The 1979 version of Nosferatu directed by Werner Herzog is the film that made me a fan of vampire movies. I first saw the film in 1983 when I was taking a German class at the California State College at San Bernardino. The film was shown in German with English subtitles. I loved the creepy atmosphere, which was achieved through acting, location and no gore. I loved Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of the vampire as frightening, tragic, romantic, and sometimes funny without being campy. The ending is not quite what you expect, especially if you’re familiar with the Dracula story, but it works very well.
A few years ago, I learned that the 1979 Nosferatu, like the 1931 Dracula was shot twice. Once in German and once in English. Unlike Dracula where only the scripts and the sets are the same between the two versions, Nosferatu involved the same cast performing the movie twice, in two different languages. In this case, the German language version is generally considered the better one. German was, after all, the principal language of most of the cast. They weren’t as comfortable delivering their lines in English.
Still, it is fascinating to watch these two versions of the film back to back. The two versions have nearly identical running times, but the English-language version lingers a little longer at Dracula’s castle, while the German version spends more time in the village of Weimar after the vampire arrives with his army of plague rats. It’s interesting to see the same actors perform the same scenes in slightly different ways.
Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu is intended to be an homage to F.W. Murnau’s classic from 1922, but Herzog’s version deviates from the original in several key areas, and thus only bears a passing resemblance to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, while highlighting some elements of the novel that other filmmakers pass over for lack of time. Herzog focuses on Dracula’s loneliness, Mina’s perseverance, and Harker’s struggles. It looks at the vampire as both phantom and plague carrier. Kinski is both noble and tragic as the count. If you’re a fan of vampire films, I highly recommend Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu.