Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror is a German Expressionist film by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok. The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was in essence an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, "vampire" became "Nosferatu," and Count Dracula became Count Orlok).

In 2007, Kino International released Nosferatu: The Ultimate Edition, derived from a new high-definition transfer of the film. This double-disc collection presents the film with the original German intertitles as well as with newly-translated English intertitles. Accompanying the film is a 52-minute documentary by Luciano Berriatúa which provides a detailed account of the production and explores the filmmakers' involvement in the occult.


Hutter (Harker in Stoker's novel) is an employee at a real estate firm in a fictitious German city called Wisborg (the name of the town being a reference to the actual town Wismar), happily living with Ellen, his wife. One day, his employer, Knock, receives a mysterious letter, written in strange symbols. Knock decides to send him to visit Count Orlok in the Carpathian Mountains to finalize the sale of a house. Hutter leaves his wife with his good friend Harding, and Harding's sister Lucy, before embarking on his multiple-month journey.

Close to his final destination, Hutter boards at an inn, where the locals become frightened at the mere mention of Orlok's name, and discourage him from traveling to his castle during the night. In his room at the inn, Hutter finds a book entitled The Book of the Vampires, which he disregards before falling asleep.

Hutter is left to finish his journey on foot after his hired driver refuses to pass the bridge to the castle. However, he is soon picked up by Image:Nosferatu carriage.jpg, which is driven by a strange specter that hides its face, and moves at an unnatural speed. At his arrival at the castle, whose doors open by themselves, Image:Nosferatu arriving at the castle.jpg. His grotesque facial features hidden at this stage by his hat, Orlok initially appears to be a mere eccentric gentleman. Hutter has dinner at the castle; Orlok refuses to eat and silently reads a letter. A bell rings at midnight and a startled Hutter cuts his thumb. Image:Nosferatu seeing blood.jpg, before being repelled by a cross hanging around Hutter's neck. Hutter falls asleep in the parlor after a conversation with Orlok.

Hutter wakes up to an empty castle with fresh wounds on his neck, which he attributes to mosquitoes. That night he is joined by Orlok and they sign the documents for the sale of the house facing Hutter's. Hutter finds The Book of the Vampires in his luggage and starts to suspect that Orlok is nosferatu. He tries to hide in his bedroom as midnight approaches. However, the closed door opens by itself and Image:Nosferatu door in the castle.jpg, his true nature revealed. At the same time, Image:Nosferatu ellen sleepwalking.jpg and is found by Harding in a comatose state, screaming for Hutter. Her screams stop Orlok, who leaves Hutter untouched.

Waking up, Hutter explores the castle and its crypt. Image:Nosferatu in his tomb.jpg. Paralyzed with fear and the sheer sight of the nosferatu, he dashes back to his room, where he witnesses Orlok piling up coffins on a coach and climbing into the last one before the coach leaves. Hutter escapes the castle through the window, but is knocked unconscious when he falls and hits the ground. Meanwhile, the coffins are shipped down a river on a raft.

Next, Hutter is at a hospital after his flight from the castle. The coffins are put into a large boat, after the crew sees that they are full of soil and rats.

In a psychiatric ward, Knock is in a confinement cell where he eats flies and tries to bite the neck of his doctor. Hutter decides to leave the hospital to warn his town against Orlok. In his cell, Knock steals a newspaper with news of a new plague, which causes him to rejoice. The sailors on the boat carrying the coffins get sick, and soon all but two are dead. One of them decides to destroy the coffins, which are now crawling with rats. However, Image:Nosferatu inside the ship.jpg and confronted with this vision, the sailor jumps into the sea. The captain ties himself to his ship's wheel. Image:Nosferatu04.png.

