Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the hippest happening for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come on in and relax for a while. No cover charge. Costumes are optional. Dress code is casual. There are still a few good tables available. The show is about to start shortly, so you’re just in time. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
The World Series will start soon. I promise.
Last night, I asked you what you thought of the new 12-team playoff system. It wasn’t an overwhelming vote, but 41 percent of you who voted liked it. Another 26 percent do not like it while 33 percent of you are “meh” about the whole thing. I always wonder in cases where I put in a “meh” option how many of you are so “meh” that you don’t even bother to vote? I guess I’ll never know.
Here’s the part where I talk about movies and jazz. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
I don’t know if tonight is the last After Dark of the Halloween season on Monday night’s edition is. But since I figure that for most of you, the holiday festivities will be over by the time Monday’s version publishes, we’ll finish out the Halloween season tonight.
Here’s Lambert, Hendricks & Ross singing “Halloween Spooks,” which is kind of the “Monster Mash” of jazz. So enjoy and get in the spirit of the season.
This week I’m taking a look at Nosferatu the Vampyre, the 1979 film directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz. If you haven’t read my first thoughts on it, you can go back and read those.
Nosferatu the Vampyre is a remake of the silent 1992 film Nosferatu, directed by F.W. Murnau. If you’re not familiar with that earlier film, it was an unauthorized version as Murnau was never able to get permission from Bram Stoker’s widow for the rights to make the film. Because of a copyright error, the book had fallen into the public domain in the United States, so Murnau thought he could get away with it without permission, despite the novel still being covered under copyright in Germany and the UK. Florence Stoker sued and in the settlement, the production company was ordered to recall all the prints and have them destroyed. But since the film was in the clear in the US, the print that made it across the ocean was saved from destruction and a masterpiece was preserved.
Murnau changed the names in Nosferatu—Count Dracula to Count Orlock, Harker to Hutter. Mina to Ellen and Renfield to Knock. Many accounts say that Murnau changed the names to avoid plagiarism charges, but since the opening title says that Nosferatu is based on Stoker’s Dracula, that seems unlikely to be the reason. More likely, Murnau was just Germanicizing the text. The action was also changed from London to Wisborg, a fictional German city on the Baltic Sea based on Wismar.
The story of Nosferatu is recognizable to anyone familiar with Dracula, either the book or the 1931 Tod Browning film, but in many ways it’s quite different. Rather than the suave Bela Lugosi with his exotic accent, Max Schreck’s Count Orlock is a ghoulish and more animalistic creature. Bald, pale white and with pointed ears, Orlock is more of an albino bat than an undead human being.
Herzog changes very little of the plot of Nosferatu in Nosferatu the Vampyre. With the novel having fallen into the public domain everywhere, he changed the names back to Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, Renfield and Lucy. (I’m not sure why he named Harker’s wife after Lucy Westenra and not Mina Harker.) But Kinski as Dracula is a close copy of Schreck as Orlock and owes nothing to Lugosi’s more famous portrayal. Herzog even re-uses some of the “dialogue” (interstitial titles) from Nosferatu and even recreates a few scenes down to the shot. It’s clear Herzog has great reverence for the original and he’s afraid of doing it a disservice.
(This is a marked contrast from the only other remake that Herzog ever made, as pretty much the only thing that Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans has in common with Bad Lieutenant is that they both feature a crooked cop.)
But while the plot is basically the same, Herzog strips it down to the bare essentials. Close to everything that doesn’t feature Dracula, Harker or Lucy is stripped from the script. Even Renfield’s part is reduced, although Herzog does give Roland Topor a chance to act like an insane maniac in a couple of scenes. (It wouldn’t be a Herzog film without someone acting completely bonkers.) Kinski, remarkably, remains relatively restrained for a man who never saw a piece of scenery that didn’t make him hungry. His Dracula is still animalistic like Count Orlock, but he also manages to convey a deep sadness at the curse of immortality that Schreck never bothered with. His performance is almost subtle, which is not something I ever thought I’d write about Kinski.
Instead of these side matters, Herzog instead decides to luxuriate over every detail in the main story. Harker’s journey to Count Dracula’s castle goes on for quite a while with Herzog concentrating on the sights and sounds of the journey. We don’t even see the pale visage of Kinski as Dracula until about 40 minutes into the film. Once inside Dracula’s castle, Herzog spends a lot of time having Harker explore the foreboding atmosphere of Dracula’s lair.
