This is a review of the new Eureka/Masters of Cinema Blu-Ray release. For a full discussion of the film, one with which I completely agree, I refer you to Noel Megahey's excellent review which he posted on this site in 2007.
I've been waiting for a Blu-Ray release of Nosferatu for some time, one fit to replace the MoC and BFI editions of the film on DVD which have nicely complemented each other on my shelves since their release. This new Blu-Ray fulfills that function quite admirably.
It's important when approaching a film of this vintage, especially one with such a chequered history, that one appreciates the limitations of the source material. As anyone even remotely acquainted with the film will be aware, the original negative and most prints were destroyed following court action by the estate of Bram Stoker. Consequently, we can never have the kind of full restoration from the camera negative which would obviously be desirable. However, that shouldn't put potential Blu-Ray purchasers off since the film has never looked as good as it does here. The source for the restored version was a 1922 French nitrate print with missing sequences taken from a couple of other surviving versions. A good deal of damage has been dealt with but there are still minor flaws throughout - scratches and splices for example. But the overall impression if one of awe for how wonderful this ninety year film looks in HD. The level of detail is absolutely astonishing in its clarity and the tinting is more effective than it was on the DVD, with more shadow detail present. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1 and the framing is more satisfactory than I've seen it before. On the whole, I can't imagine this release of the film being bettered so I've awarded full marks for video.
The audio is equally impressive. Obviously, there is no dialogue to worry about but the music score by Hans Erdmann is a treat to listen to. Like most of my fellow reviewers, I prefer the 2.0 version of the score - it sounds more natural to my ears - but the 5.1 has some nice involving moments. The original German intertitles are used, bar a few which have been recreated, and there are optional English subtitles.
The disc contains a number of interesting extra features, two of them repeated from the DVD release. These are the Brad Stevens and R. Dixon Smith commentary - a bit hesitant but with some useful information - and the 52 minute documentary The Language of Shadows which deals with the early years of Murnau's career leading up to, and including, Nosferatu. It's interesting enough for fans but the casual viewer will find it hard-going.
New to this disc are two interviews and an extra commentary. The best of the interviews is a thirty-minute piece with critic Kevin Jackson who has a lot to say about Murnau and makes some interesting points about the fact and fiction surrounding the film. Abel Ferrara on the other hand is virtually incoherent and what I could make out didn't strike me as especially interesting. Much more valuable is the new commentary track from David Kalat. He's one of the few commentators who really can make you look at a film in a new light and this is an excellent example of his skill. He begins by discussing some of the myths surrounding the film and goes on to analyze without simply describing what's going on in the shots.
Finally, we get a typically excellent MoC booklet which is the same as the one included with their 2007 DVD release but drops the piece by Thomas Elsaesser.
Nosferatu is such a seminal film that it's hard to think of any important horror movies that it hasn't influenced in some respect. It's an astonishingly adventurous piece of work - very few silent films feel this damned modern when you watch them - and it still has the power to unnerve and disturb. Admirers of the film will adore this new Blu-Ray edition and newcomers could have no better way of approaching it for the first time. Very, very highly recommended.
10 out of 10
10 out of 10
10 out of 10
9 out of 10