The ship arrives in Wisborg. Image:Nosferatu walking with the coffin.jpg, quickly followed by the rats. He moves into the house he purchased across the street from Hutter's house. Knock escapes from his cell. Hutter also arrives in Germany. The next morning, the ship is inspected and it appears empty, except for the dead captain with wound marks on his neck. The logbook of the ship is found, the doctors realize they are dealing with plague. The town is stricken with panic. Ellen reads the book of vampires, despite Hutter's forbidding. She learns how to kill a vampire: a woman pure in heart must make him forget the rooster's first crowing. The town is flooded with corpses and its people chase Knock, mistaking him for a vampire.

Orlok stares from his window at the sleeping Ellen. She opens her window to invite him in but faints. As Hutter leaves to get help, Image:Nosferatu shadow.jpg. He drinks her blood and forgets about the dawning day. A rooster crows and Orlok goes up in smoke as he tries to escape. The last image of the movie is Orlok's castle in the Carpathian Mountains.



Deviations from the novel

The story of Nosferatu is similar to that of Dracula and retains the core characters — Jonathan and Mina Harker, the Count, etc. — but omits many of the secondary players, such as Arthur and Quincey, and changes all of the character's names (although in some recent releases of this film, which is now in the public domain, the written dialog screens have been changed to use the Dracula versions of the names). The setting has been transferred from England and the 1890s to Germany in 1838.

In contrast to Dracula, Orlok does not make any other vampires but kills his victims, causing the town folk to blame the plague, which ravages the city. Also, Orlok must sleep by day, as sunlight would kill him. The ending is also substantially different from that of Dracula. The Count is ultimately destroyed at sunrise when the "Mina" character sacrifices herself to him.

The town called "Wisborg" in the film is in fact Wismar. Parts of the film depicting Transylvania were also filmed in Slovakia. Nosferatu's castle, for instance, is Orava Castle in northern Slovakia, and other locations are in the High Tatras and on the Váh River around Strečno Castle.


This was the first and last Prana Film; the company declared bankruptcy after Bram Stoker's estate, acting for his widow, Florence Stoker, sued for copyright infringement and won. The court ordered all existing prints of Nosferatu destroyed, but copies of the film had already been distributed around the world. These prints were then copied over the years, helping Nosferatu gain its current reputation as one of the greatest movie adaptations of the vampire legend.

With the influence of producer and production designer Albin Grau, the film established one of two main depictions of film vampires. The "Nosferatu-type" is a living corpse with rodent features (especially elongated fingernails and incisors), associated with rats and plague, and neither charming nor erotic but rather totally repugnant. The victims usually die and are not turned into vampires themselves. The more common archetype is the "Dracula-type" (established by Bela Lugosi's version of Dracula and perpetuated by Christopher Lee), a charming aristocrat adept at seduction and whose bite turns his victims into new vampires.

A more universal effect of the film is less obvious: the ending of Nosferatu single-handedly created the concept that vampires can be physically harmed by sunlight. While this was a common element of many other mythical creatures, pre-Nosferatu vampires disliked but could endure daylight (for instance, a scene in the original Dracula novel shows its Count in a London street by day). Since the film's release, the vampire legend quickly incorporated the idea of fearing the sun.

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. The only complete, original copy is said to be owned by the German Max Schreck collector Jens Geutebrück.

Derivative works

Use In Popular Culture

  • In the kid's T.V. series Spongebob Squarepants, Nosferatu is seen flickering a light at the Krusty Krab during the episode, "The Graveyard Shift".
  • The movie is being played at the drive-in movie in the music video of "Falling Down" by Atreyu
  • For The Smashing Pumpkins' Ava Adore video, Billy Corgan has a look not unlike that of Count Orlok.
  • In season 3 of the British sketch show The Fast Show, a reoccurring sketch parodies a scene in the movie where Count Orlock (played by Paul Whitehouse) approaches a sleeping woman who the audience presumes he is going to kill. She wakes up screaming, only for him to give her a betting tip followed by the punchline "Monster Monster!!".
  • In 1992's Batman Returns, Christopher Walken played a corrupt industrialist named "Max Shreck."

See also

External links

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