Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu


I promised more Kinski and now I’m delivering…

Over at the Movie Morlocks you can find my recent post on Werner Herzog’s 1979 film NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE. It’s one of my favorite Herzog films and I think it contains one of Klaus Kinski’s most compelling performances. This modern reimagining of F. W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922) is really more of a tribute than a remake but it’s a wonderful example of how a director can reinterpret an old film for a new audience. I don’t hate remakes. Some of my favorite films are remakes. But I do hate bad movies with big budgets and no imagination. And there’s way too many of them taking up valuable real estate at multiplexes across the country while an army of compliant critics champion their failings. With all that in mind I decided to write about Herzog’s film because when I’m asked about my favorite remakes NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE often comes to mind. Do I think it’s better than Murnau’s original? No. But I do think it’s just as good in its own unique way. A sample paragraph from my post:

“One of Herzog’s smartest directing choices was casting Klaus Kinski in the role of Dracula, which was a part previously played by Max Schreck. Klaus Kinski makes a formidable vampire and his dynamic working relationship with the director undoubtedly impacted his performance. Strangely enough, the role of Dracula in NOSFERATU also provided Kinski with one of his most sympathetic and humane roles. Although Kinski is obviously playing a hideous undead creature, he manages to give Dracula some genuine humanity and it’s one of the actor’s most fascinating and strangely touching performances. Instead of directly following in Max Schreck’s footsteps, Kinski seems to have been inspired by the tragic monsters found in classic Universal horror films such as FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE WOLF MAN (1941). In Klaus Kinski’s autobiography he articulated how much the physical aspect of playing a vampire had transformed him.

In Holland and Czechoslovakia and all the way to the Tatra Mountains on the Czech-Polish border. The departure point is Munich. Four weeks before shooting starts, I have to fly there for costuming. And this is where I shave my skull for the first time. I feel exposed, vulnerable, defenseless. Not just physically (my bare head becomes as hypersensitive as an open wound) but chiefly in my emotions and my nerves. I feel as if I have no scalp, as if my protective envelope has been removed and my soul can’t live without it. As if my soul has been flayed.

At first I go outdoors only when it’s dark. Besides, I wear a wool cap all the time even though it’s spring. You may think ‘So What? Some guys are bald.’ But the two have absolutely nothing to do with one another. What I mean is the simultaneous metamorphosis into a vampire. The nonhuman, nonanimal being. That undead thing. That unspeakable creature, which suffers in full awareness of its existence.” – Klaus Kinski from Kinski Uncut

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Reimagining a Classic: Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU @ TCM’s Classic Film Blog