Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922) Silent, Creeping Death from Way Back Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922) Silent, Creeping Death from Way Back
F.W. Murnau’s silent masterpiece, Nosferatu, is like the fevered visions of hell we may see when all of our organs are shutting down and death creeps... Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922) Silent, Creeping Death from Way Back

F.W. Murnau’s silent masterpiece, Nosferatu, is like the fevered visions of hell we may see when all of our organs are shutting down and death creeps out of the darkness, battling modern medicine for our souls. When the seed of Belial is infecting your blood and soul I am not sure if those antibiotics and the iron lung are going to help your cause. Are those rats crawling on your cold feet under the covers, or is it just mom putting on your Bugs Bunny socks so you can forget the pain of death squeezing your guts like a ravenous bear. Nosferatu’s tall and eerily ratlike antagonist, Count Orlock, is a disease that spreads from his castle in Transylvania, wiping out several ports along the way, until the fiend settles in Wisburg. Orlock, an apparent real estate mogul who is slightly less unattractive than Donald Trumpsets up shop in the run down row of houses across from our hero, Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) and his, I guess, attractive for the times wife, Ellen (Greta Schroder). Sorry, didn’t mean to be harsh. Like Trump I am just saying what is on my mind, warped as it might be. If Trump wants to rant on about deadly illegal aliens he should have used Orlock as an example because the immigrant Count blows into Wisburg with the delicacy of the Ebola virus in an airplane filled with sneezing dwarves on the way to Disneyworld. Don’t let your kid share that ice cream with Mickey Mouse, that dude hasn’t been the same since Fantasia.

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Nosferatu shows us images of such creeping terror that we can’t help but still feel their power nearly one hundred years later. Abe Vigoda was one year old when Murnau’s retelling of the Dracula story hit cinemas. Suck on that jugular for a bit. Take a look at Orlock when he first greets Hutter at his castle, agitated that the real estate agent has gotten there so late. Only midnight and the lazy servants have all retired!! Perhaps they have expired? Is there a passing resemblance between Orlock and an angry Detective Phil Fish or Tessio bundling up against the cold? I believe in ghosts more readily than I believe in coincidences. Are there any pictures of Abe Vigoda as a child, or even a young man? Are there any old and unsettling photographs of  Vigoda and Max Schreck–he played the mysterious Orlock–together, drinking steins of beer at the hofbrauhaus? This would make a great In Search Of…..

While watching Nosferatu, perhaps we may feel as if we are looking at the images in some sinister children’s book that was found rummaging around in our grandparents’ musty attic while the worms are turning their corpses into mulch in the cemetery down the lane.  This childlike innocence is especially evident when some characters pull the bed sheets over their head to try and protect themselves from Orlock’s death gaze and gnarled claws closing around their tasty necks. Not a pretty picture in your head, is it? Neither is the haunting shot of Orlock rising–stiff as a board–from his coffin in a ship’s cabin, ready to menace what remains of the crew. Extraordinarily disturbing if you are the scurvy-weakened first mate. Jump overboard. Take your chances with the sharks and stinging jellyfish. If you are a movie lover, hopefully you are amazed by the genius at work here. The technical aspects of film making don’t really interest me that much. The emotional and visceral result is what keeps me coming back. I don’t care how they make booze. I just care that it tastes good and gets me nice and drunk and I can have a good time. The same goes for film. I appreciate the craft, but don’t want to know the tricks.

Even three sheets to the wind on a haunted schooner, I know how difficult it was to pull off these tricks in the early 1920’s. The shadow of Orlock lumbering up the stairs has more power to me than any of the SAW films combined. Who needs torture porn when Murnau can mesmerize with black and white images of tortured souls being slowly and silently hunted by the bald fiend with the sharp teeth and pointy ears? It is timeless terror that stays with us and has the beauty and power of a Mahler symphony. As much as I love gore, I would rather have the blood freeze in my veins than see it spilled on screen.

