This, the first (and unauthorized) adaptation of
Bram’s Stoker’s Dracula, was also the
inspiration for Shadow of the Vampire, and
one of the early expressionist films.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Max Schreck as
Count Orlock
(Dracula)
Gustav von Wangenheim as Hutter
(Jonathan Harker)

Greta Schroder as Ellen (Mina)
Alexander Granach
as Knock
(Renfield)
John Gottowt as Prof. Bulwer (Van
Helsing)

Bram Stoker’s novel was “freely adapted” by Henrik
Galeen
Directed
by F. W. Murnau

Complete information is
available from the
IMDB
.

There are numerous versions out on DVD. My first
copy was released by
Madacy. It seemed decent, but gave a very wrong
impression. My
current copy was released by Kino International, who
use far better
quality prints, colour tinting, appropriate
soundtracks, and far more
footage. (There’s a 27 minute difference in
runtimes, and it’s all
important stuff! Ellen is almost a completely
different character,
and most of Knock’s story is missing.) I strongly
recommend the Kino
video release, which you can buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Past movie reviews can be found here.

Premise

In 1922, F. W. Murnau adapted Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”
to the screen
for the first time. There are some liberal changes
toward the end,
and all of the characters have had name changes
(which is why I have
the corresponding names in brackets in the cast
list). These changes
are most likely due to the fact that he didn’t get
legal permission to
adapt it from the Stoker estate, and was eventually
sued for it. This
is the film that Shadow of the Vampire was
about.

High Point

The ship docking. There’s a remarkable amount of
tension built up as
minions are other sympathetics react to his arrival.
Incidentally, I
don’t remember seeing this scene in the Madacy
edition, so I suspect
it’s part of the 27 minutes that differ between the
two. (The Madacy
runtime is 66 minutes, while the Kino runtime is 93
minutes.)

Low Point

Ending so soon. It stops just when the novel’s story
was getting
interesting.

The Scores

This is an adaptation, but it’s liberal enough to get
some
originality points. The plague subplot is
handled very
nicely, and the elimination of the vampire shows far
stronger female
characters than we have in the novel, or in anything
else I’ve seen
from 1922 and earlier. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects work surprisingly well today.
Some of the
animation is choppy, but it’s on par with much of the
work done in the
1960s and 1970s. They tried to keep much of it
understated, and it
works well. Using a negative in one scene looks far
better in the
colour tinted version than in the black and white
edition. It looks
odd, but it’s not immediately obvious that it’s a
negative, so you
just get a surreal effect. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is a classic with some updating.
I’m not really
sure how I feel about the updates. The adaptation is
very accurate
for the first hour. Things start to depart once
Orlock (Dracula)
reaches London, where the changes are severe enough
to make Ellen
(Mina) the hero instead of Jonathan. I honestly
can’t decide which
version I like better. Those who claim this is the
best adaptation of
Dracula are out to lunch; it’s a very good
movie inspired by
that novel, but it’s a lousy adaptation. (Think
Blade Runner
for accuracy, but only in the last part.) Rating it
purely on its own
merits, ignoring the novel, we’ve got a pretty good
story with a
solution to the problem introduced very late in the
film, but
otherwise well done. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting is lousy. The actors of this era
were used to the
overacting done on a stage for the sake of audience
members who are in
the back of the auditorium. When the camera places
the audience right
there, the acting needs to be toned down. Max
Schreck did a decent
job, but I think that’s only because his makeup
restricted his
movement, so that he couldn’t exaggerate along with
his costars. I
give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response produced is good,
especially for a
silent film. While the first hour is somewhat tame,
the final half
hour (most of which is missing in the Madacy release)
builds up
tension in an excellent fashion. I give it 4 out of
6.

The production is good for the time. I have
to ignore the
sound, since it was meant to be a silent film. (The
Madacy release
had one soundtrack that didn’t fit in many cases.
The Kino release
includes two soundtracks comissioned specifically for
this release of
the film, so you have two fitting soundtracks to
choose from.) The
editing is excellent compared to its contemporaries.
The lighting is
very well done, although it’s hard to notice if
you’re watching an
unrestored print. (Man, do I regret buying the
Madacy copy first. I
made the same mistake with The Cabinet
of
Dr. Caligari
and Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde
,
although in those cases, I reviewed the Madacy
editions, which
probably wasn’t fair to the filmmakers. They are
terrible
reproductions. I’ve upgraded to Kino editions for
all three of the
products now.) Some of the framing is still poorly
done, for the sake
of including an unusual tree in the shot or something
similarly silly,
but at least it doesn’t look like they were filming a
play, as so many
of the older films do. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great vampire movie.
It’s also the first
vampire movie, so film history buffs have a little
extra incentive to
pick up a copy. I recommend it to those of us who
enjoy a good silent
film. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, the original 1922 edition of
Nosferatu receives 31
out of 42.

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