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Director Werner Herzog's reworking of the Murnau silent classic NOSFERATU is an amazing and unique film in its own right, so judging it against the original is a disservice to both films. Herzog’s film entitled NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE ($35) is a haunting tale, filled with otherworldly and nightmarish imagery that leaves one with a disturbing sense of dread. By actually using the character names from the Bram Stoker story, NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE willingly admits that the story has been lifted from the novel DRACULA, unlike the original film which almost ended up excised from existence because of copyright infringement. NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE does deviate from Stoker, just as every other film version of the book has, but the basics of the story remain intact. Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) travels to a remote mountain castle in Carpathian Mountains to sell a piece of local property to the reclusive Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski). Upon their first meeting, Harker is taken aback by the Count's frightening visage- the nobleman is rat-like in appearance, with large pointed ears, long talon-like fingernails and protruding front teeth. Harker quickly comes to understand the reason for his host's ghastly appearance; the Count is no longer a living man, but instead an undead vampyre. While trapped in the lair of the vampyre, Harker fears not only for his own life, but also for that of his wife Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) who lives in the town in which the Count plans to take up residence.

As I said above NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE has a very disturbing quality because Werner Herzog has staged the film like a horrifying dream from which the viewer cannot awake. Werner Herzog has made NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE a slow, deliberate and terrifying film that chills the viewer slowly like an encroaching fog. While the film itself is terrifying, Klaus Kinski makes the monster at its center a pathetic creature that is to be both feared and pitied at the same time. Kinski really makes the audience feel Count Dracula’s own remorse at having to endure an endless existence in which he can observe life, but cannot actively participate in it.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has made NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE available in two wide screen presentations on opposite sides of the disc. Neither presentation contains the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. The DVD contains the English language version of the film, as well as the German language version entitled NOSFERATU PHANTOM DER NACHT. NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE is framed at 1.85:1 and the transfer reproduces the film’s dark, shadowy cinematography quite beautifully. Film grain is apparent in a few shots, but never becomes obtrusive. Overall, the transfer offers a detailed image that perfectly reflects the film’s intended look. Colors are muted, but reproduce with absolute fidelity and a complete absence of chroma noise. Compression artifacts are well concealed by competent DVD authoring.

NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE is presented in a clean and precise sounding Dolby Digital monaural, while the German language version is offered with 5.1 channel soundtrack. The 5.1 channel German language the track is far more ambient than it is directional. The German language version offers English subtitles. The interactive menus are simplistic, but contain the standard scene selection feature, plus access to the supplements. Accessing the supplements require that one play the German language side of the disc. The chief supplement is a running audio commentary featuring director Werner Herzog and interviewer Norman Hill. This commentary track is an absolute must for fans of the film; they are certain to find the talk richly rewarding experience. A production featurette, two American trailers and a Spanish trailer have also been included on the disc.

NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE is a rich, dreamlike horror film that serious genre fans will want to add to their collections. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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