Drum roll please……….
Ha-ha! That won’t be necessary, but in my mind it sounded way cooler. Without any further ado, it is my honor to be able to induct the first film into The Horror Syndicate’s Horror Hall of Fame. I believe this film deserves our inaugural induction because it has done so much for the horror genre as a whole. Which also in fact, helped ignite my own personal obsession with the horrific and the macabre. I look at this film as the face that changed cinema forever.
The film is NOSFERATU. Originally titled, Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens (A Symphony of Horror), it trailblazed its way into our dreams and nightmares. This film predates Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy you name it. It was filmed between August and October of 1921 in Germany and released in 1922. This black and white spectacle came during the golden-age of the silent film era.
The film follows a young real estate man named Hutter. Who gets dispatched to a castle in the Carpathians to facilitate the purchase of property by a Count Graf Orlok. Much like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which director F.W. Murnau borrows heavily from, Count Orlok becomes infatuated by a picture of Hutter’s beautiful wife Ellen. Orlok then agrees to purchase the building across the street from Hutters’ residence. Setting in motion a trail of bloodshed, which makes its way to Hutters’ front door.
For the role of the Count/Nosferatu, Murnau chose Max Schreck. A career character actor in German theater, Schreck was impossibly perfect for this role. Schreck was only on screen for a total of 9 minutes and made such an impact. He personified Orlok. Bald head, long bony fingers, is in my opinion the true look of the vampire, dark, gritty and downright scary looking. Not the romanticized, charming one we’ve grown to love over the years. Even though it’s a silent film and Schreck was not able to vocalize his terror, the impact and tone he was able to provide along with the eerie musical score was truly striking.
Since there were considerable similarities to Stoker’s novel, the names were changed. Count Dracula became Count Orlok. Mina Harker became Ellen Hutter and so on. But Bram Stokers’ widow still felt his estate was being ripped off. Subsequently, all original prints and negatives were burned after a settlement was reached with Stoker’s estate.
Despite all this, Nosferatu has lived on through the decades. In 1979, Werner Herzog directed a very artistic re-make entitled Nosferatu the Vampyre. The main antagonist was played by Klaus Kinski. This version is also superb in its own right. In 2000, Shadow of the Vampire was released. A fictional tale of the filming of the 1922 classic. Murnau was played by John Malkovich and Schreck was portrayed by Willem Dafoe. This film was excellent as well. The vampire’s appearance is so iconic that Nosferatu’s look was also used for the master vampire Kurt Barlow in Salem’s Lot. Although the film is almost 95 years old, Max Schreck’s portrayal of Nosferatu is as nightmarishly scary looking as ever. That alone, is deserving enough for it’s induction in The Horror Syndicate’s Horror Hall Of Fame!!!
IMDB rated this 8.0/10
ZombiSurvivor gives it an 8.8/10
Stay tuned kiddies, as we will induct a 2nd film into our Hall Of Fame for the month of May soon!!!!