Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922)

Director F.W. Murnau's decent rip-off of Dracula uses the better plot elements while discarding the overall story (Stoker's widow sued to have most of the prints destroyed after the film's original release). Result: a winning vehicle for blatant shock over theatrical art. It might not be freighted with the numinous or any psychology, but Max Schreck lurking up the staircase as Count Orlock has regardless become a cultural archetype; an image is worth a thousand creeps.

Silent-era films tend to linger on the mundane a bit, sometimes weirdly: Here's a mansion on a well-kept lawn. Hold it. Here's a field before harvest. Hold it. Here's a guy walking down the street. Hold it. Just so I can sound like an old fogey, allow me to pontificate: at the Dawn of Cinema, a projected image was minor cause for wonder, and occasion for a huge night out, shined shoes and everything. Nowadays, the movie theater is just another place you go to talk on your cellular telephone. Back before you were born, I worked with a woman who remembered going to see Frankenstein (1931) as a little girl and hiding under the seats, she was so terrified. Hard to contemplate, in this jaded era, just short of televised state executions, there was ever a day and age when Boris Karloff in pancake makeup was the scariest thing imaginable.

[I saw Nosferatu under perhaps ideal conditions: at the venerable and beautiful Capri Theatre in Montgomery AL, with incredible original live music provided by Boston-based Devil Music Ensemble.]

1 comment:

  1. There used to be a guy who came through my line at the grocery store who looked just LIKE Max Schreck in that movie!