Nosferatu the Vampyre: Wikis


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Nosferatu the Vampyre

A promotional film poster for Nosferatu The Vampyre
Directed by Werner Herzog
Produced by Michael Gruskoff
Werner Herzog
Walter Saxer
Daniel Toscan du Plantier
Written by Werner Herzog
Bram Stoker (novel)
Starring Klaus Kinski
Isabelle Adjani
Bruno Ganz
Music by Popol Vuh
Cinematography Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein
Editing by Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date(s) 5 October 1979
Running time 107 min.
Country West Germany
Language German
Budget 2.5 million DEM
Followed by Vampire in Venice

Nosferatu the Vampyre is a 1979 West German vampire horror film. Its original German title is Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht ("Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night"). The film is set primarily in nineteenth-century Wismar, Germany and Transylvania, Romania, and was conceived as a stylistic remake of the 1922 German Dracula adaptation, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens. Written and directed by Werner Herzog, Nosferatu the Vampyre stars Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula, Isabelle Adjani as Lucy Harker, Bruno Ganz as Jonathan Harker and French artist-writer Roland Topor as Renfield.

Herzog's production of Nosferatu the Vampyre was very well received by critics but only warmly by filmgoers, enjoying a comfortable degree of commercial success.[1] The film also marks the second of five legendary collaborations between director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski,[2] immediately followed by 1979's Woyzeck.

An almost completely unrelated sequel, Vampire in Venice, was released in 1988 by director Augusto Caminito, with only Klaus Kinski returning to reprise his loosely connected role.


Plot summary

Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) is an estate agent in Wismar, Germany. His boss, Renfield (Roland Topor), informs him that a nobleman named Count Dracula wishes to buy a property in Wismar, and assigns Harker to visit the count and complete the lucrative deal. Leaving his young wife Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) behind in Wismar, Harker travels for four weeks to Transylvania, Romania, to the castle of Count Dracula. He brings with him the deeds and documents needed to sell the house to the Count.

On his journey, Jonathan stops at a village, where locals warn him of the castle's 'evil', pleading for him to stay clear of the accursed castle, providing him with details of vampirism. But Harker ignores the villager's pleas as wild superstition, and continues his journey unassisted. Harker arrives at Dracula's castle, where he meets the Count (Klaus Kinski). The mysterious nobleman is a strange, ancient, almost rodent-like man, with large ears, pale skin, sharp teeth and long fingernails. Despite these horrifying traits, however, Dracula proves surprisingly accommodating, offering Harker his full hospitality.

The lonely Count is enchanted by a small portrait of Jonathan's wife, Lucy, and immediately agrees to purchase the Wismar property, especially with the knowledge that he and Lucy would become neighbors. As Jonathan's visit progresses, he is haunted at night by a number of dream-like encounters with the vampiric Count. Simultaneously, in Wismar, Lucy is tormented by night terrors, plagued by images of impending doom. Additionally, Renfield is committed to an asylum after biting a cow, apparently having lapsed into a psychosis.

To Harker's horror, he finds the Count asleep in a coffin, confirming for him that Dracula is indeed a vampire. At night, Dracula leaves for Wismar, taking with him a number of coffins, filled with the cursed earth that he needs for his vampiric rest. Harker finds that he is locked in the castle, and attempts to escape through a window with a makeshift rope. The rope, fashioned from bedsheets, is not long enough, and Jonathan falls, severely injuring himself. He awakes on the ground the next morning, stirred by the sound of a young gypsy boy loudly playing a violin. He is eventually sent to a hospital and raves about "black coffins" to doctors, who then assume that the sickness is affecting his mind.

Meanwhile, Dracula and his coffins travel to Wismar by boat. The crew systematically die or disappear at the hand of the vampire, but with the belief that they are afflicted with plague. The ghost ship arrives at Wismar with its mysterious cargo, where doctors - including Van Helsing (Walter Ladengast) - investigate the strange fate of the ship. They discover a log that mentions their perceived affliction with plague. In turn, Wismar is flooded with rats from the ship. Dracula arrives in Wismar with his coffins, and death spreads rapidly throughout the town.

When Jonathan is finally transported home, he is desperately ill, and does not appear to recognize his wife, Lucy. Lucy later has an encounter with the lonely Count Dracula. Weary and unable to die, he demands some of the love that she gave so freely to Jonathan, but she refuses, much to Dracula's dismay.

