Why then do I say that for the most part it is good news? Well, also included in the release is the documentary THE LANGUAGE OF SHADOWS by Luciano Berriatua which, for the most part is highly entertaining and informative about the career of Murnau which manages to dig up some fascinating stills from the director's lost films like DER JANUSKOPF (and, yes, they do manage to find one of Bela Lugosi) with Conrad Veidt, DER BUCKLIGE UND DIE TANZERIN and one of the few surviving clips from SATANAS. The documentary also spend a fair amount of time talking about the film's producer Albin Grau and his involvement with ritual magic as a member of the O.T.O. and colleague of Aleister Crowley...the problem is that the film refers to Grau being sixty-six years old when he met Murnau and later tells us that he was still involved in the occult when he died in 1971. 1971 ? Well, that would have made him about One 115 years old at the time of his death! All sources I have checked say that Grau died in Buchenwald concentration camp during World War Two. One must wonder about the accuracy of the other information. Then we come to the feature commentary by R.Dixon Smith and Brad Stevens which, in almost the first sentence, tells us that "Nosferatu" is a Hungarian word for the undead. Sorry, fellas, it isn't. It is a completely made up word and is, I am assured by a Hungarian Count of my acquaintance (honest), nothing to do with the Hungarian language. I soon gave up on these two as the commentary became more and more banal and boring. One of the two had an obsession with arches in the film and seemed to attach great significance to them "Look! another arch!" and with the theory that Count Orlok is a mirror image of the film's hero Hutter...a theory that doesn't to cut the mustard for me. The other guy gets into a conversation with himself about whether of not Murnau was an expressionist or not. No, but NOSFERATU is an expressionist film despite its realistic setting is his conclusion and he gets very excited when he sees a crooked bookcase or a high chairback "Look an expressionistic chair!" I think most people might have liked a bit of background information on Max Schreck!

But, forget the commentary, turn out the lights, pull the curtains and enjoy what remains after eighty-five years one of the greatest German silent films and one of the classics of the horror genre. Rating for NOSFERATU *****

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