The VAMP TERROR FROM WERNER HERZOG: Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, 1979

Movie synopsis: Count Dracula moves from Transylvania to Wismar, spreading the Black Plague across the land. Only a woman pure of heart can bring an end to his reign of horror.

Director & Written By:Werner Herzog

Stars: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz

Original Title: Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht

IMdB Rating: 7.5

Metascore: 79

Runtime: 107 Min.

Country: West Germany, France

Language: German, English, Romany

Release Date:15 February 1979 (Italy)

Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) - Trailer

We laffed when George Hamilton as the Carpathian Count (he of the crimson cup) sat down to sup a bite. We howled when he snarled at the wolves of darkness. "Children of the night— shut up!”

We gasped when Draculangella impaled Lord Laurence Van Helsing!

But Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu, following in the footsteps (1922) of Max Schreck, who evoked shrieks in the silent version, Kinski is a vampire, unlike Hamilton, Langella, Lugosi, Carradine, Palance, Chaney Jr. Lederer, Lee, Peel, Aumont et al. Perhaps the nearest "thing" to the Schreck/Kinski Nosferatu was the Turkish. terror Atif Kaptan in ''DRAKULA ISTANBUL'da'' (DRACULA IN ISTANBUL) in 1953.




Now it is 1979 and NOSFERATU is here. . . On our doorsteps... In our homes. . ... Clutching at our hearts. . . Nibbling on our necks.

Nibbling is the wrong word. Because it is too bland, too neutral a description, too susceptible of amusing interpretation, like gooshing. There is nothing funny about Nosferatu.

Not even remotely.

He bites, he sucks, he drains; he destroys.

The Terror from Transylvania Herzog's Horror

Nosferatu. The event he names is sinister. Its very meaning burning into the brain: The Undead!

He doesn't come to us dressed in formal wear.He doesn't mingle with people or dance disco.

Nosferatu (insert) Miss Harker harkens to the presence of the Undead one. Who darkens the lives of all whom he, Dracula encounters...

If there were a way to enter the graveyard, remove a corpse from the coffin and somehow restore life to its stiff muscles & withered tissues, that would give you some idea of the terror that emerged from Transylvania.  A living corpse. A contradiction to all that is normal. A being so ugly, so vile, it defies description.

Consider, if you will, the pale, deathly complexion & the bat-like features. Ears that curl & fold like a bat, shallow face & deep-set eyes sunk into black sockets. Fangs hinged on the two front teeth, not the usual eye-teeth we are so accustomed to. This thing, this undead menace, is tall & slender. Long, sharp talons (you’d hardly call them fingernails.) on each hand. His skin cold & hard.

And he is motivated by only one thing ----

To drink the blood of his victims so that he may live an everlasting life.

Director Werner Herzog did not set out to turn NOSFERATU into a comedy. He has great respect for the original 1922 version and has brought that terror to the screen.

As in the original, the new movie is based on Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula. All the elements we are so familiar with are there.


Thunder & lightning, howling wolves, frightened townspeople.

The Carpathian Mountains.

And. Of course, the Master of the Undead himself. The Evil One. The one called Nosferatu. What Werner Herzog has accomplished is to take the original concept and update it somewhat, employing the same elements of suspense & terror, only displaying them more brilliantly with today’s techniques. The special effects in this new version play an important part in the telling of the story. Back in 1922 the film industry was strapped by old-fashioned equipment, and the photographic techniques of then can't compare with today’s sophisticated machinery. So Herzog gives us a new, updated version in the respect that it’s technically superior to the original. And he’s experimented somewhat with plot & individual characters.


But the terror is still there, only more so. One person who was fortunate enough to catch a sneak preview commented on the film by simply saying. "My blood ran cold!”

The very sight of the undead thing is enough to bring chills to one’s spine and make goosebumps rise on one's arms. Nosferatu doesn't just walk into a room or make a grand entrance a la George Hamilton or Frank Langella. The cape isn’t flowing about his shoulders, and he doesn't arrive in with a gleam in his eye or a light stride in his walk.

Au contraire! (That’s French for uh-uh.)

Nosferatu sort of slinks into the room.

Like an animal about to pounce, seeking out its prey.

His very presence denotes evil.

He’s loathsome, wicked, something detestable.There is no gleam in that sunken orb. He woops down on his victim like a lion closing in for the kill. And he kills without pity or remorse.