Now aware that something other than plague is responsible for the death that has beset her once-peaceful town, Lucy desperately tries to convince the town people, but they are skeptical and uninterested. She finds that she can vanquish Dracula's evil by distracting him at dawn, but at the expense of her own life. She lures the Count to her bedroom, where he proceeds to drink her blood. ‎ Lucy's beauty and purity distract Dracula from the call of the cockerel, and at the first light of day, he collapses to the floor. Van Helsing arrives to discover Lucy, dead but victorious. He then finishes the Count off with a stake through the heart. In a final, chilling twist, Jonathan Harker awakes from his sickness, a vampire, and arranges for Van Helsing's arrest. He is last seen traveling away on horseback, enigmatically stating that he has much to do.

Deviations from the novel

This list is not exhaustive, but intended to convey a sense of the differences between the film and the novel:

  • The setting is shifted to circa 1838 Wismar.
  • Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra are combined into "Lucy Harker."
  • Mina is married to a man named Schrader
  • Mina is killed by Dracula but does not become a vampire
  • The characters of Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris are omitted.
  • Renfield is Harker's employer.
  • Dracula has no brides in his castle.
  • Dracula brings with him the plague and ravages the city.
  • Dracula makes Jonathan Harker a vampire.
  • Dracula does not shapeshift.
  • Much is made of a kind of psychic connection between Lucy and Harker.
  • Dracula must sleep by day, as sunlight is lethal to him.
  • Van Helsing runs the Asylum
  • Renfield goes to Riga with plague rats and does not die
  • Lucy offers her blood to Dracula to distract him until sunrise (which kills him) Lucy also dies in the process
  • Van Helsing is arrested for staking an already dead Dracula



While Nosferatu the Vampyre's basic story is derived from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, director Werner Herzog made the 1979 film primarily as an homage remake of F. W. Murnau's seminal silent film, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), which differs somewhat from Stoker's original work. The makers of the earlier film could not obtain the rights for a film adaptation of Dracula, so they changed a number of minor details and character names in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid copyright infringement on the intellectual property owned (at the time) by Stoker's widow. A lawsuit was filed, resulting in an order for the destruction of all prints of the film. Fortunately, some prints survived, and were restored after Florence Stoker had died and the copyright had expired.[3]

Herzog considered Murnau's Nosferatu to be the greatest film ever to come out of Germany,[4] and was keen to make his own version of the film, with the versatile Klaus Kinski in the leading role. In 1979, by which time the copyright for Dracula had entered the public domain, Herzog proceeded with his updated version of the classic German film, which could now include the original character names. Strangely, however, Jonathan Harker's wife was named 'Lucy Harker', even though her name was Mina in the original novel, and a woman named 'Lucy' was a friend of Mina's. In Herzog's production, the reverse is true.


Nosferatu the Vampyre was co-produced by Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, Gaumont and ZDF. As was common for German films during the 1970s, Nosferatu the Vampyre was filmed on a minimal budget, and with a crew of just 16 people. Herzog could not film in Wismar, where the original Murnau film was shot, so he relocated production to Delft, the Netherlands.[1] Parts of the film were shot in nearby Schiedam, after Delft authorities refused to allow Herzog to release 11,000 rats for a scene in the film.[4] Dracula's home is represented by locations in Czechoslovakia.

At the request of distributor 20th Century Fox, Herzog produced two versions of the movie simultaneously, to appeal to western audiences. Scenes with dialogue were filmed twice, in German and in English, meaning that the actor's own voices (as opposed to dubbed dialogue by voice actors) could be included in the English version of the film. However, many consider the performances in the German language version to be superior,[5] as Kinski and Ganz could act more confidently in their native language.

Music for the film was performed by the German group Popol Vuh, who have collaborated with Herzog on numerous projects.

Herzog's production maintained an element of horror, with numerous deaths and a grim outlook, but it features a more expanded plot than many Dracula productions, with a greater emphasis on emotion and the vampire's tragic loneliness.[6] Graf Orlok (now reverted to Count Dracula) is still a ghastly figure, but he was given a greater sense of pathos; weary, unloved, and doomed to immortality.

Klaus Kinski's Dracula make-up, with black costume, bald head, rat-like teeth and long fingernails, is a suitable imitation of Max Schreck's makeup in the 1922 original. A number of shots in the film are faithful recreations of iconic shots from Murnau's original film, some almost perfectly identical to their counterparts, but this was done as homage rather than imitation.[7]



The film was released as Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht in the German language edition and Nosferatu the Vampyre in English language edition.

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes indicates that the film is highly regarded today, having a rating of 96%. Reviewer John J. Puccio of DVDTown considers it a faithful homage to Murnau's original film, significantly updating the original material, and avoiding the danger of being overly derivative.[8]


  • The mummies at the beginning of the movie are genuine, and can be found at the Guanajuato Mummy Museum in Mexico.
  • A different recording of "Zinzkaro", the Georgian folk song performed on the film's soundtrack by the Vocal Ensemble Gordela, was used by Kate Bush in the song "Hello Earth" on her 1985 album Hounds of Love.


External links

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