This film also starts with images of naturally-mummified corpses from a 19th Century Cholera epidemic in Mexico over the opening credits. Again, there’s that sense of dread that what nature brings in is not Thoreau’s Walden Pond but the Big Bad Wolf. But mostly, I think Herzog just thought they looked cool and wanted to used them.
I wrote last time that Dracula seems to represent the cruel and capricious character of the natural world. Herzog spends a lot of time showing us the clouds, the mountains, the fields and other elements of nature, but he doesn’t romanticize nature like another director probably would. His nature is not beauty and harmony but rather chaotic and random. There is no greater meaning there, but there is a vague sense of dread. Dracula is a creature of this world.
The other image that Herzog keeps returning to is rats. There are a lot of rats in this movie. There were a lot of rats in Murnau’s Nosferatu as well, but there are really, really a lot of rats in Herzog’s version. Your opinion of rats may vary, but here they are definitely meant to show an ugly and chaotic version of nature. This isn’t a creature that aids mankind like a horse but rather an ugly creature that scurries in the shadows and spreads the plague.
Harker (Ganz) is a 19th-century man of science. He is warned several times by the people of Transylvania not to go to Dracula’s castle, but he ignores them as the superstitious rantings of a primitive culture. When a man refused to take him there and even refuses to sell him a horse to ride there himself, he decides to walk. His motivation is clear: money. The commission he intends to earn from selling an abandoned manor across the street to Count Dracula will give him enough money to buy a bigger house for him, his wife Lucy and the family they intend to have. It’s the bourgeois dream and Harker is full of the Protestant work ethic that drives him to achieve it.
Lucy (Adjani) doesn’t really seem to care much for the house or the money, she just wants love and her Jonathan. She argues against her husband’s departure and longs for his return every day he was gone. At the same time Count Dracula menaces her beloved in Transylvania, she can sense the danger in her dreams. When Dracula arrives in Wismar, he demands from Lucy what she freely gives to Jonathan—her love.
One deviation from the original Nosferatu is how the two directors approach the “plague.” In both films, the townsfolk believe that the deaths in the town caused by the vampire are actually the result of a plague brought by the rats that accompanied him. But in Herzog’s film, Lucy figures out the truth and goes to warn them. However, she finds them partying in the streets and unwilling to listen to her. They explain to her that since they all have the plague and are going to die, they are going to have a good time before their deaths. This is all shot in a way that gives the whole experience a kind of dream-like feel. This kind of carpe diem theme was common in West German art and literature of the post-war era. The precarious position of Germany if World War III were to ever break out led to this theme repeating in West German culture. Herzog seems to be mocking this attitude here, although with Herzog, you can never be quite sure.
In the end, Lucy finds a way to defeat Dracula through vampire folklore that she accepts as the truth because of her faith and love for Jonathan. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but Herzog adds a twist to the end not present in Murnau’s film that shows that Lucy’s faith can only bring on a temporary victory. Nature always wins in the end.
As I wrote earlier in the week, Nosferatu the Vampyre is not really a movie of horror but of dread and eeriness. Herzog strips the Dracula story down to its bare essentials and then concentrates on every last detail of what remains. The acting performances are a bit stagey, but I’m pretty sure that’s intentional. Ganz’s Jonathan Harker is not a hero, but a pawn of nature that doesn’t realize he’s a pawn. Kinski is quite subdued for him and he keeps the same kind of dread going that Max Schreck did in the original film. (He was apparently on his best behavior during filming as well—neither Kinski nor Herzog tried to kill the other one during the shoot.) Adjani finds very little moments to show Lucy’s humanity and how she’s the only one who really ever figures out what’s going on.
Overall, the 1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre (Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht in German) is well-worth watching. If Murnau’s 1922 film is a masterpiece, Herzog’s version is a remake worthy of a classic.
Here’s the scene where Count Dracula first encounters Lucy. If you click the CC button, you should get English subtitles.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and cinema.
Tonight’s question is a simple one. I want your prediction for the World Series.
I’m not asking you who you are cheering for as I figure it would probably be about 90 percent for the Phillies. I suspect the Astros are going to win this vote, bit it should be a lot closer than that. Let’s hope the Series is a good one and goes seven games.
Who will win the World Series?
This poll is closed
Astros in 4
Astros in 5
Astros in 6
Astros in 7
Phillies in 7
Phillies in 6
Phillies in 5
Phillies in 4
Thank you for stopping by this evening. I hope we’ve made the end of your day a little more pleasant. If you checked anything, let us get it for you now. Please get home safely. If you need us to call a ride for you, let us know. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again next week for another edition of BCB After Dark.