Unlike the other Dracula, this one does not feel pity for himself or others.He is in total control of the situation. He is not burdened by the so-called Curse of the Undead which has stricken him for centuries. He exists, and he intends to do so for an eternity. Nosferatu must move on. His castle in Transylvania is like a plague. The villagers for miles around avoid it, Knowing full well that something evil inhabits its time-worn walls. Too many natives have disappeared without a trace, and no one will face up to the Count. It’s time to move on to a place where no one has even heard of Transylvania or the Castle of Nosferatu. Enter real-estate salesman Jonathan Harker, sent to procure a signed agreement with the Count for housing in another town. During dinner the young broker cuts his finger, drawing a drop of blood. The vampire is upon him in a flash, sucking the sanguine fluid. Later that evening Harker awakens to find 2 puncture wounds in his neck. His bizarre host is nowhere to be found. During the night, however, the host enters Jonathan's bedroom, his terrifying form casting eerie shadows on the walls.


During the light of the next day Jonathan tries to find his host. What he finds instead is a nightmare beyond belief. Dracula, in his coffin, eyes wide open staring blindly into the air.

Not breathing.

No life at all

A corpse!

Jonathan flees in terror to his room, where he barricades the door. From the window he sees a stack of coffins being loaded into a carriage.

And what's in the other coffins?

An army of rats!


This repellent collection is loaded onto a ship headed for the harbor of Wismar. But when the ill-fated vessel makes port, no one is alive on board! The phantom sea-craft brings terror to the citizens 01 this quiet little town. The ship's dead captain is found tied to the steering wheel, and an examination of the ship’s log explains that a plague has hit them! It doesn't take long for fear to grip the town. First it's overrun by rats, and with word of plague racing thru the streets the frightened citizens lock their doors & bar their windows at night.

Perfect camouflage for Dracula to move his coffins into his new residence next to the beloved Lucy!


Dracula doesn't waste much time making his move. He enters Lucy’s bed chamber and makes an advance but Lucy gives him a cold, stem reproach and bluntly voices her objection. Later Lucy discovers a volume on vampirism in the library. It is here that she learns the dark secret of the cadaverous Count. The books tell how a vampire casts no shadow. Its image will not reflect in a mirror. And those whom it kills will return as phantoms of the night, a corps of undead corpses roaming the countryside.

But thru all the darkness a light shines: there is a way to destroy him and Lucy follows the instructions of the book to carry out her plan. She seeks the aid of the townspeople but finds a depressing situation; they have all gone mad, not really caring one way or the other about life. They are only interested in death! The will to live has been extinguished and now they romp thru the streets amongst the animals, shouting & screaming, destroying their own homes, tossing their belongings into the street!

It’s a scene of utter madness!

Even Dr. Van Helsing refuses to help. His attentions are turned elsewhere, and he cannot be bothered with Lucy’s pleas.


Lucy must face Nosferatu alone.

In the dead of night.

She must offer herself willingly to the vampire, give her body and soul to him. Only that way can she kill him.

How does one hope to kill something that is already dead? They say that fire consumes all, and Dracula would surely not walk into a fire. At least not willingly. But there are other fires. Like the fire of the sun’s rays! The hours drag by as Lucy abandons herself to the carnal embrace of the vampire. It is agony, just being in the same room with Nosferatu. But to bear his touch, with those long nails & that grave-cold breath, is a test of heroic endurance. But Lucy maintains her stamina, submitting bravely to the horrid advances. Dracula is so engrossed in drinking her blood that he does not notice the room growing steadily brighter.

Not until he hears the rooster announcing the crack of dawn! He raises his head with a look of fear on his otherwise expressionless face. But Lucy pulls him back down, her arms wrapped around his neck. He returns to drinking her blood. Light moves at a speed exceeding that of anything alive... or dead. Dracula is caught off guard. The first rays of the sun strike his back! He leaps to his feet, staggering about the room in painful torment. The light licks at his body like flame, destroying years of built-up decay. He lets out a piercing shriek before the rays eventually dissolve the hell-spawned thing and it dies. Lucy has won.


But the prize for Lucy's victory is her life. She has died because of loss of blood and more than likely, of fright. Her ordeal was an impossible one to bear, and few people would have— could have— endured it.

Van Helsing, still researching the weird circumstances, oxides to help Lucy after all. But it is too late. Arriving at the house, he finds Lucy dead, a kind of smile on her face and the remains of Dracula on the floor. Convinced of the thing's power he plunges a stake thru its heart to make sure that Nosferatu will rise no more! The authorities, on the other hand, are not as believing and feel that Van Helsing has deliberately murdered an innocent man! He is taken away for murder!


We might add that Jonathan Harker still exists but his part in the film is so frightful we wouldn’t want to spoil the climax by revealing what happens next. It's a trend these days with Dracula movies to alter the endings. The reason for this is simply that everyone knows the stories by heart. If one knows what’s going to happen, there’s no element of surprise left. All of you who've seen the new DRACULA expected the usual ending seen so many times before from Lugosi's version thru Lee's films. But they fooled us when Dracula turned the tables and plunged the stake thru Van Helsing's heart!