Nosferatu the Vampyre
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWerner Herzog
Screenplay byWerner Herzog
Based onDracula
by Bram Stoker
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens
by F. W. Murnau
Produced by
CinematographyJörg Schmidt-Reitwein
Edited byBeate Mainka-Jellinghaus
Music byPopol Vuh
Distributed by20th Century Fox (Germany)[1]
Gaumont (France)
Release dates
  • 17 January 1979 (1979-01-17) (France)
  • 12 April 1979 (1979-04-12) (Wiesbaden)
Running time
107 minutes[2]
CountriesWest Germany
  • German
  • English
  • Romanian

Nosferatu the Vampyre (German: Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, lit.'Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night') is a 1979 gothic horror film written and directed by Werner Herzog. It is set primarily in 19th-century Wismar, Germany and Transylvania, and was conceived as a stylistic remake of F. W. Murnau's 1922 German Dracula adaptation Nosferatu. The picture stars Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula, Isabelle Adjani as Lucy Harker, Bruno Ganz as Jonathan Harker, and French artist-writer Roland Topor as Renfield. There are two different versions of the film, one in which the actors speak English, and one in which they speak German.[3]

Herzog's production of Nosferatu was very well received by critics and enjoyed a comfortable degree of commercial success.[4] The film also marks the second of five collaborations between director Herzog and actor Kinski,[5] immediately followed by 1979's Woyzeck. The film had 1,000,000 admissions in West Germany and grossed ITL 53,870,000 in Italy.[6] It was also a modest success in Adjani's home country, taking in 933,533 admissions in France.[7]

A novelization of the screenplay was written by Paul Monette and published by both Avon Publishing (ISBN 978-0380441075) and Picador (ISBN 978-0330259293) in 1979. The 1988 Italian horror film Nosferatu in Venice is a "sequel-in-name-only",[8] again featuring Kinski in the title role.[9]


In 1850, Jonathan Harker is an estate agent in Wismar, Germany. His employer, Renfield, informs him that nobleman Count Dracula wishes to buy a property in Wismar. Harker is assigned to visit the Count and complete the deal. Leaving his wife Lucy behind, Harker travels to Dracula's castle in Transylvania, in a journey that lasts four weeks, carrying with him the documents needed to sell the house. En route, Harker stops at an inn, where the locals beg for him to stay away from the accursed castle, providing him with details of Dracula's vampirism. Ignoring the villagers' pleas as superstition, Harker continues his journey, ascending the Borgo Pass on foot and arriving at the castle, where he meets Dracula, a man with large ears, pale skin, sharp teeth and long fingernails.

The Count is enchanted by a small portrait of Lucy and agrees to purchase the Wismar property, especially with the knowledge that she would become his neighbor. As Jonathan's visit progresses, he is haunted at night by several encounters with Dracula. In Wismar, Lucy is tormented by nightmares, plagued by images of impending doom. Meanwhile, Renfield is committed to an asylum after biting a cow, apparently having gone insane. To Harker's horror, he finds the Count asleep in a coffin, confirming for him that Dracula is indeed a vampire. That night, Dracula leaves for Wismar, taking coffins filled with the cursed earth that he needs for his vampiric rest. Harker finds himself imprisoned in the castle and attempts to escape through a window via a makeshift rope fashioned from bedsheets. The rope is not long enough, and Jonathan falls, severely injuring himself.

The next morning, he awakes on the ground, stirred by the sound of a young Romani boy playing the violin. Eventually sent to a hospital, Jonathan raves about 'black coffins' to doctors, who assume that the illness affects his mind.

Dracula and his coffins travel to Wismar by ship via the Black Sea port of Varna, thence through the Bosphorus and the Strait of Gibraltar and around the west European Atlantic coast to the Baltic Sea. He kills the ship's crew, making it appear as if they were afflicted with the plague.

The ghost ship arrives at Wismar, where doctors – including Abraham Van Helsing – investigate the fate of the vessel. They discover a ship's log that mentions their perceived affliction with the plague. Wismar is then flooded with rats from the ship. When Dracula arrives with his coffins, death spreads throughout the town. The ill Jonathan is transported home but does not appear to recognize Lucy when he finally arrives and says the sunlight is hurting him. She later encounters Dracula. Weary and unable to die, he demands some of the love that she gives to Jonathan, to no avail.

Now aware that something other than plague is responsible for the death that has beset Wismar, Lucy tries to convince the townspeople, who are skeptical and uninterested, engaging in a danse macabre and having a last supper. From a book given to Jonathan by the Transylvanians, Lucy discovers she can defeat Dracula by distracting him until dawn, at which time the rays of the sun will destroy him, but only at the cost of her own life. Jonathan becomes more sick as his memory worsens and his skin turns pale. That night, Lucy puts a ring of salt around Jonathan and lures Dracula to her bedroom, where he drinks her blood.

