Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht

JUNE 26, 2007


In the past 6-7 months, I have seen like half a dozen versions of the same goddamn story: Not counting spinoffs like Dracula 3000 and Dracula II, I have watched Dracula (1931), Spanish Dracula (1931), original Nosferatu, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and now this, the 1979 Werner Herzog version of Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht. They all have their differences, but in the end, it's the same damn movie. Look, there’s only so many ways I can see the scene of Harker giving him the real estate forms before I reach my breaking point!

Luckily, Herzog presents an almost entirely unique version of the story, as possibly only he could do. While the general story is the same as always, it could never be mistaken for one of the others. The pacing is slow and deliberate (Drac doesn’t even appear until we’re about 30 minutes or so into it), and there are times where one might think they are watching one of his documentaries. It makes you wish he had tackled other horror classics; I bet he could do an AMAZING version of Frankenstein.

The oddball touches make the film one of my favorite Dracula movies ever. There’s the world’s worst violin player, minute long shots of clouds, etc. And in my personal favorite, there’s a scene where Dracula is running around a room. He passes by a crucifix, and Klaus Kinski (possibly the only actor who is more menacing in real life than he is playing a bloodsucking immortal) lets out this little whiny yelp that is as hilarious as it is sort of touching. For a second or two, you actually feel bad for Dracula.

I also like that this may be the only Dracula film that finds Van Helsing about to be arrested for killing Dracula. I bet if that awful Hugh Jackman movie ended with some folks throwing him into a police car, Holy Grail style, that movie would be nowhere NEAR as hated as it is. Probably would have made another 30 million or so too. You blew it, Sommers!

Sadly, the DVD is non anamorphic, but the subtitles run in the black, so if you're like me and have a widescreen TV, your options are either watch it windowboxed, or zoom in and watch the English version (most of the film was reshot with the actors speaking English). Either way it's not optimal. Hopefully a better edition will come along, maybe as a tie-in release the next time someone makes their own version of the Dracula story? One must be on the way, it's been... minutes.

What say you?


  1. You now must watch adaptations featuring Christopher Lee, Frank Langella and Jack Palance.

    Or just say "fuck it" and watch Leslie Nielsen. Your call.

  2. I just bought the Herzog/Kinski dvd set, and can't wait to revisit this one. Herzog is always amazing, and Kinski is always scary--even when he's not trying to be. :)

    BTW, I think you'll find that in Dracula's Daughter (1936), Edward Van Sloan (reprising his role as Van Helsing from the 1931 Tod Browning movie) spends most of the flick in police custody for having impaled the good count. It's actually a very underrated and underseen movie, with some stuff in it that's pretty amazing for the time (including what's probably the first lesbian vampire scene in movie history).

    You'll have to forgive me--I'm an old school Universal horrors geek. :)

  3. Yeah I gotta catch up on those Universal discs... I usually save those for when I only have time to watch a movie at work (since theyre not violent or gory and wont have any nudity, I know they're 'safe').

    How are those new sets that came out last year or the year before? They only did Frankenstein and Dracula (black and gold covers) - worth upgrading over the green packaging ones that came out to promote van helsing?

  4. From what I understand, they're exactly the same. I'm keeping my legacy sets.

    The Creature from the Black Lagoon set is aces, too.


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