Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night (1979)
"Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night" is an almost verbatim remake of the 1920s silent, horror classic "Nosferatu." Though all the actions of the characters are almost identical, the nature of the vampire is what changes.
In the silent movie, Nosferatu (never referred to as Count Dracula...instead he was Count Orlok) was a creature and not human. Perhaps it was the surge of modernism and realism that made the change to the beast—but more of that latter.
The movie starts much like the original did—a man, Jonathan, and his wife, Lucy, are a happily married couple. Jonathan works for a man selling real estate. This man (a Peter Lorre lookalike) is obviously in cahoots with Count Dracula....and there is blood sucking to be done.
Jonathan's boss volunteers him to go sell Count Dracula of Transylvania a house. Really all that's going on is a lamb being sent to the slaughter.
From here on, it's just like the original: the wife gets dumped at a friend's house because she's not that stable (there is some psychic connection between Jonathan and Lucy), the husband goes off to the castle, he gets sidetracked by a group of locals who tell him ghost stories of the castle and the land surrounding, the husband sets off on foot, and eventually he meets Count Dracula.
Then, after seeing a picture of the wife's neck, Count Dracula decides to go to Jonathan's home town and bring the plague with him...because, that's what everyone does.
There are only two notable things that change from the original to this—the very ending and the aforementioned nature of the vampire.
In the original, it was clear that Nosferatu was not human...I believe I mentioned that before. He was a beast, perhaps even a plant. He fed for survival, wanting no malice done to humans—simply enjoying their blood for his nourishment.
Although this movie also has the line: "Blood is life" spoken as the 1922 movie did—it is an entirely different connotation in this film.
The vampire of this movie is a human trapped by his desires and urges. Within the first few minutes of meeting, Jonathan, Count Dracula muses about how wonderful it would be to be able to die.
If this guy had a bumper sticker it would be Immortal and hating it!
The original made no attempt to describe the lore of vampires...that is, what happens when you're bitten. This movie does—and it goes into crucifixes and daylight and whatnot.
I can't help but reminisce about "Let the Right One In"...one particular scene that has sunlight meeting a vampire. The woman explodes into a pillar of fire that lights up the room—it's so effective.
Going from that to this...it looks childish.
The camera work is interesting because it predates Aronofsky. The camera becomes another character that follows Jonathan in particular around.
Lucy is an angelically bleak character whose love is the subject of Count Dracula's attraction.
This film delves more into the sexual side of vampires—though, I'll admit it, you do have to look hard to find it...but it is there, I promise you.
Between the three main characters: Lucy, Count Dracula, and Jonathan; I doubt you could find a more boring bunch of people.
The music is too synthesized and cheerful to be taken seriously.
This is one remake that needs a remake.
It is very interesting and, at times, it's almost poetic in its approach. More epic in scope, but somehow just as cartoonish "Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night" doesn't achieve greatness.
You'd be better off just watching the original.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones