Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht
Running Time: 107 minutes
US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: 15
Country: Germany, France
Although technically not based on Bram Stoker’s novel, but rather the 1922 film version by F.W. Murnau, Werner Herzog’s 1979 effort remains the best adaptation of the iconic Dracula tale so far.
Werner Herzog transplants the famous story to the port of Varna on the Black Sea. Real Estate agent Jonathan Harker (Ganz) is sent off to Romania to finalise a deal with Count Dracula (Kinski) who wants a home in Varna. Upon his arrival at Dracula’s castle he begins to get worried by the strange behaviour of his host and his worst fears are realised when he is locked in the castle and the Count disappears. Jonathan manages to escape and get back to his wife Lucie (Adjani) but he is a shell of the man who left and Dracula seems to be haunting them both. Lucie and her friends Doctor Van Helsing (Ladengast) and Mina (Grohman) then battle to save Jonathan and rid themselves of their spectre.
Simplicity is the key to Nosferatu the Vampyre. Herzog instills a terrifically eerie atmosphere with a subdued, haunting soundtrack, striking visuals with well-placed long shots and an authentic small-town feeling that proves a good substitution for Whitby and Victorian London. As usual, Herzog chose not to do things the easy way and, at one point, let thousands of rats run riot around the town in which the film was set.
Contrary to the all-star cast of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 attempt, Herzog has just the one recognisable driving force – but on his day there were not many better – in Klaus Kinski. Kinski looks terrifying and gets the creepiness just right with a hint of vulnerability and sadness. Isabel Adjani also does well as Lucy as she pitches the correct tone and shows the strength and weakness of a tormented wife. Finally, watch out for Bruno ‘best Hitler ever’ Ganz who plays both the broken Jonathan Harker with understated realism.
It's Got: An absolutely nuts Renfield, striking visuals, a terrific performance from Kinski
It Needs: To be watched in silence with the lights off, to see this as completely separate as the Bela Lagosi model
DVD Extras 2 disc special - a captivating Director's commentary from Herzog, fascinating behind the scenes featurette, selection of trailers and both the slightly different German and English versions of the film. An outstanding selection of extras. DVD Extras Rating: 9/10
Alternatives:Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nosferatu (1922), The Wolfman, Woyzeck
Possibly the best adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Excellent performances, a haunting atmosphere and a unique take on the famous novel from Werner Herzog is just enough to give it the edge.