Vampire films have been around forever. One of the earliest was Nosferatu (1922). A visually striking and influential film (a product of director F.W. Murnau’s collaboration with outré graphic designer/illustrator Albin Grau), we’ve never really forgotten this influential piece. The titular character is a rodent-like vampire designed with severe lines and angles. His dome-like bald head contrasts with the almost architectural extensions of his ears and fingers. Actor Max Schreck needed minimal movement to characterize this monstrous take on novelist Bram Stoker’s suave and debonair Dracula. The hauntingly effective character design would go on to influence generations of filmmakers and will likely never stop doing so.
Before seeing our presentation of the classic 1922 Nosferatu at the Ace Hotel, check out five of the more memorable tributes to the Nosferatu character design selected by one of our resident horror experts, Keith Rainville.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
There’s an astounding quality to Werner Herzog’s low-budget/high-art remake of Murnau’s film that’s difficult to pinpoint, but it genuinely gets under one’s skin. He chose the path of the faithful update rather than to redefine a film he considered the most important German film ever made, and certainly wasn’t going to alter the character himself. The casting of Herzog regular Klaus Kinski was written in the stars. Kinski’s performance, aided by both color film and particularly sound, sculpts a mewling, hissing and even more repugnant version of Nosferatu. (And for opera fans, he did it amidst a score augmented by Wagner’s prelude to Das Rheingold.)
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Arguably the best film adaptation of Stephen King, the commercials alone for this TV mini-series from Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame scarred a generation of children (your humble author included). Never mind the creepy vampire kid floating outside your bedroom window, the show’s big bad, “Mr. Barlow”, was modeled directly from Nosferatu, albeit with a bluish skin tint. (And to tell a dirty little secret, LA Opera’s advertising art for Nosferatu at the Ace is an homage to Barlow I snuck past the brass.)
“Space Vampire” episode of Buck Rogers (1979)
If you are of a certain age, you were at a point post-Star Wars where ANYTHING set in space had you glued to the TV, the Glen A. Larson reboot of Buck Rogers included. Episode 12 of this sci-fi fromage-fest featured a space station haunted by the Vorvon, a Nosferatu-knock-off with an epic uni-brow.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
When they make a movie about the making of a movie, it takes that original film’s classic status to another level. Opposite John Malkovich as director F.W. Murnau and Udo Kier as Grau, the sublimely cast Willem Dafoe got an Oscar nod as an unnerving Max Schreck who may have been more Nosferatu than anyone ever imagined.
Blade II (2002) / The Strain (2014)
Guillermo del Toro is the sort of “monster kid”-turned-director who wears his fandom on his sleeve and injects it into his film projects whenever possible. The second movie in the Blade franchise allowed him to showcase vampires that were tributes to Nosferatu, and he took the look even further in 2014 with the vampire apocalypse TV series The Strain. Further evidence of Del Toro’s love for Nosferatu is currently on display at LACMA!
To learn more about and to purchase tickets to Nosferatu, click here.
Keith Rainville is LA Opera’s Brand Manager.