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Nosferatu the Vampyre(1979)
It is 1850 in the beautiful, perfectly-kept town of Wismar. Jonathan Harker is about to leave on a long journey over the Carpathian Mountains to finalize real estate arrangements with a wealthy nobleman. His wife, Lucy, begs him not to go and is troubled by a strong premonition of danger. Despite her warnings, Jonathan arrives four weeks later at a large, gloomy castle. Out of the mist appears a pale, wraith-like figure with a shaven head and deep-sunken eyes who identifies himself as Count Dracula. The events that transpire slowly convince Harker that he is in the presence of a vampyre. What he doesn't know is the magnitude of danger he, his wife and his town are about to experience.
For more about Nosferatu the Vampyre and the Nosferatu the Vampyre Blu-ray release, see Nosferatu the Vampyre Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 17, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Werner Herzog
Writers: Werner Herzog, Bram Stoker
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, Roland Topor, Walter Ladengast, Dan van Husen
» See full cast & crew
Nosferatu the Vampyre Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 17, 2013
Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht" a.k.a. "Nosferatu the Vampyre" (1979) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Arthaus/StudioCanal. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original German theatrical trailer; audio commentary by Werner Herzog and Dutch-German writer and producer Laurens Straub; Erwin Keusch and Christian Weisenborn's documentary film "I Am My Films - A Portrait of Werner Herzog"; a gallery of stills; and more. In German or English, without optional subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
From all the films that have been made about Count Dracula Nosferatu the Vampyre is the very best one. Without CGI effects and other fancy trickery, it forces the viewer to forget about the real world and for a short period of time believe the unbelievable.
The dreams we dream that feel so real that we can't stop thinking about them are exactly like this film - at times they make the heart beat faster, other times they calm us down. The feeling is strange and confusing, never easy to describe with simple words, but impossible to forget.
The film begins with one such very intense dream. Lucy (Isabelle Adjani, Subway, Adolphe), the stunningly beautiful wife of Jonathan Harker (Bruno Gantz, Wings of Desire, Downfall), wakes up screaming. In her dream she has seen something terrifying, something her mind cannot rationalize. She does not know why, but she feels its presence and cannot stop thinking about it.
Soon after Lucy's strange experience, Jonathan is sent deep into Transylvania to meet the elusive Count Dracula, who has expressed interest in purchasing a property in Wismar. On the way to the Count's castle, Jonathan meets different people that urge him to turn back if he values his life. When he ignores their warnings, a few of them become nervous.
Dressed in black and looking unusually pale, the Count welcomes Jonathan in his eerily quiet castle. After he feeds him and signs his property papers, the Count locks him and heads to Wismar accompanied by thousands of gray plague-carrying rats.
The Count's arrival in Wismar is one of the many incredibly atmospheric sequences in the film. His ship slowly enters the sleepy town and then stops. There is a dead man tied to the steering wheel. It is an early morning and there is no one around to see it. There is light fog and the sky is gray. The rats flood the streets and people begin dying.
The Count visits Lucy's home and her purity and beauty awakens something deep inside him – a passion to live and love which only the mortals can experience. While the Count attempts to earn Lucy's love, she approaches Dr. Van Helsing (Walter Ladengast, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser) and warns him that a great evil is behind the plague that is destroying their town.
Director Werner Herzog completed Nosferatu the Vampyre in 1979. The film is a remake of F.W. Murnau's legendary 1922 film, but aside from the common characters they share and a few sequences which were shot at the same locations, the two could not be any more different.
I believe this is the best film about Count Dracula because it is the only one that does not conform to the old critical preferences for what a horror film should try to accomplish. It is a very original minimalistic period piece slowly building and sustaining a specific atmosphere, not a genre film trying to impress with cliches. The result is an incredibly dark yet indescribably beautiful cinematic poem, which once experienced is indeed impossible to forget.
Kinski is phenomenal as Dracula. It may sound sacrilegious, but I think that he is even better than the great Max Schreck. Adjani, one of the most beautiful actresses of her generation, is also outstanding as the emotionally devastated Lucy.
Note: In 1979, Nosferatu the Vampyre won Silver Bear Award for Outstanding Single Achievement (Henning von Gierke, for the production design) at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Nosferatu the Vampyre Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Arthaus/StudioCanal.
Note: Only the German language version of the film can be accessed from the main menu. The English language version is located in the supplemental features section of the disc.
The screencaptures included with our review appear in the following order:
1. English-language version (01.47.08): Sceencaptures #1-19.
2. German-language version (01. 46. 52): Screencaptures # 20-24.
There are traces of moderate to strong denoising corrections throughout the entire film. Where light is subdued most of these corrections are somewhat easy to tolerate (see screencapture #2), but elsewhere they are indeed quite distracting (see screencapture #7). Unsurprisingly, during close-ups and larger panoramic shots detail and depth are often compromised (see how the building at the very top in screencapture #3 looks smeary). The partially good news is that contrast remains relatively stable. As mentioned earlier, where light is subdued, which happens quite often, the denoising effects are not consistently easy to spot. However, the larger your screen is, the easier it will be for you to see even during the nighttime sequences that the transfer does not have the strong organic qualities we have come to expect when a film transitions to Blu-ray as it should. For the record, there are no large damage marks, cuts, debris, or warps to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Nosferatu the Vampyre Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray: German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 for the German language version of the film and English Dolby Digital 2.0 for the English language version of the film. There are no optional subtitles for the two versions.
The lossy English track has a fairly modest dynamic amplitude, which is quite disappointing considering how impressive the film's soundtrack is. I must say, however, that it does have marginally better depth (especially when the choir performs) than the lossy track from the R1 Anchor Bay DVD release. There is no problematic background hiss. Also, there are no annoying pops, cracks, or distortions to report in this review.
Nosferatu the Vampyre Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Nosferatu the Vampyre Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I cannot say that I am impressed with StudioCanal's German release of Werner Herzog's stunningly beautiful Nosferatu the Vampyre. It uses a high-definition transfer that is quite weak and it has a lossy audio track for the English language version of the film. There is a French release that uses a much better transfer, but there is only a French audio track on it. Let's hope that a U.S. distributor will step up and deliver a proper release soon. This is an essential film to see, and in my opinion also own, from one of the greatest visionary directors of our time. RENT IT.
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