Nosferatu, this word has about as many explanations regarding its meaning and origin as there have been films made about the creature the word represents. Frankly, fans of vampire movies aren’t likely to care much about the word’s true origin, as much as they will care about sub par movie representations of their favorite blood sucking creatures of the night.
Vampire movies have always been something of a cash cow for studios. Especially since, for better or worse, filmmakers are always finding new ways to keep said genre alive, or perhaps undead would be a better way of putting it. Of course this doesn’t stop the studios from trying to squeeze every last cinematic drop of blood they can from the king of the vampires himself, Count Dracula.
The most recent attempt at telling the Dracula story was the origin piece, Dracula Untold. One only needs to read my review of this movie to know that it was nothing more than an effects driven studio revenue grab that relied heavily on the popularity of a character such as Dracula to lure movie goers.
Well, since Hollywood is so bereft of original ideas, it appears old Vlad is being dragged from his coffin to manifest himself on the big screen once again.
According to Deadline, Jeff Ronbinov, the former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, will be bringing a remake of the F.W. Murnau’s classic silent film, Nosferatu, to the big screen by way of his new production company, Studio 8. Robert Eggers, who won the directing prize at The Sundance Film Festival for his film The Witch, has been brought in to write and direct, the currently untitled remake.
Now some may be asking how the topic shifted from a new Dracula film to a remake of Nosferatu, while others will understand perfectly. For those who don’t know, Nosferatu was Murnaus’s unauthorized silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula. Since the rights could not be obtained from Stoker’s widow, certain details had to be changed as well as the character names. For instance, the name Count Dracula was changed to Graf Orlock, who was portrayed by Max Schreck. Yes, that’s right…Nosferatu is not the name of the vampire, his name was Graf Orlock. In fact Nosferatu was a term Stoker used in his novel when referring to the creature we otherwise know as a vampire. The ending of Murnau’s film also differed from that of Stoker’s novel, but for those unfamiliar with the two endings no spoilers will be given here.
Despite any changes that were made, Stoker’s widow was not fooled. And when she sued for copyright infringement, neither was the court. The ruling handed down was that every print of the film in existence should be destroyed; luckily for generations of cinephiles a few copies of Murnau’s classic vampire film survived the purge.
In 1979, German director Werner Herzog paid homage to Nosferatu by doing a very faithful remake, with Klaus Kinski in the lead role of Count Dracula. In Herzog’s version the names of the characters were able to be restored to those from Stoker’s novel. In Europe, the novel has been in public domain since the spring of 1962, so there was no risk of copyright infringement.
Being that Stoker’s novel is now in public domain, this has opened it up to be adapted as many times as the movie studios see fit. As of May 2012, Dracula was reported by Guinness World Records to have been portrayed 272 times on the big screen. And since Nosferatu’s lead character, Graf Orlock, was a veiled depiction of Dracula, a remake of this movie would just be one more portrayal and film adaptation to be added to their respective ever-growing lists.
Perhaps it’s time to stop beating an undead horse and move on from Dracula or the mythos surrounding him for a while. Filmmakers have shown they have the ability to create films that have featured all manner of different vampires, while neither eluding to nor showing any direct connection back to the character of Dracula. Certainly somewhere out there, a vampire story has been or will be written that is not only worthy of the big screen, but also has no connection to Dracula…preferably a story without bedazzled, brooding emo vampires.