I wanted to see the original Master, so I put on the oldest unseen film in my collection, Nosferatu. I appreciated the original Dracula and Frankenstein, but they were pretty dry in places. Nosferatu is ten years older again, and while I’d love to be able to say I love these old classics, this did feel like homework.
Hutter, an estate agent in Wisborg, is sent by his boss, Knock, to Transylvania to sell a dilapidated old building to Count Orlok, a new client. Once there, he is bitten by the Count, who is actually a vampire. Orlok sees a photograph of Hutter’s wife, locks Hutter in his room and sets off for Wisborg. After slaughtering the crew of the ship he is travelling on, Orlok sets about drinking the blood of all the citizens of Wisborg. Hutter rushes home, but his wife, Ellen, realises that only she can put a stop to Orlok’s deadly reign.
There are well-known iconic images and scenes in this film, and it’s amazing to see them in their proper place, for example Orlok rising from his coffin and stalking the ship he is travelling on, the shadow of Orlok on the wall of the stairs as he climbs to Ellen’s bedroom, and Orlok’s disintegration when he is caught in the sun. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok creates electricity in every scene he appears, but the crazed acting of the time stripped away all the tension for me, and there are too many long stretches of travelling between locations, whether by foot or carriage. Having said that, the string of coffins being carried along the main street of Wisborg is shocking. The townsfolk think it’s a plague. That’s when it hit me how deadly this creature is: The Master.