Thursday, November 7, 2013

NOSFERATU (Kino Classics Blu-ray)

Let’s not dwell on how brilliant a movie F.W. Muranau’s Nosferatu is though we could spend this whole review singing its praises and fearing it properly. It contains one of the scariest renditions of a vampire ever put to screen. Its influence is unquestionable. The respect paid to it, unequivocal in all of the horror-verse. It’s one fantastic benchmark by which you can judge all renditions of Dracula or any fang movie for that matter and yes, that goes for comparison to Tod Browning’s version or the Hammer rendition some years later. Yes, Max Schreck is pure evil as the Count, and we all know the story about the filmmakers not getting the rights to use Bram Stoker’s work, his widow fighting an infringement case and then many of the prints being destroyed leaving the world to wonder what a Nosferatu might look like on film… except for our good fortune, a few prints survived. When I think of truly scary films, it floats to the top of the list even though it’s ninety years old. What was once a film print, heavily marred and incomplete is now restored, remastered and on Blu-ray disc from Kino Classics. That is what we are here to discuss; how this disc holds up in face of countless versions having been released since the age of priced to own media.

I own the Kino Classics DVD, and for me this is a trip down memory lane. The restoration looks to be about identical with the previously released version though a more meticulous eye than mine might point out the places in which the Blu-ray disc and newly mastered HD edition truly shapes the film into a different product.

The audio is crystal clear and available in 2.0 DTS and 5.1 surround which will be nice for you tech junkies. For me, the score is too perfect for this film that is battered and bruised. I think an option I might like to see would be a beat up, older sounding work (in addition to the Hans Erdmann original score as performed by Saarbrucken Radio Symphony). This the score by which you might have enjoyed the movie in 1922 upon its release, so it makes sense to enjoy it that way.  I can remember back to watching The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, seeing different versions with different scores and appreciating some of the newer renditions much better than the historically accurate score. I remember taking a course in film history. In this class the final project was to make a student film. We first watched a movie with one score, the original intended rock score and then gradually offered alternative versions as an example of how the viewing experience would change. Thankfully, if you feel the same as I do, then you simply can turn down the audio and play your own score. Try the old film history class experiment for yourself.

The extras are the same as were released on the original DVD, but equally interesting to fans of Murnau’s work. There are clips from his movies Journey Into the Night, The Haunted Castle, Phantom, The Finances of the Grand Duke, The Last laugh, Tartuffe, Faust and Tabu. These are sure to interest the film scholarly but may be dry for the casual horror viewer.  The Language of Shadows is a documentary about the making of Nosferatu released in 2007. It seems to primary focus on the life Murnau leading up to the creation of the film. The later half of the movie does focus on shot choice, lens selection and shooting style used in Nosferatu. The disc contains an image gallery as well.

As a two disc set, you get version with English intertitles and one with German intertitles (with optional English subtitles). This viewing experience will be for the true Nosferatu fan and scholar.

Overall it is a solid release but only in so far as it reproduces what made the original DVD release from Kino successful. This will be a great addition for those of you who don’t own the DVD or own an older, unrestored VHS or DVD copy. I can tell you that there are plenty of unrestored, double feature discs out there that cannot possibly be compared to this Blu-ray edition. Consider this a chance to upgrade in an HD format.


Note: Per a criticism in the comments section of this review that demanded a more technical review, I went back to both discs again to do a more thorough analysis. I'm usually not a quality hound and don't do tech specs ( gets paid to do tech specs and they are amazing at it). I try to offer guidance based on my experiences with discs as best I can especially with a movie I've seen on every format but film. Here goes.

Frames Per Second: 18 frames per second timed to be accurate the original release. This should be the same either DVD or Blu-ray as it was the intention of both releases to be historically accurate.

DNR: I don't see much of it. I can't imagine a movie as banged up as Nosferatu would suffer DNR well because quite frankly it would end up looking like Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Too smeared to be intelligible. It was not immediately obvious if it was used throughout, but I didn't notice it.

The quality from DVD to Blu-ray... the difference isn't terrible noticeable, but I can see a few moments where good ol' Count Orlok actually appears to be better defined in the frame and a tad bit more film grain. That says to me that we're working with a higher definition transfer though I still maintain that the upgrade, with no other features may not be immediately obvious to casual viewer.

The DVD release contains a handsome all be it short book. This info is mostly digitized for the Blu-ray release. Packaging is standard Blu-ray with a slip sleeve as opposed to the bulky oversized carrier of the DVD (this is pure preference).

It is not my intention to provide less than tech reviews. Will try to help you guys out better in the future. There simply wasn't a whole lot of info present save for the info provided on the original DVD HD transfer which I could not necessarily confirm was attributed to the Blu-ray as well.

Hope this helps. 


  1. Not much of a review, especially when it comes to video quality. It would be nice to know if any DNR was used, how much film grain is present (too much, too little). Is the frame rate identical to the DVD version, etc.

    1. Without being certain I'm not going to assert this, but I suspect it to be the very same transfer, ported to the Blu. I simply don't have enough. If they used DNR on this release, the entire thing would look like a smeared Van Gogh painting. Nosferatu is a film from 1922, badly damaged and worn. This is all present here, has not been corrected (appropriately so) and in all likelihood simply cannot get better than the DVD release.

    2. Added some additional notes after the signature in my review. Hope these help. Will try to provide more technical reviews in the future for some of these older releases. Took some extra digging to find it. Hopefully no malpractice suit will ensue. Sorry for the lack of detail.