Directed by F.W. Murnau
Production Company Jofa-Atelier Berlin-Johannisthal, Prana-Film GmbH
Running time 85 min
By no means a completely faithful translation of Bram Stoker’s novel, German master F.W. Murnau’s silent film was nevertheless the first serious Dracula adaptation and a recognised classic of Expressionist cinema. The main plot innovation is the plague theme: Nosferatu’s vampire brings hordes of disease-carrying rats which infect the town as he arrives by sea on the ill-fated Demeter.
Since this was an unofficial production, character names were changed (Count Dracula becomes Count Orlok), while several roles including Abraham Van Helsing are downplayed or dispensed with entirely. The novel’s English scenes are transposed to Germany; Czechoslovakia stands in for Transylvania. Max Schreck’s iconic portrayal of the repellent fiend Orlok represents the polar opposite of the suave Count later typified by Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee.
Bram Stoker’s widow Florence successfully sued Nosferatu’s production company for copyright infringement, and all prints were to be destroyed by court order. Luckily this was never achieved.