Jonathan Harker is lured into hell when he accepts an errand to the Carpathian mountains-and hell follows him home, in the form of "the bird of death," or "Nosferatu" (1922). Failing to get permission to adapt Bram Stoker's classic novel, "Dracula," the filmmakers changed "vampire" to "Nosferatu" and swapped out the characters' names: Count Orlok for Count Dracula, Thomas Hutter for Jonathan Harker, Ellen Hutter for Mina Harker, etc. In the version aired on UEN-TV, the names have been handily returned to Stoker's originals-an easy maneuver to make in a silent film.
In the early 20th Century, silent films were screened with live, local music, often a piano or organ, but sometimes a full orchestra. As with movie soundtracks today, the music was intended to enhance the mood of the film and was often improvised according to the musicians' skill, interpretation of the film and understanding of their audience. UEN-TV's version of "Nosferatu" includes a jazz-infused score that uses electric guitar and motifs more fitting for a late 20th Century soundtrack. For a film created in the Twenties, for a story set in the 1800s and aired for UEN viewers today, this music adds another time-warping level of weird to the experience.
The copyright holders of Stoker's novel objected so strenuously that a court ruled that all copies of the film be destroyed. Fortunately for film history, at least one copy slipped through: Max Schreck's standout performance as the villain is just one reason the film is considered a masterpiece of early Twentieth Century cinema by director F.W. Murnau.
Michael CaronMichael Caron, Senior Lecturer in Plant Science at Utah State University, discusses "the vampire of the plant world" and the film "Nosferatu."
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