Lucy distracts Dracula from the call of the rooster, and at the first light of day, he dies. Van Helsing arrives to discover Lucy dead but victorious. He then drives a stake through the heart of Dracula to make sure that Lucy's sacrifice was not in vain. Jonathan then awakens from his sickness, now a vampire, and has Van Helsing arrested for Dracula's murder. Jonathan then states that he has much to do and rides away on horseback, garbed in the same fluttering black as Dracula.




While the basic story is derived from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, director Herzog made the 1979 film primarily as an homage remake of F. W. Murnau's silent film Nosferatu (1922), which differs somewhat from Stoker's original work. The makers of the earlier film changed several minor details and character names. They also did not have permission to use the intellectual property of the novel, which was owned (at the time) by Stoker's widow Florence. A lawsuit was filed, resulting in an order for the destruction of all prints of the film. Some prints survived and were restored after Florence Stoker had died and the copyright had expired.[10] By the 1960s and early 1970s the original silent returned to circulation, and was enjoyed by a new generation of moviegoers.[citation needed]

Herzog considered Murnau's Nosferatu to be the greatest film ever to come out of Germany,[11] and was eager to make his own version of the film, with Klaus Kinski in the leading role.[citation needed] In 1979, by the very day 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.[citation needed]

Herzog saw his film as a parable about the fragility of order in a staid, bourgeois town. "It is more than a horror film," he says. "Nosferatu is not a monster, but an ambivalent, masterful force of change. When the plague threatens, people throw their property into the streets; they discard their bourgeois trappings. A re‐evaluation of life and its meaning takes place."[12] Adjani said about her heroine: "There's a sexual element. She is gradually attracted towards Nosferatu. She feels a fascination — as we all would think. First, she hopes to save the people of the town by sacrificing herself. But then, there is a moment of transition. There is a scene when he is sucking her blood — sucking and sucking like an animal—and suddenly, her face takes on a new expression, a sexual one, and she will not let him go away anymore. There is a desire that has been born. A moment like this has never been seen in a vampire picture".[12] According to Kinski: "We see Dracula sympathetically [in this film]. He is a man without free will. He cannot choose, and he cannot cease to be. He is a kind of incarnation of evil, but he is also a man who is suffering, suffering for love. This makes it so much more dramatic, more double‐edged."[12]


Lübeck Salzspeicher as Dracula's new property in Wisborg

Nosferatu the Vampyre was co-produced by Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, French film company Gaumont, and West German public-service television station ZDF. As was common for West 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, Netherlands.[4] Parts of the film were shot in nearby Schiedam, after the Delft authorities refused to allow Herzog to release 11,000 rats for a scene in the film.[11] Dracula's home is represented by locations in Czechoslovakia. Herzog originally intended to film in Transylvania, but Nicolae Ceaușescu's regime would not allow it due to the relation between the character of count Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. Pernštejn Castle stands in for castle Dracula in the film, both interiors and exteriors.[citation needed]

At the request of distributor 20th Century Fox, Herzog produced two versions of the film simultaneously to appeal to English-speaking audiences. Most of the scenes with dialogue were filmed twice, once in German and again in English, although a few scenes were shot once with dubbing used as needed. In 2014, Herzog called the German version the "more authentic" version of the two.[13]

Herzog himself filmed the opening sequence at the Mummies of Guanajuato museum in Guanajuato, Mexico, where a large number of naturally mummified bodies of the victims of an 1833 cholera epidemic are on public display. Herzog had first seen the Guanajuato mummies while visiting in the 1960s. On his return in the 1970s, he took the corpses out of the glass cases they normally store. He propped them against a wall to film them, arranging them in a sequence running roughly from childhood to old age.[14]

Kinski's Dracula make-up, with black costume, bald head, rat-like teeth, and long fingernails, is an imitation of Max Schreck's makeup in the 1922 original. The makeup artist who worked on Kinski was the Japanese artist Reiko Kruk. Although he fought with Herzog and others during the making of other films, Kinski got along with Kruk, and the four-hour makeup sessions went on with no outbursts from Kinski himself. Several shots in the movie are faithful recreations of iconic images from Murnau's original film, some almost perfectly identical to their counterparts, intended as homages to Murnau.[15]


Main article: Nosferatu (Popol Vuh album)

The film score to Nosferatu the Vampyre was composed by the West German group Popol Vuh, who have collaborated with Herzog on numerous projects. Music for the film comprises material from the group's album Brüder des Schattens – Söhne des Lichts.[16] Additionally, the film features Richard Wagner's prelude to Das Rheingold, Charles Gounod's "Sanctus" from Messe solennelle à Sainte Cécile and traditional Georgian folk song "Tsintskaro", sung by Vocal Ensemble Gordela.[17]

