Nosferatu- this is a word you’re all familiar with, isn’t that right my Little Monsters? The 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.
One can safely say that 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 subject matter 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 (of shit), Dracula Untold. This movie was nothing more than an effects driven studio revenue grab that relied heavily on the popularity of a character such as Dracula, or perhaps vampire lore in general, to lure movie goers. Hell, they didn’t even get his age right for the time period in which the movie takes place. During the time they represented, Vlad would have been 11 years old.
And then there is David Lee Fisher’s upcoming remake of Nosferatu, featuring Doug Jones in the role of Graf Orlock. As you can tell by the lead character’s name, this film appears to be retaining the changes made to the story by F.W. Murnau…I’ll get into those changes in a second.
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.
Jeff Robinov, Chris Columbus and Eleanor Columbus seem hell-bent on bringing a remake of the F.W. Murnau’s classic silent film, Nosferatu, to the big screen by way of Robinov’s 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 film will also feature Anya Taylor-Joy who previously worked with Eggers on The Witch in the role of Thomasin. And as much as I loved The Witch and also think Taylor-Joy is a talented young actress, I don’t question whether they would create a good remake as much as I question the need for one.
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 in no way fooled. And when she sued for copyright infringement, neither was the court. The ruling handed down was that every last print of the film in existence should be destroyed; luckily for generations of cinephiles (that’s rabid movie fans to you and me, Rusty) 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. How can that be? Because 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 for years that 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 that does NOT feature bedazzled, brooding, emo vampires. What say you, my Little Monsters?