It's time for a Monsters at Play riddle, so put your thinking caps on.
I'm 80 years old.
I'm scary and creepy as all hell.
I'm stylish and very cool to look at. What am I?
No, I'm not Tom Hanks in 40 years. Of course I AM the super cool silent classic Nosferatu. In my humble opinion still the BEST translation of the Bram Stoker classic set to celluloid (and of course the first). How can this 80-year-old film be light years ahead of 99.7 % of most of the Hollywood crap put out today? Who the hell knows, too many questions, my head hurts.
The history of this gem is as sordid as it comes and we're damn lucky to still have it around. I recently picked up the Region 2 PAL 2-Disc set of Nosferatu released by Eureka Video. The Eureka release was put out as a companion piece to the theatrical release of Shadow of the Vampire (or what I like to call "The Film with the Longest Opening Credit Sequence of all Time"). Let's take a look at Eureka's release and see how this edition of Nosferatu stacks up against the many other home video appearances in recent years.
Nosferatu, historically speaking, was the first film version of the Bram Stoker classic. History tells us that no one involved with the production got permission to film the Dracula story, so names and locations were changed. The similarities of course were still too many to ignore and Florence Stoker, widow of Bram Stoker sued, and won. All prints of the film were ordered destroyed, lucky for us one survived.
I'm going to level with you. I bought this 2-Disc set for one reason and one reason only. It was marked down to about 11 bucks American, not too shabby. Anyone who's seen Nosferatu on video before should know what to expect. The film itself will never make reference quality, but then again how could we expect it to? All things considered, this presentation of Nosferatu on DVD looks pretty damn good. There are 2 versions of the film presented including the original Black and White and a Sepia (reddish tint) version. Nosferatu looks as good as one could expect including a nice clear sharp image. One should also expect the usual amount of splice marks, film dirt, grain, and scratches usually attributed with this silent classic.
This edition also boasts a new soundtrack in 5.1 surround written by Art Zoyd (?) needless to say that I was ultimately prepared for the worst. Imagine my surprise when I found myslef to be pleasantly surprised. The audio track seems oddly appropriate and is never overbearing. I liked it, imagine that. Besides, you can always enjoy Nosferatu set to the sounds of your favorite CD if you'd like so feel free to pop in that Neil Diamond or Public Enemy CD. It'll turn Nosferatu into a whole new viewing experience, no doubt.
Extras include two text essays, Origins of Vampires and Nosferatu's Controversy, both of which are interesting, reads. We're also treated to two brief featurettes including a tour of some of the original shooting locations and conceptual and promotional artwork. Next up are two trailers including one for the Nosferatu DVD, which plays off more like a DVD promo than anything else and a trailer for Shadow of the Vampire. Last but not least is the oddest extra, an anonymous audio commentary over the Sepia version of the film. The commentary is interesting enough, chock full of historical tidbits. My only question is, who was that masked man speaking?
Overall, I'd have to give this set a huge recommendation. If you have the ability to play Region 2 and PAL, for 11 bucks shipped to your door, you can't go wrong. Apparently there is a BFI version with some tinting that has also been given some high marks (complete with a new audio track composed by James Bernard who scored many vintage Hammer films). The BFI disc will however set you back at least 15 bucks more than the Eureka version. Choose wisely cause from what I hear the US disc won't hold a candle to either of these releases.