There are shots in Nosferatu that will chill you like hearing about the death of a coworker. You feel like you aren’t even in your perceived reality anymore. When the Count arrives is Wisburg, bringing pestilence and the plague we may feel like we have come a long way through all these dirty histories until we have reached the enlightened age of today. Rats and disease are problems for the other half. You work, have a nice house and your disinterested wife even gives you a mechanical handjob every other Thursday. What can go wrong? The scene of people carrying coffins filled with loved ones through the empty streets of a 19th century city is strikingly similar to shit we see on the internet or on our smartphones as we try to pass the time waiting to get that gum surgery. Times may change, but the horrors remain the same. One suspects the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse will continue to drive our wagon until they lead us into the abyss, drowned in darkness and despair in an infinite universe where hope has been banished like a dimwitted child.

Evil is a timeless force that grows stronger as it evicts reason from our lives and replaces it with superstition. Superstitious people are almost like addicts, shaking and trembling with anticipation of their next dose of Orlock creeping about the countryside and pulling neighbors from their rudimentary houses into the emptiness of the night. Are their lives complete if they don’t hear the wolf’s howl or see the moon as a harsh and judgmental tax collector?  It is their communal cross to bear and they seem resigned to live with the shadow of Orlock’s castle enveloping them in darkness. This mass hysteria is wonderfully shown by Murnau in the silent scenes of Hutter dealing with the townsfolk who live in the land surrounding Orlock’s fortress of evil.

At its heart, Nosferatu might just be the guy gets girl, guy loses girl to thirsty vampire, guy needs to win girl back and get rid of vampire somehow movie. Wisely, Murnau chooses to not have Ellen find Orlock attractive. Orlock is simply a stalker from beyond the grave who thinks this broad, Ellen, has a lovely neck. Not even a blind chick would find Orlock attractive. You have to wonder how bad the Count’s breath smells, as well? He is dead and he probably has a lot of dead skin collecting in his fangs.  That shit goes rotten quick. Anyone have a dog? Breath of death, indeed.

I would hate to be stuck on the tarmac with Count Orlock because–even after one hundred years–he is still a monument to evil and can cause shivers in the heartiest of souls who call the new millennium home. Silence isn’t golden anymore. This planet of assholes and everyone thinks they have to be heard. We fart out nonsense and stupidity simply because we have the outlets to do so. It stinks!!! Silence is still scary, however. I would implore anyone who has not seen this to please check it out to witness one of the true classics of cinema. If you have seen it already, see it again. You are reading my article, after all. You probably don’t have much going on anyway.

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Tarmac492

Imprisoned on the overtaxed, overpopulated and overpriced fortress of Long Island, Tarmac492 seeks refuge in the pop junkyard of his brain. He enjoys books, film, television, music and a good drink, or seven every now and again. Beautiful women love being "friends" with him and they find his useless knowledge mildly diverting. Tarmac492 hopes to move to Tierra del Fuego where he can waste away--blissfully drunk and anonymous--at the end of the world.

  • Stalkeye

    ” If Trump wants to rant on about deadly illegal aliens he should have used Orlock as an example because the immigrant Count blows into Wisburg with the delicacy of the Ebola virus in an airplane filled with sneezing dwarves on the way to Disneyworld. Don’t let your kid share that ice cream with Mickey Mouse, that dude hasn’t been the same since Fantasia.”

    Lookit you all waxing Poetic and Shit. (0;’

    Although I have yet to see this (Silent films don’t do it for me.)Nosf was always that scary-ass looking Motherfucker you dont want to have the displeasure of running into. Another exceptional written piece Tar. I’m reading your article cause I support the talents of the ‘naughts and besides, I’m on the remaining half my lunch break.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Thanks Stalks!! II am eating lunch now, as well. This is a cool movie. Remember the Queen/David Bowie vid? There is a version where Type O Negative does the Soundtrack. Not sure if that was a live thing. This has the original score.

  • Damn good movie. The remake by Werner Herzog is as good, if not even better.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Agreed. Herzog’s film is close to perfection. This seems more otherworldly to me, however. I dig that about it. Obviously, time has a lot to do with it.

