International Horror Film Review: Nosferatu in Venice (dir by Augusto Caminito, Klaus Kinski, Luigi Cozzi, Mario Ciaino, and possibly others)


Nosferatu the vampyre is back!  Well, maybe.  It’s complicated,

This Italian production from 1988 was originally envisioned as being a semi-official sequel to Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, which was itself a remake of F.W. Murnau’s silent classic.  The idea was that Klaus Kinski would reprise his role and this time, his feral version of Dracula would haunt Venice.  Kinski agreed, initially, to reprise his role.  However, after arriving on the set, Kinski lived up to his infamous reputation for being difficult.  He announced that he would, under no circumstances, don the famous make-up that he wore in Nosferatu.  And while Kinski was undoubtedly a good actor who was capable of giving performances that kept him employed despite reportedly being insane, Nosferatu without the makeup is not really Nosferatu.  He’s just another vampire.

Still, Kinski was a big enough star that he got his way about the makeup.  He also attempted to get his way during the first day of filming, when he refused to take any direction from director Mario Ciaino.  When Ciaino attempted to figure out why Kinski was being so difficult, Kinski declared that he had been promised, by producer Augusto Caminito, that he would be allowed to direct the film.  This led to Mario Ciaino quitting during the first day of production.  Producer Caminito took over as a director, though apparently Kinski did end up directing several of his own scenes.  Reportedly, other scenes were directed by Luigi Cozzi.

However, Kinski didn’t stop with getting the director replaced.  He also demanded that nearly the entire cast be replaced as well.  Kinski, in fact, was such a terror on the set that it was common for members of the crew to refuse to work with him, which perhaps explains why Kinski seems to spend so much of this film wandering around Venice by himself.

As for the film itself — well, yes, it’s exactly as big of a mess as it sounds like it would be.  Kinski plays a vampire who may or may not be Dracula.  Actually, very few of the traditional vampire rules seem to apply to him.  He wanders around in the daylight.  He looks at his reflection in a mirror.  He does, however, drink a lot of blood so I guess some things never change.  Because he refused to wear the vampire makeup or shave his head, Kinski spends the entire film looking like the aging lead singer of a 70s prog rock band.  At the same time, it must be said that Kinski actually does give a fairly good performance.  He’s a vampire who is desperate to find someone pure of heart who can end his ennui-stricken life.  Kinski’s screen presence is undeniably powerful and he looks appropriately miserable.

Christopher Plummer has the Van Helsing role and Donald Pleasence plays a priest who always seems to be somewhat nervous.  (In other words, a typical role for Donald Pleasence.)  Plummer is in Venice because, back in the 18th century, it was the last place that Kinski’s vampire was seen.  This leads to several confusing flashbacks, all of which are somewhat randomly sprinkled throughout the film.

There’s not really any story beyond Kinski walking around with a stricken-look on his face but, oddly, the film kind of works. Despite all of the directors who worked on it, the film is often visually stunning.  I think it’s the power of Venice.  No other city has quite the same atmosphere as Venice and it turns out to be the perfect location for a film about an ennui-stricken vampire.

(I know that when I visited Venice the summer after I graduated high school, I often found myself thinking about vampires.  That’s just the type of city it is.)

Anyway, the film will be best appreciated by Italian horror enthusiasts and Kinski completists.  Others will probably be bored out of their mind.  If you just want to see a good horror film set in Venice, I recommend Don’t Look Now.

International Horror Film Review: Nosferatu, the Vampyre (dir by Werner Herzog)


Agck!  The rats!

Nosferatu, Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake of the F.W. Murnau’s classic silent vampire film, may be best known for Klaus Kinski’s feral performance of Count Dracula but, for me, I’ll always remember the rats.

When Dracula first comes to the city of Wismar, he travels via a boat.  Spending the day in his coffin, he arises at night to kill the crew of the ship.  (Eventually, the captain’s dead body ends up tied to the wheel to ensure that the boat’s course is not altered.)  In order to keep the people of Wismar from realizing that they have a vampire in their midst, Dracula travels with thousands of rats and forges the ship’s log to make it seem as if the crew has fallen victim to the plague.  When the boat docks at Wismar, thousands of rats flood into the streets.  When Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) later walks through the streets of the Wismar, it becomes obvious that the rats have conquered the city.  The remaining people are too busy burying their dead and preparing for the end to do much about the rats.  One group cheerfully eats a lavish meal while thousands of rats wait behind them.  Later, the rodents have taken over the table.  The people are gone but the rats remain.

Werner Herzog has often cited the original Nosferatu as one of the films that most inspired him as a young filmmaker.  His remake is both a respectful homage to the original film and also a uniquely Herozgian work.  Much as the Spanish expedition at the center of Aguirre, The Wrath of God ended with the raft being conquered by monkeys, the city of Wismar is conquered by both rats and mythology.  Even towards the end of the film, when it becomes obvious that a vampire has come to town, the people refuse to believe it.  Some wait for God to save them.  Some just decide to celebrate the end.  But only Lucy, who we are told is pure of heart, is willing to sacrifice herself for the people of Wismar.  And yet, the film leaves us wondering if that sacrifice would really be worth it.  Are the people of Wismar worth saving?  This version of Nosferatu suggests that perhaps they’re not.

