Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 1/31/01
(a.k.a. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht)
1979 (1999) - 20th Century
Fox (Anchor Bay)
review by Greg Suarez of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
107 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), dual-sided (side A:
German, side B: English), single-layered, Amaray keep case
packaging, audio commentary with director Werner Herzog interviewed
by Norman Hill, "behind-the-scenes" featurette, 2 U.S.
theatrical trailers and the Spanish theatrical trailer, film-themed
menu screens, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0
mono) and German (DD 5.1 & 2.0 mono), subtitles: English
the Vampyre is director Werner Herzog's 1979 telling of
Dracula and, in many ways, is
an homage to Murnau's 1922 film. The story structure of both films
is very similar (but they have different endings), and Klaus Kinski
(Count Dracula) is clearly made up to resemble Max Schreck. Kinski
sports a bald head, pointed ears, long fingernails and two
protruding incisors. He resembles Schreck in many ways, but is
nowhere near as terrifying. Still, Kinski separates his portrayal by
injecting a bit more sorrowful humanity into the character. His
characterization is not necessarily better or worse... it's just
Herzog's Nosferatu is also
more deliberate than Murnau's, and the artfulness of the film is
more external and not shrouded in mysterious symbolism. What I mean
is, the 1979 version is more drawn out. It's more sprawling and is
presented as a living painting. Herzog takes a different approach
with much of this film, by making it ghostly rather than terrifying.
Shots are composed to be surreally beautiful, not intentionally
scary. That surreal beauty, blended with the dark theme of the
story, is what makes this version stand out as unique. While the
1979 version of Nosferatu is a
good film and an unusual aesthetic interpretation of
Dracula, it lacks the
effectiveness and psychological intelligence of Murnau's version.
What's missing in Herzog's version is the ability of the film to
creep its way into your psyche and plant seeds of fear. Instead, the
film wants you to revel in its creepy atmosphere. This is not a
terrifying movie... it's just really eerie.
Anchor Bay's release of Nosferatu the
Vampyre is disappointing. The non-anamorphic 1.85:1 image
is riddled with noise, and boasts some horrendous compression
artifacts. Darker scenes tend to be muddy and the black level is
wanting. The video can appear detailed in places, and color
rendition seems fairly accurate. But overall, this transfer is a
dud. A film that relies so heavily on portrait-like images deserves
a better transfer.
On the audio side, Nosferatu
is presented in both German and English. The German track is encoded
in Dolby Digital 5.1, and sounds thin and dated. This is a real
shame considering the haunting, almost hypnotic score by German
group Popul Vuh. However, the 5.1 mix does allow the music to be
spread around the listener for enhanced ambiance. The English
version is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and sounds very similar to the
5.1 German mix, except for limited aural distribution. Fidelity is
almost identical, but the sound is not distributed about the sound
space, which curtails the ambient effect. 2.0 mono is also provided
Included on this disc are several supplements that give the
audience a look into the making of the film. The first is an
informative, if a bit dry, commentary track with director Werner
Herzog, as interviewed by Norman Hill. Next is a 13-minute, "behind-the-scenes"
featurette, which includes on-set interview segments with Herzog and
a look at Kinski's make up application. Also in the supplemental
section are two U.S. theatrical trailers and a Spanish theatrical
Herzog's 1979 Nosferatu is an
unusual horror film, that does a great job of creating an eerie
atmosphere with its picturesque cinematography and haunting score.
It's not quite as satisfying as Murnau's 1922 version, but it takes
a slightly different approach and succeeds. Be warned, though - the
audio and video quality of this disc leaves a lot to be desired.
That said, at the very least, this disc is worthy of a rental.
Nosferatu the Vampyre