Bite Me

Graham Reynolds performs score for 'Nosferatu'

He don't drink wine.
He don't drink wine.

Popol Vuh's spookfolk score for Werner Herzog's 1979 Nosferatu is one of our favorite dark soundscapes ever, but it may well be topped this Sunday when Graham Reynolds performs his own score to Herzog's silent forerunner, F.W. Murnau's 1932 classic Nosferatu, at the Alamo S. Lamar.

Much as we love cinematic crazy man Herzog's film (and how could anyone not love a film featuring cinematic crazier man Klaus Kinski, made up in a bat-ears and rat-teeth combo?), Murnau's graveyard landmark trumps everything else. Produced by one-bat wonders Prana Films (and not, as is often assumed, by pioneering German expressionistic studio UFA), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens is a dead-to-rights masterpiece. Watching it feels like drowning in an Old Country cesspool of light and shadow, with properly somnambulistic pacing and an atmosphere of incipient annihilation by strange people from abroad.

Silent-era actor Max Schreck is perfectly cast as the vampire, so much so that both he and Murnau's entire film were reimagined in E. Elias Merhige's 2000 meta-tribute, Shadow of the Vampire. (That film cast another actorly freak-a-leek, the equally vulpine Willem Dafoe, as the actor Schreck.)

Filmed just four years after Germany suffered the indignity of defeat in WWI and with it the loss of millions of young men, Nosferatu (subtitled, in English, "a Symphony of Fears") plays like the mad hallucination of a shellshocked survivor, with nuanced emphasis placed on such post-wartime worries as plague-bearing vermin, famine, and invading foreigners.

Murnau, for his part, was sued by Dracula author Bram Stoker's widow; a deft move on her part, it effectively shuttered the gates of Prana Films forever. Schreck never again played such a nightmarishly memorable role. Murnau would go on to direct the Academy Award winning Sunrise in 1927, another sublime classic re-scored for the Alamo's silent film series, by My Education.

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Nosferatu, Nosferatu the Vampire, Vampyr, Dracula, Halloween, F.W. Murnau, Werner Herzog, Graham Reynolds, Alamo Drafthouse

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