Nosferatu the Vampyre

F.W. Murnau’s harrowing 1922 adaptation of the Dracula legend, Nosferatu, the Symphony of Horror, has been described as evoking the bizarre. That’s an understatement. Just look at actor Max Schreck as Count Orlok: cadaver head, rat’s teeth, bat ears, eagle beak nose, claw hands, emaciated as a bone. Bizarre’s not the word.

When director Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo; Aguirre, the Wrath of God) remade Murnau’s classic as Nosferatu the Vampyre in 1979, who else but his muse, expressionistic actor Klaus Kinski, could possibly play the creepy count? Made up to look like the iconic Schreck, Kinski is an undead gargoyle.

Herzog overlays Stoker with a heavy dose of middle European existential angst, as if living forever is damnation enough. Herzog borrows liberally from Murnau, copying images as if by xerox, but at least his night scenes look like night, unlike Murnau’s bright-as-day midnights. His pictures are living Caspar David Friedrich landscapes. Also on hand is the lovely Isabelle Adjani, whose ivory neck is ripe for Kinski’s kisses, although she’s as angst-filled as her nemesis. And then there’s that kicker of an ending. Herzog’s deft little touch keeps the legend as spooky as ever.

A restored version of the film screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.
Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 7 p.m., 2014

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover