Nosferatu: The Film That Died (Part 1)

There is no doubt that Freidrich Willhelm Murnau’s Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (Symphony of Horror) is a piece of landmark cinema, both for its Expressionist filmmaking and its unique treatment of the vampire as plague. Yet few people saw this monumental film prior to 1960. Though slated for destruction by Bram Stoker’s widow, the film managed to survive, popping up in the most peculiar places.

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Here is a trailer for Nosferatu (colorized, but it’s the best of the batch) that shows just how ominous Max Schrek was in this part.

Nosferatu debuted at the Marble Hall of the Berlin Zoological Gardens in 1922. The movie was the first and last product of a small art collective called Prana Films — the brainchild of artist Albin Grau (later Nosferatu’s production designer). A month later, Florence Stoker caught wind, and she started the legal machines rolling. Her only income at this point was her deceased husband’s book Dracula, and she would not let some German production company steal her meal ticket. During the 1920s, intellectual rights were a bit dodgy, so Florence paid one British pound to join the British Incorporated Society of Authors to help defend her property. Never mind that the society would also pick up the tab for the potentially huge legal bills.

Florence_StokerFlorence seemed unaware that a second vampire film, this one called Drakula, was produced by a Hungarian company in 1921. Although the title harkens back to Bram Stoker’s novel, the resemblance ends there. This film, now lost save for some stills, was more concerned with eye gouging than straight out vampirism. Nosferatu on the other hand took much of its plot from Stoker’s Dracula, changing only the names.

The film continued to be exhibited in Germany and Budapest up through 1925, though Prana was beleaguered by creditors and harassed by Florence Stoker. They tried to settle with the society, offering a cut of the film’s take in order for them to use the Dracula title in England and America. Florence would not relent.

She not only wanted Prana to halt exhibition of the film, she wanted it torched — all prints and negatives of the film destroyed. And she got her way. In 1925 Florence won her case and the destruction order went through. Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens vanished into thin air just as Count Orlock, the vampire in the film, did when exposed to the rays of the morning sun.

For more information on the making of the original Dracula, check out David Skal’s book Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen.

Tim Kane

Survival of the Fittest for Movie Genres

People often complain that movies are never like the book. The movie cuts too much or adds unneeded scenes. Most of this is due to the fact that people don’t understand that movies are alive. Yes, alive. At least in the sense of survival of the fittest.

Movies are created by producers who pump money into an idea. The producers aren’t parents, yearning for their filmic offspring to go onto glory. Awards and accolades are added benefits. No, movie producers want one simple thing: to make money.

Viewed from this perceptive, books adapted into movies make sense. The goal isn’t to transform the vision of the text to film. (The director or the actors or screenwriters might strive for that.) No, producers only want to transform the readers of the book into watchers of the movie. If that means they have to adhere to the story, fine. But mostly, movie producers take liberties because the readers will still flock to the film and see it.

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Why this long tirade about books and films? Mostly the Hobbit. I love the book, but wasn’t wowed by the film. I understand all the additions and changes as it made its way toward film. Ultimately did the film make money? Yes. Will more like it be made? Yes. It’s like evolution in film. If a certain type of film makes money, then more will be made.

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Another adaptation is Parker with Jason Statham. The original book, written by Donald E. Westlake, is nothing like the film. (For a more in depth view of the book, check out the Weekly Rot.) The protagonist is unlikable and repugnant. However, the genre of action-movies states that the led be likable and somewhat honorable. Thus the Statham Parker says: “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people that don’t deserve it.” There’s little to distinguish this film from the many other Statham action films.

Parker was expected to make money by following the genre formula, yet in this one fumbled.

In the future, when you complain about movie adaptations, consider this: If people refused to see it, then that genre would wither and die.

Tim Kane

5 Best Scenes of Drunkeness from Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Sure, as a fan of horror, everyone’s getting plastered. Yet turn to fantasy, sci-fi, or superheroes and debauchery is more limited. When I picked these scenes, I tried to choose ones that resonated with me. A scene of drunkenness that glued itself so hard to my brain, I could never wipe it clean (unlike most nights drinking). Where possible, I included a link to the YouTube clip of the scene. Just click on the picture.

1 Superman III

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First let me say that I saw this movie nine times in the theater. I’m not saying it was a good movie. Only that I had a lot of spare time as a twelve-year-old with a bike. I think the writers were trying for a sort of Bizarro. Only in this version, Richard Pryor (playing computer genius Gus Gorman) tries to recreate kryptonite but one ingredient is unknown.  Since it’s the 80s, he has a pack of cigarettes and enters “tar” as the final ingredient. When exposed to this tar kryptonite, it turns Supe nasty and evil (this the drinking binge).

2 Iron Man 2

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I couldn’t find any pics of the best scenes, where Tony Stark is dancing with hotties or blasting water melons. Lets just say it’s what we expect most people would do with super powers.

3 Princess Bride

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By far one of my most favorite movies. This scene takes some explaining (although if you haven’t seen the movie, stop everything and go and rent it now). Inigo, a famous swordsman, has failed to defeat the Man in Black, so he gets himself rip roaring drunk. The real fun begins when the local police, headed by his pal Fezzik come across him. Fezzik nourishes Inigo back to health by repeatedly dunking his head in water.