Animal cruelty

Dutch behavioral biologist Maarten 't Hart, hired by Herzog for his expertise with laboratory rats, revealed that, after witnessing the inhumane way in which the rats were treated, he no longer wished to cooperate. Apart from traveling conditions that were so poor that the rats, imported from Hungary, had started to eat each other upon arrival in the Netherlands, Herzog insisted the plain white rats be dyed gray. To do so, according to 't Hart, the cages containing the rats needed to be submerged in boiling water for several seconds, causing another half of them to die. The surviving rats proceeded to lick themselves clean of the dye immediately, as 't Hart had predicted they would. 't Hart also implied sheep and horses that appear in the movie were treated very poorly but did not specify this any further.[18]


Released as Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht in German and Nosferatu the Vampyre in English, the film was entered into the 29th Berlin International Film Festival, where production designer Henning von Gierke won the Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement.[19]

Critical response

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2018)

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a 95% approval critic response based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Stunning visuals from Werner Herzog and an intense portrayal of the famed bloodsucker from Klaus Kinski make this remake of Nosferatu a horror classic in its own right."[20]

In contemporary reviews, the film is noted for maintaining an element of horror, with numerous deaths and a grim atmosphere. Still, it features a more expanded plot than many Dracula productions, with a greater emphasis on the vampire's tragic loneliness.[21] Dracula is still a ghastly figure, but with a greater sense of pathos; weary, unloved, and doomed to immortality. Reviewer John J. Puccio of MovieMet considers it a faithful homage to Murnau's original film, significantly updating the original material and avoiding the danger of being overly derivative.[22]

Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the film upon its 1979 release, giving it four stars out of a possible four, writing: "There is nothing pleasant about Herzog's vampire", which was "played totally without ego by Klaus Kinski". Ebert added, "This movie isn't even scary. It's so slow it's meditative at times, but it is the most evocative series of images centered around the idea of the vampire that I have ever seen since F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, which was made in 1922."[23] In 2011 Ebert added the film to his "Great Movies Collection." Concluding his review, Ebert said:

One striking quality of the film is its beauty. Herzog's pictorial eye is not often enough credited. His films always upstage it with their themes. We are focused on what happens, and there are few 'beauty shots.' Look here at his control of the color palette, his off-center compositions, of the dramatic counterpoint of light and dark. Here is a film that does honor to the seriousness of vampires. No, I don't believe in them. But if they were real, here is how they must look.[24]

See also


  1. ^ "Nosferatu - Phantom der Nacht". Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  2. ^ "NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 9 January 1979. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  3. ^ "Nosferatu, the Vampyre | film by Herzog [1979] | Britannica". Retrieved 20 December 2022.
  4. ^ a b "An Adaptation With Fangs by Garrett Chaffin-Quiray". Kinoeye. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  5. ^ "Frames 'n' friends by Amulya Nagaraj". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2007.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ "Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) - Box office / business" – via
  7. ^ JP. "Nosferatu Phantom der Nacht (1979)- JPBox-Office".
  8. ^ Reeves, Tony. "Vampire In Venice (Nosferatu A Venezia) — 1986". Archived from the original on 22 March 2017. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Nosferatu in Venice (Prince of the Night) DVD Review: When Art Becomes Trash - Cinema Sentries". Archived from the original on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Nosferatu". Silent Movie Monsters. Archived from the original on 16 December 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  11. ^ a b "Fruits of Anger – Werner Herzog on Nosferatu". Archived from the original on 18 February 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  12. ^ a b c The New York Times, 30 July 1978
  13. ^ Olsen, Mark (16 May 2014). "Re-release of Werner Herzog's 'Nosferatu': 'It's not a remake'". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Prawer, Siegbert Salomon (2004). Nosferatu–Phantom der Nacht. British Film Institute. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-84457-031-7.
  15. ^ "Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht by Walter Chaw". Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  16. ^ Neate, Wilson. "Nosferatu: The Vampyre (Original Soundtrack)". AllMusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  17. ^ Thompson, Graeme (2012). Kate Bush: Under The Ivy. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780857127754. The choral section of 'Hello Earth' is taken from a Georgian folk song called 'Zinzkaro', which Bush heard performed by the Vocal Ensemble Gordela on the soundtrack of Werner Herzog's 1979 German vampire film Nosferatu The Vampire, one of her more esoteric borrowings.
  18. ^ Maarten 't Hart in Zomergasten, VPRO, 2010-08-01.
  19. ^ "Berlinale 1978: Prize Winners". Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  20. ^ "Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Nosferatu the Vampyre) (1979)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  21. ^ "Nosferatu The Vampyre by David Keyes". Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  22. ^ "Nosferatu the Vampyre by John J. Puccio". 30 April 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  23. ^ "Nosferatu the Vampyre movie review (1979) | Roger Ebert".
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (24 October 2011). "Nosferatu the Vampyre Movie Review (1979)". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 3 November 2013.