In 1922 a movie based on Bram Stroker’s novel Dracula was released, called Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, also known as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. The film was released as a German expressionist horror flick as well as being one of the first movies to influence what we call Film Noir today.
Nosferatu is a silent film about a man named Thomas Hutter, who journeys to Transylvania to sell a house to a client named Count Orlok. While staying at the castle Count Orlok resided in, Hutter notices some of the Count’s disturbing habits including when Thomas cut himself and the Count attempted to suck out his blood and how Count Orlok sleeps in coffins. Count Orlok finishes up purchasing his new home across the street from where the Hutters reside, Thomas and his wife Ellen. Thomas is able to escape the castle and return home however while he rushes home Count Orlok boards a ship in his coffin on his way to move into his new home. The Count kills the Captain of the ship and once the ship arrives it is inspected the next day. The captain is found dead; doctors assume that the plague is involved due to the rats in the ship as Orlok had left the ship unnoticed the day before. Multiple deaths start to occur in the town but the residents have blamed the plague for it. Thomas’ wife Ellen reads a book about how a woman with a pure heart is the only way to defeat a vampire. She invites Orlok into her home but faints. When Orlok comes in he can only think about drinking Ellen’s blood that he forgets about the arrival of the next day, and as the rooster crows Orlok vanishes in a cloud of smoke. The movie ends by showing Count Orlok trapped in his castle.
As I mentioned this film was one of the first to inspire Film Noir because of its dark and menacing story. One of the most famous scenes in the film is of Count Orlok’s shadow climbing up the stairs into Ellen’s room to drink her blood. This is one of the differences between the original Dracula as he did not have a shadow. Nosferatu is depicted as more of a creepy grotesque man simply killing for the blood he desired. During the scene when Thomas cuts his thumb, the page flips as Orlok says “the precious blood!”, and tries to suck the blood from Thomas’ thumb; in my opinion Count Orlok is comparable to Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Gollum is considered to be a disgusting creature in Lord of the Rings however is still human just like the Count; this is an interesting comparison because not only does this show that Nosferatu was an inspiration for Film Noir but also for many other films that many people may relate to today. Because the studio was unable to obtain the rights to Dracula the terms “vampire” became “Nosferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok” in the film. The film was a silent movie so the mood was created by the sounds of music and the expressions of the actors and actresses. An interesting difference in this movie was that this movie used the plague as a scapegoat for the killings of a vampire when most films after use vampires as the scapegoats for random deaths that occur in towns and villages. These films were the first to bring about the theme of good vs evil, as only a woman with a pure heart could defeat an evil such as a vampire.
-Bram Stroker’s Dracula