By Niall McArdle
It’s hard to imagine cinema without F.W. Murnau’s highly influential Nosferatu, or to give it its full original title, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horrors). Murnau’s take on the Dracula story, with the cadaverous Max Schreck as Count Orlok, had – along with many other German Expressionist films – an incredible effect on the development of cinema. It was the first vampire film. It soon grew a cult audience, and many of its tropes became standard in horror.
Roger Ebert wrote of it, “here is the story of Dracula before it was buried alive in clichés, jokes, TV skits, cartoons and more than 30 other films. The film is in awe of its material. It seems to really believe in vampires.” Bram Stoker’s estate was less enthusiastic about the film: they sued for breach of copyright.
On March 5th, 1922, the film had its premiere in the Marble Room of the Berlin Zoological Garden. Guests were asked to arrive in 19th century Biedermeier costume. The film received mixed reviews. Several critics didn’t find it scary enough; others found it artistically brilliant.
Nosferatu was remade by Werner Herzog in 1979, with Klaus Kinski in the role.