Starring Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim and Greta Schroeder
December 25, 1929
Skillfully mounted and directed, this symbolical legendary cinema story of reanimated ghosts in a period set about a century or so ago when vampirism was pretty well entrenched in the world's beliefs, is a depressive piece of art made even more incompatible for bourgeois theatre fare because of misspotted and poor titling. Latter lends the film more than one confusing moment and therefore it is a risky exhibit for the sure seaters, too although the artistic quality of settings and direction command consideration, this and Murnau's work leaving the question open whether this film was made long ago or lately.
Story is claimed to have been inspired by "Dracula." Whether the play or the book not told. Bram Stoker authored the novel more than 20 years ago and the play which was based on it, written by Hamilton Dean and John Balderson, produced on Broadway by Horace Liveright in October, 1927.
Like the play the picture is a shivery melo spilling ghostlike impossibilities from beginning to end. Action details the forages of a nobleman who is dead yet alive, making night time raids on human beings and compelling them to become subservient to him by sucking the blood from their necks, often plaguing them to death. His especial delight is a pretty woman.
Murnau proved his directorial artistry in "Sunrise" for Fox about three years ago, but in this picture he's a master artisan demonstrating not only a knowledge of the subtler side of directing but in photography.
One shot of the sun cracking at dawn is an eye filler. Among others of extremely imaginative beauty is one which takes in a schooner sailing in a rippling stream photographed in such a manner that it has the illusion of color and an enigmatic weirdness that's more perplexing than the ghost action of the players.
His funeral scene in the deserted town street where the bodies of the plague victims are carried in coffins held aloft by straggling pallbearers is unusual to say the least. Empty shattering buildings photographed to suggest the desperate desolation brought on by the vampire is extremely effective symbolism.
Max Schreck as the vampire is an able pantomimist and works clocklike, his makeup suggesting everything that's goose pimply. He did his worst on every occasion which was good.
Video source: Movies Unlimited, Kino, Nostalgia
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