Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

The Count's castle

The Count’s castle

My Werner Herzog education continues with Nosferatu the Vampyre. Really, who better to direct a vampire movie than Herzog? After watching it, I’m convinced the answer is no one.

You know the basics: Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) goes to Transylvania to sell Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski) a property (this time in Germany). On his four-week journey there, everyone tells Harker to stay the hell away from the castle; that dude’s a vampire! A kindly nurse even hands Harker a book on the subject – but never to be deterred, he continues on and finally makes it to the castle. Naturally he’s pretty horrified when he sees a whitewashed Kinski with rat-teeth salivate over his bloody finger!

Lucy looks longingly out the window. Sigh...

Lucy looks longingly out the window. Sigh…

Harker is, of course, right to be scared: the ancient vampire locks him up in his castle and shuffles off to Wismar, Germany where the Count’s new castle awaits, and where Harker’s beautiful wife Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) sits alone and vulnerable. Dracula and six coffins of cursed earth book passage on an unlucky ship; all crew members are dead on arrival at the docks in Wismar – seemingly from the plague carried by the ship’s many rat friends, but you and I know better.

The Count has virtually no time for his dedicated disciple, Renfield – he quickly rids himself of the man by telling him to travel around, spreading the plague. No, the Count has come for one main thing: the love of a woman, naturally. Lucy is no fool, though – she knows she just has to keep the count away from his coffin after the sun rises, andthe curse will be over! Or will it…

A face only a... nope, a face no one could love.

A face only a… nope, a face no one could love.


Of the many vampire films I’ve seen, this is probably the most visually attractive of all. From Harker’s journey on foot through the Carpathian mountains, to Lucy’s dreamlike walk through empty streets, it’s chock-full of gorgeous stuff, including more shadow-play than you could ever dream of. And, since we’re dealing with Herzog here, there’s a heaping dose of morosity and existentialism to keep you on the edge of your seat!

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