Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

The Dracula story is revisited again on the 101 Horror Movies To See Before You Die.

This time, famed German director Werner Herzog retells the tale, using the template provided by  F.W. Murnau’s  version of the story from 1922 and Bram Stoker’s original novel.

Taken over the creepy role, in make-up similar to that of Max Schreck, Klaus Kinski takes on the role of Dracula, who in this version of the tale, travels to Wismar, Germany.

The story, is of course, familiar to almost one and all, Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) is asked by his employer Renfield (maniacally played by Roland Topor) is sent to Transylvania to see the quietly sinister Count Dracula.

He is forced to leave his wife Lucy behind, portrayed by the lovely Isabelle Adjani, and of course, descends into madness when he is confronted by forces of darkness.

In this version, the Count, seems lonely, talking about the torture and pain of living through the years, the centuries, alone. Of course, he is still the undead, and preys on the blood of the living, and he has set his sights not only on the people of Wismar, but the throat of Lucy specifically.

Jonathan, escaping from the castle, races across land to try and reach home before the Count can arrive. He is traveling by ship, which is filled with rats, and carry with them, The Plague, which Dracula is quite happy to use as cover.

Van Helsing (Walter Landengast) is little more than a scientist in this film, relying more on science than knowledge of the supernatural. In fact, it is Lucy, who does the research, comes up with the plan, and in the end, is willing to sacrifice herself to stop the undead threat and save what remains of the crumbling town.

But in the end it is too late… the curse lives on.

Like all Herzog’s films, the film is a visual treat, Castle Dracula is filled with broken windows, through which the wind howls, bats hang in window panes, and spider webs seem to cover everything.

The film is more suggestive in its sexuality than the previous version, especially in the final scenes where Lucy works to keep the Count distracted with her neck, his hand firmly on her breast, her night gown up around her thighs.

In the end though, the film differs from the novel and the previous screen retelling, especially in terms of the fate of Jonathan, Lucy and Van Helsing, and is creepy in its own way, and not for those who have a fear of rats.

The locations, in and around Wismar, are gorgeous, and I love the canals.

If forced to choose between the two, I would still go with Murnau, but this is an interesting take on a classic story.

Which version of the Dracula story do you prefer?

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