Two years after a (now lost) version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde story called Der Januskopf, F.W. Murnau turned to another giant of Gothic literature: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Unlike the suave, moustachioed count of Stoker’s novel, Murnau’s Count Orlok is immortally embodied by actor Max Shreck as a bald and bulbous ghoul whose emaciated fingers cast fearful, flickering shadows.
Forsaking the highly stylised sets typical of German expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Murnau imparted a sense of dread to a real world of forests, mountains and open sea. Stoker’s widow sued the production company for its unauthorised adaptation, but the damage was done: the vampire had entered the jugular of popular cinema and the contagion is still with us a century later.