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Max Schreck as Count Orlok
Max Schreck as Count Orlok

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens ("A Symphony of Horrors" in German) is a German Expressionist film originally shot in 1922 by F.W. Murnau. He had wanted to film a version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but his studio was unable to obtain the rights to the story. Murnau decided to film his own version and made only slight changes to the story. The resultant movie has many similarities to Stoker's original tale.

"Dracula" became "Nosferatu" and the names of the characters changed, with Count Dracula changed to Count Orlok. The role of the vampire was played by Max Schreck. Other major actors in the film were: Gustave Von Wagenheim , Greta Schroeder , Alexander Granach

Stoker's estate sued for copyright infringement and won. The court ordered all existing prints of Nosferatu destroyed, but a number of copies of the film had already been distributed around the world. These prints were then copied over the years, resulting in Nosferatu gaining a reputation as one of the greatest movie depictions of the vampire legend.

This was the first, and last, film of the production company Prana-Film GmbH. With all prints and negatives ordered destroyed they declared bankruptcy rather than pay compensation to Florence Stoker , Bram Stoker’s widow.

With the influence of producer and production designer, Albin Grau, the film established one of two main lines of vampire depiction in movies. The "Nosferatu-type" is a living corpse with rodent features (especially elongated fingernails and incisors), is associated with rats and plague and can only be defeated by a virgin sacrifice; he is neither charming nor erotic but totally repugnant. The victims usually die and are not turned into vampires themselves.

The more common other line is the "Dracula-type" (established by Lugosi and perpetuated by Lee), a charming aristocrat adept at seduction and turning his victims into new vampires.

Parts of the film allegedly showing Transylvania were filmed in Slovakia, e.g. Nosferatu's castle is the Orava castle in northern Slovakia.

Murnau's Nosferatu is in the public domain, and copies of the movie are widely available on video -- usually as poorly transferred, faded, scratched video copies that are often scorned by enthusiasts. However, pristine restored editions of the film have also been made available, and are also readily accessible to the public.

According to Stoker, the term "nosferatu" is the Old European word for "vampire", although it does not appear in any European language before Dracula. It may be a derivation from the Classical Greek adjective νοσοφοροσ [nosophoros], meaning "bringing sickness or disease".


A curious sound remake, Die Zwolfte Stunde, ("The Twelfth Hour") appeared in 1930. No credit for director is claimed, but a reference to "artistic adaptation" is given to Dr. Waldemar Roger. He apparently re-edited the original film with some of Murnau's discarded footage and changed the characters’ names (Count Orlok became Furst Wollkoff). A new character and scenes were added. A young priest, Hans Behal conducted a Mass for the Dead, but censors cut the sequence because of its religious implications. Murnau probably knew the film existed, but it is unlikely that he ever saw this unauthorised adaptation, which unlike its original ended on a happy note.

In 1979, Werner Herzog directed a remake titled . Filmed on a shoestring budget (as was common for German films during the 1970s), and starring Klaus Kinski as the vampire, Herzog's Nosferatu was a critical success, considered by many to be a faithful homage to Murnau's original film. Herzog filmed two versions of the movie simultaneously, one in German and one in English. The actors spoke their own lines in English, meaning that their own voices are included in the English version of the film; they are not dubbed over by voice actors. Since by the time of Herzog's film the original Bram Stoker novel had gone into the public domain, Herzog used the character names from the novel.


  • 2002- Count Orlok also appears in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. In the episode entitled "The Graveyard Shift," Squidward tells Spongebob the eerie tale of a fictional fiend called the Hash Slinging Slasher. Shortly thereafter, mysterious things start happening at the Krusty Krab, including the lights flickering on and off. When the gang finds out that it is in fact Count Orlok playing with the lights (In an obviously doctored image), they shout "Nosferatu!" and Count Orlok smiles mischeiviously (Once again, obviously doctored).
  • 2000- Several episodes of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command feature the recurring villain NOS482, a robot that feeds off of the energy of other vampires, much in the same way that vampires feed off of the blood of humans.
  • 2000- A Hollywood movie called Shadow of the Vampire told a fictional story of the making of the silent version of Nosferatu, imagining that actor Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) was himself a vampire, and that director F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) was complicit in hiring the creature for the purposes of realism.
  • 1999- Jean-Marc Lofficier wrote a trilogy of graphic novels based on German Expressionist Film, the second of which was titled Batman: Nosferatu. Batman's costume was remodeled to resemble Orlok's, but most of the plot came from a less well-known film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
  • 1997-1998- The Master, the villain throughout the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was visually based on Nosferatu, having long nails, large bat-like ears, and a white bald head. Coincidentally, in Angel 5.13, Why We Fight , there is also a Nosferatu-looking vampire on board a submarine, though it is implied he is actually supposed to be Count Orlok, even if he is called the 'Prince of Lies.'
  • 1994-2000- A spoof Nosferatu-type character appears in the British sketch-comedy program The Fast Show. He is seen terrorising a young woman in bed, but he offers betting tips and says "Monster, Monster!"
  • 1993- Clips from a Nosferatu re-make appear and he jumps off of the screen in an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
  • 1987 - A spaceship in a Doctor Who episode titled Dragonfire is called Nosferatu 2.
  • 1979- 'Salem's Lot director Tobe Hooper chose a distinct Nosferatu look for the vampire Barlow.

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Last updated: 08-17-2005 14:25:31
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