  • KilliK

    true

  • Tarmac, if you are a fan of old silent films, i’d like to call your attention to a film called Cabiria. It’s 101 years old Italian film, made in 1914, and it’s the first true historical epic ever made. The story still works even today, telling a great adventure story about a roman spy in Carthage and his faithful companion Mastiche and their attempts to rescue the titular character from her carthagenean captors. The film eve inspired the wheel of pain segment of Milius’ Conan The Barbarian, as he’s a fan.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I agree, this time Asi, this time……..Herzog’s version is a damn fine film

  • Tarmac492.1

    Yes, I like them. I would definitely check this out. Thanks!!

  • Tarmac492.1

    Carthage is a great name for a city. Sounds so majestically bad ass.

  • Mr Nick Nightly

    I’ve got this on dvd, but the soundtrack was replaced with Type O Negative songs.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Is that any good? I remember them talking about a showing one Halloween.

  • Bop

    I am really not fond of replacing soundtracks.

  • CoolHandJuke

    one of the few films that make me sleep with the lights on…

  • Mr Nick Nightly

    It works, though the audio editing can be choppy and abrupt.

  • Entertaining read as always. The scene when he stands up from the coffin was a welcome aim for spoofs for a long time. Have you seen “Shadow of the Vampire”?

  • Tarmac492.1

    Thanks man, Yes, a long time ago. I remember it being pretty entertaining.

  • I want to read your fiction stuff one day.

  • “Don’t let your kid share that ice cream with Mickey Mouse, that dude hasn’t been the same since Fantasia.” Do you think Mickey fell for the temptations of dark magic while filming “Fantasia”?

  • Tarmac492.1

    ok. Soon.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Yes, or drugs. I don’t want to make Rister mad, though.

  • CreepyThinMan

    I recognize that this is a classic film but I’ve always seen it as anti-Semitic propaganda. The fact that Orlock’s features are both rat like and also evoke the worst Jewish stereotypes kinda rubs me the wrong way. I’ve always taken Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a metaphor for the conflict between science and superstition while the Count represents the oligarchy who literally sucks the proletariat dry (much like lawyers or Linda Lovelace) and must be defeated by the working class men of the (then) modern age!!!FACT!!!

  • gorgarwilleatyou1

    Creepy a breathe of fresh air missed your ramblings man!

  • Tarmac492.1

    You make a good point and a tough one to argue against considering when/where it was made. Also KNOCK might represent such similar stereotypes. To be honest I saw Nosferatu the same way you see Dracula(makes sense) Just look at how Hutter laughs off the superstitious townspeople. The Count also does represent money and power(a reason he can exist for so long probably, so they could have added that stereotype as well. It can also represent a certain xenophobia that may have existed in Post WW I Europe. This xenophobia is still relevant today and perhaps not unfounded in certain cases. I respect people taking offense at anything I would just hope that those who do talk about it and dont watch it and not try to have it banned.

  • sawyersolo

    Haha, deadly illegal aliens

  • 100 points for Abe Vigoda-mention

  • sawyersolo

    You’re right about Orlock and this film, still creepy and a marvel to look at…nice, loose, funny figurative style you have…

  • Tarmac492.1

    Thank You

  • sawyersolo

    creepy speaks…coming from you, this comment could be taken the wrong way, but you laid it out nicely…

  • sawyersolo

    wouldnt say better, but a nice compliment, if not companion to… sup, asi

  • sawyersolo

    he’s been chasing that Fantasia dragon, since

  • Abe

    I actually saw this on the big screen and it was glorious.

  • And yet it only means “Colony”. But yeah, despite the meaning, it is a badass sounding name for a city.

  • Behold, i found the WHOLE movie on Youtube. Check this out:

  • Can’t get enough of it.

  • Tarmac492.1

    cool!! thx !!!

  • Getting ready for my vacations in Sweden. And you?

  • gorgarwilleatyou1

    as quickly as he is here creepy disappears WTF is going on there…