 

Lucy is the wife of estate agent Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz).  As with almost every version of Dracula, Nosferatu opens with Harker traveling to Dracula’s castle, dismissing the claims of local villagers are being mere superstition, and then eventually meeting the count himself.  Klaus Kinski may be made up to look like Max Schreck from the original film but he still turns Dracula into a uniquely Kinski-like creation.  Kinski’s Dracula has little of the old world charm of Bela Lugosi or even Christopher Lee.  Instead, he’s like a feral animal, hissing out his dialogue and almost always hiding in the shadows.  It’s been such a long time since this Dracula was human that he no longer knows how interact with them.  Instead, like an abused animal, he cringes when Harker attempts to speak to him.  There’s a loneliness to this Dracula and an unexpected sadness in his eyes.  Asking him to control his thirst for blood would be like asking a wild animal not to obey its natural instinct to kill.  The only time that this Dracula doesn’t seem to be full of self-loathing is when he’s actually hunting blood.  Then he moves like a calculating predator.

As one might expect from a Herzog film, Nosferatu moves at its somewhat odd but deliberate pace.  (Harker’s lengthy journey to reach Dracula’s remote castle will remind you of Klaus Kinski trying to conquer the Amazon in Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo.)  The imagery is surreal and dream-like.  I already mentioned the rats and the scene of Kinski stalking the captain of the boat feels like it was taken from a filmed nightmare.  It’s also impossible to forget the images of black-clad men, marching down the streets of Wismar and carrying coffins on their shoulders, all ignoring Lucy as she begs them to understand that there is something even deadlier than the plague at work in Wismar.

Both the original and the remake of Nosferatu are classic vampire films.  I suggest watching both.  Herzog shot two version of Nosferatu, one in German and one in English.  Though both versions are essentially the same, I recommend the German version just because, in the English version, it’s obvious the actors are occasionally having trouble performing in a foreign language.  The German version feels more authentic.  Since the film is basically a visual poem, it’s effective even if you’re watching it without subtitles.

 

Lisa Marie Does The Fouke Monster And Five Other Trailers


Isn’t he cute?  That happy little fellow is The Fouke Monster and he’s here because he’s the star of the very first trailer in this week’s edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Before I talk about this trailer, allow me to share a few facts: my family used to live in Fouke, Arkansas!  I’ve been down to Boggy Creek!  I never saw the famous Fouke Monster but I went out looking for him a few times!  Anyway, this is the trailer for The Legend of Boggy Creek, which is a documentary about an apeman that supposedly lives in the area (though, according to Wikipedia, he hasn’t been spotted since ’98 so maybe he drowned or moved to Missouri).  This film is somewhat infamous because it features reenactments of various monster sightings, some of which star people who actually lived in Fouke at the time and who play themselves (and a few of them later sued once the film came out).  It was also the first film directed by Charles B. Pierce, who directed a lot of independent films in Arkansas and North Texas, including the classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown.  Sadly, Pierce passed away last year at the age of 71.

2)  Mean Mother (1974)

This is one of those trailers that I discovered while randomly searching Youtube and, I have to be honest, my first thought was that it was a parody trailer.  But no, after researching the manner, I can say that Mean Mother is a real movie.  It was apparently yet another one of the cinematic offerings of the late Al Adamson.

3) The Night Child (1976)

This Italian film is one of the countless Omen/Exorcist rip-offs that came out in the 70s.  Actually, The Night Child is an indirect rip-off of those two films as it’s actually a rip-off of a previous Italian version of the Exorcist, Beyond The Door.  What I especially love about this trailer is the “Keeping telling yourself, she’s only a child,” line which is obviously meant to recall the “Keep telling yourself, it’s only a movie…” tagline from Last House On The Left.

4) The Young Nurses (1973)

“Meet today’s women…beautiful, liberated, and ready for action!  They’re the young nurses and they’re growing up fast!”  I love the narrator of this trailer.  I’ve heard his voice in several exploitation trailers from the early 70s and he just has a way of delivering the sleaziest lines in the most cheerful, harmless way.  I’d love to know who he was and if he’s still with us.

5) Nosferatu The Vampyre (1980)

Oh.  My.  God.  Okay, I saw this movie a few years ago and I was watching it by myself at 3 in the morning with all the lights off while there was a thunderstorm going on outside and there was this howling wind that kept on making all the windows shake.  I got so scared, it’s not even funny.  This is a remake of the silent classic.  It stars Klaus Kinski, Bruno Ganz, and Isabelle Adjani and was directed by the one and only Werner Herzog.

6) Julia (1974)

“Why don’t you come along and see me this week?  And bring your girlfriend…”  This trailer was specifically designed to promote this film in Australia.  Needless to say, that’s not actually Sylvia Kristel providing the voice over.