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Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu the Vampyre” – playing at Cinefamily – Los Angeles film review

Nosferatu
More a curiosity piece than a great film, Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre — the 1979 remake of F. W. Murnau’s 1922 silent black & white picture Nosferatu — is nevertheless considered a modern classic of German cinema. This spooky and atmospheric Vampire flick will screen theatrically in Los Angeles at Cinefamily on Fairfax from May 16 — 22. In a special 35th anniversary tribute, Cinefamily is presenting a brand new 35mm color print of the seldom-seen German language / English subtitled edition of this 20th century horror movie.

Thrillingly, the legendary director himself, Werner Herzog, is confirmed to attend the opening night screening on Saturday May 16th.  All information, including where to pre-purchase tickets can be found below.

Set primarily in 19th-century Wismar, Germany and Transylvania, and featuring some gorgeous and mysterious filming on remote locations, the movie was conceived as a stylistic remake of Murnau’s 1922 German Dracula adaptation. It proves semi-successful; odd and not all that scary, yet relatively faithful to Bram Stoker’s seminal ‘penny-dreadful’ novel Dracula. The cinematography is beautiful at times, but generally more realistic and domestic than the stunning, off-kilter expressionistic photography seen in Murnau’s original. [Friedrich Wilhelm “F. W.” Murnau (December 28, 1888 – March 11, 1931) was one of the most influential German film directors of the silent era.]

Portraying the predatory Count, Klaus Kinski is bizarrely made up as a rat-like, pale demon — creepy and otherworldly. In creating the vampire, Herzog and his star emulated the striking art direction seen Murnau’s German expressionist film, rendering his Count Dracula more like an animal than a human. The face and bare, shaved skull are ghostly white. The fingernails are savagely long and pointed. Appropriately — perhaps even a bit too obviously — the Count’s ears are pointy as well, just like those of a bat.

With her fair skin, luminous beauty and wide blue eyes, a young Isabelle Adjani successfully plays her ‘silent movie’ horror role of Lucy Harker to perfection. Bruno Ganz is also excellent as the young and naive hero Jonathan Harker.

Some dramatic scenes in this movie feature hundreds of live rats, teeming in packs, and invading the town infesting it with plague. (Traditionally, the curse of the Vampire’s bite was often equated with the rat-borne bubonic plague.)

According to wikipedia, these rats were treated inhumanely during production and regrettably many died from being plunged into boiling dye — Herzog wanted the white rats to be dyed grey.  12,000 rats were transported from Hungary to the Netherlands (for filming) and allegedly insufficiently fed, and so some ended up devouring each other. In 2010 Dutch behavioral biologist Maarten ‘t Hart, who was hired by Herzog for his expertise with laboratory rats, spoke openly about the mistreatment he witnessed and was unable to prevent. Hart apparently resigned from the film project on moral grounds.

Herzog‘s film was released as Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht in German and Nosferatu the Vampyre in English. It was entered into the 29th Berlin International Film Festival, where production designer Henning von Gierke won the Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement.

Klaus Kinski - Nosferatu.
Klaus Kinski – Nosferatu.

Nosferatu the Vampyre
Playing at the Cinefamily in Los Angeles
(The old Silent Movie Theatre)
611 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles CA 90036

*** Allow time to park on residential side streets West of Fairfax ***

More info, tickets and trailer here.

May 16 — 22, 2014.

TICKETS:
($12.00 or Free for members.

SHOWTIMES (subject to change):
————————————————————————————————–
Friday, May 16th: 7:20pm, 10:00pm
Saturday, May 17th: 8:00pm, 10:30pm
Sunday, May 18th: 5:00pm
Monday, May 19th: 9:30pm
Tuesday, May 20th: 9:50pm
Wednesday, May 21st: 9:50pm
Thursday, May 22nd: 10:00pm

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.

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