4 Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

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I often replay the drinking game between Gimli and Legolas. The dwarf pounds beer after beer, while the elf only gets tingly in his fingers.

5 Star Trek (J. J. Abrams remake)

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Why is this my first choice. Well, I wish I could have found a movie clip, but it’s such a great scene. Chris Pine (as James T. Kirk) simultaneously flirts with Uhura, insults some aggressive bar folk, and gets his butt kicked. Here’s how the lines went down:

Lt. Nyota Uhura: I’m impressed. For a moment there, I thought you were just a dumb hick who only has sex with farm animals.
James T. Kirk: Well, not only.
Burly Cadet #1: This townie isn’t bothering you, right?
Lt. Nyota Uhura: Oh, beyond belief, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.
James T. Kirk: You could handle me, if that’s an invitation.
Burly Cadet #1: Hey, you better mind your manners.
James T. Kirk: Oh relax, cupcake, it was a joke.
Burly Cadet #1: Hey, farm-boy, maybe you can’t count, but there are four of us and one of you.
James T. Kirk: So, get two more guys and then it’ll be an even fight.

What are your favorite drunken scenes from sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero movies? Comment below.

Tim Kane

The Man with the Iron Fists Hammers the Chop-Chop Flick

This is a film that you will either love or hate. And you’ll know before you even see it. If you’re excited about over the top sound effects, fists flying through the air, and blood squirting everywhere, then this is the film for you. If you have even the slightest doubt, then you’ll hate it. No in between.

Directed by rapper RZA and co-written with horror filmmaker Eli Roth, this film delivers. It starts off with gansta rap while two clans, lion and hyena, spar. You know you’re in for a great film when the leader of the lion clan, a fella decked out with a massive mane of hair, rips the arms off his opponent.

Plenty of blood throughout the film.

RZA certainly knows how to hit all the marks for a chop chop film. The plot is fast and loose. (Honestly, if you pay too much attention to plot on these films, it just gets in the way.) He segues from rap music to cowboy (as the clans ride out to battle) as well as traditional Chinese.

The Gemini Twins using the their secret weapon, a thigh mounted gun.

The fight scenes are well choreographed and filmed so you can witness every bit of gore. There’s one scene where an eyeball shoots out toward the audience. Excellent.

Eyeball popping scene.

Russel Crowe eats up the scenery as Jack Knife, the lone Caucasian with a twirling bowie knife.

Byron Man, who plays the baddie Silver Lion, is so over the top he makes the whole film. Every line is delivered with a devilish grin. When one of his victims begs for mercy, Silver Lion mocks him, whining out: “Please stop.”

Cung Le as Brass Lion (left) and Byron Mann as Silver Lion (right wearing glasses)

Did I forget to mention that Lucy Liu is there, as the madame of a brothel? She holds off with her Kung Fu skills till the final battle royale.

I can’t add to much more without spoiling the best parts. If any of this sounds good, then just go see it.

Tim Kane

Home Decor for Your Hell House: Six Evil Home Additions

Imagine you’re an interior designer or contractor and you get contacted by a fellow who wants an iron maiden installed in his basement. Perhaps accessed through a secret door with a few traps. It makes you wonder, where do some of the horror movie villains get their homes made? Here are the top six bizarre home building projects that would drive any contractor nutty.

#6 Secret Passage from Young Frankenstein

Put the candle back.

I have a secret, I’ve always wanted to build a secret passage. It would be so cool to be able to access your den or writing room via a chamber that no one else can see. Yes. It’s everyone’s dream, right? Of course, you’ve have to access it with a candle, just like in Young Frankenstein. I only hope I never get stuck like Gene Wilder.

#5 A Swinging Pendulum from The Pit and the Pendulum

Imagine a clock pendulum swinging, only now, it’s set to slice you in half. I don’t even know where you’d have room to put this in any house, much less make it work. Only Edgar Allen Poe could dream this up and only Roger Corman could execute it.

#4 A Smoky Pit to the Netherworld from Lair of the White Worm

An unwilling victim

As kids, we all tried to dig a hole to China, but in horror flicks, holes in the earth tend to lead other places. In Lair of the White Worm, a nasty slimy serpent slithers up to chomp on young maidens. With that in mind, think how long it would take to drill this out?

#3 A Personal Torture Chamber from Princess Bride

Not only is this my favorite movie, it also has it’s own torture equipment. Who knew? The machine is there to instill pain on its victims with suction. So basically its one giant Hoover. As an added bonus, it’s made entirely out of wood. That would take a fleet of carpenters to build.

#2 Your Own Mechanical Band from The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Sure, all your songs fit onto an iPod, but nothing replaces having live performers. Barring that, you could go the robotic/mechanical route. Nothing says creepy as faceless horn players. I’d like to see Apple market that.

#1 A Vat of Acid in the Floor from House on Haunted Hill

I put this as number one simply because…why? Why would you ever need a vat of acid in the floor other than to dissolve someone. I know there was some sort of explanation for it in the film, but let’s face it, death by acid is just awesome.

Tim Kane