|This is such a beautiful shot.|
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Hell o Prisoners
Time for Disc #2, Movie #1, 50 Horror Classics
I started this write-up with my regular style, my voice, so to speak, but it didn't fit. There is a certain sort of reverence that I cannot ignore, and so if you find it boring, I'm sorry, but I simply had to just back off on the humor. It somehow seemed almost disrespectful, which is something I don't usually take into consideration, since I'm the Warden of Hell, and can pretty much do whatever the hell I want. But in this case, it simply did. It's also a bit long, but it's not as long as the film, and I simply could not omit the quotes....
"From the diary of Johann Cavallius, able historian of his native City of Bremen:
"Nosferatu! That name alone can chill the blood!
"Nosferatu! Was it he who brought the plague to Bremen in 1838?"
"I have long sought the causes of that terrible epidemic, and found at it's origin and its climax the innocent figures of Jonathan Harker and his young wife, Nina."
Jofa-Atelier Berlin-Johannisthal and Prana-Film GmbH
Presents Max Schreck as Count Orlok
At home in Bremen, Jonathan Harker (Gustav von Wagenheim), and his lovely wife, Nina (Greta Schroeder) enjoy their wedded bliss until duty calls, and Jonathan's off to work as clerk to the estate agent, Renfield (Alexander Granach). "The agent Renfield was a strange man, and there were unpleasant rumours about him."
An opportunity for the young Harker has presented itself in the form of a letter his boss received from Count Orlok (Max Schreck), a rich man, who lives in Transylvania. He is "free with his money" and looking for a place to reside in Bremen. "You will have a marvelous journey. And, young as you are, what matter if it costs you some pain--or even a little blood?"
While Jonathan is checking out the map, Renfield is all a flutter turning the letter over and over, relishing the mark of the Count.
“The house facing yours….That should suit him” he says. "Leave at once, my young friend. And don't be frightened if people speak of Transylvania as the land of phantoms..."
Excited about the opportunity, he rushes home to share the news with Nina. "I may be away for several months Nina. Renfield is sending me to some lost corner of the Carpathians..." Needless to say, Jonathan is far more excited than she, but at least she will stay with their good friends, Westenra (G.H. Schell), and his wife, Lucy (Ruth Landshoff). "Don't worry, Nina. Nothing will happen to me." And he is off.
He reaches an inn, and quite frankly, whoops it up a bit, so before he knows it, he's behind schedule, and shouts to the innkeeper for his dinner, so he can get to the castle. The other guests are shocked, and the innkeeper warns, "You must not leave now! The evil spirits become all-powerful after dark!"
The horses in the fields skit and scatter, and that which is supposed to be a wolf, or a werewolf, or even a phantom whose taken possession of a wolf, is really a hyena, but it's ok with me. It's 1922 for goodness sakes, and this movie has me glued to the TV.
The Innkeeper's wife shows Harker to his room, and I have to say, the bed was so great! A simple wooden frame, with long legs, that made the mattress sit, probably, three or four feet off the floor. I have never seen anything like it in the in the states. Although, maybe the rich have high beds. Wouldn't know about that. Maybe it's just a European thing. But it's practical and functional, maximizing what little space was available, and creating a great storage area beneath. There is a simple step stool to climb on board. It's well into the night, and the horses are freaking out. We see our four footed furry creature again, women cowering and huddling, and as Harker closes his window, he shivers, climbs up to his bed, and notices a book on the bedside table. "The Book of the Vampires."
"...and it was in 1443 that the first Nosferatu was born." Harker yawns, gives a "ah hooey" look, tosses the book aside, and turns in.
Upon rising, he greets the day with another fine stretch and a gander outside. The animals return, and after stretching some more, he picks up the book. "Men do not always recognize the dangers that beasts can sense at certain times." Laughing again, he tosses, more vigorously than before, the book upon the floor, and then does something I've never before seen. He slips his arms out of his nightshirt and ties them around his waste, so he is bare from the chest up, and begins his morning ablutions: dipping his head in the bowl, washing his face, etc. Then it's time to ride, and another interesting thing happened. The coachman takes his usual seat, but another rider mounts one of the lead horses, and they are on their way.
They bounce and wrench from side to side, and it looks loud and uncomfortable, and I'll bet that's exactly how it was. The day is drawing to a close, and the coachman calls out, "Hurry! The sun will soon be setting!" And just before it does, they stop, and Harker disembarks. "We will go no further, sir. Not for a fortune!" The coachman informs, and although Harker is taken aback, he grabs his bags. When he looks to the coachman, he's told, "We will go no further. Here begins the land of phantoms." And they part ways. "And when he had crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him."
We see a shot of Count Orlok's castle, and another carriage coming to meet Harker. The driver wears a hat with a feather, like Robin Hood, that sits low on his brow, and his cape is high, revealing nothing but his dark rimmed eyes. He motions, with his switch, to get in the coach. They arrive at the castle, and without a word, he simply points to the entrance. After entering the outer walls, Harker is greeted by a mysterious man, the Count no doubt, whose body, attire, and gait, remind me of a cross between Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka and Barnabas Collins, plus a slightly humped back, and a big crooked nose. His hat is, I'm sure, like the one in the little German ditty, "My hat, it has three corners. Three corners has my hat." If I'm wrong, please let me know. He speaks, "You are late, young man. It is almost midnight. My servants have all retired."
Once inside the castle, the Count reads a paper, while Harker eats. He can't help but notice the Count's eyes, and is shaken to say the least, and while cutting some bread, the clock strikes midnight; he's loses his concentration, and the knife slips, cutting his thumb. And when I say cutting his thumb. I think he really cut his thumb. It sure looks like he cut his thumb, which instantly grabs the Count's attention. He rises and approaches Harker. "Blood! Your precious blood!"
His reaction startles Harker, who starts backing up while the Count moves towards him. "Let us chat together a moment, my friend. There are still several hours until dawn, and I have the whole day to sleep." Nosferatu bows to him, and Harker, seriously freaked out at this point, just keeps backing up without taking his eyes off the Count, making his way toward the chair he knows is behind him, concentrating, so intently, on the Count, that he practically trips on the step he must navigate prior to taking a seat. They converse, I suppose, for some time, until Harker falls asleep.....
"As the sun rose, Harker felt himself freed from the oppressions of the night.” But, something is off, and he grabs the mirror close by, and takes a look at his neck with wild eyes, a grin, and a yawn. It’s breakfast time, so he pours himself some wine. I do not see him eat. Exploring the grounds takes him to a gazebo, where he writes a letter.
"Nina, my beloved~
Don't be unhappy. Though I am far away. I love you.
This a strange country, amazing.
After my first night in the castle, I found two large bites on my neck. From mosquitoes? From spiders? I don't know.
I have had some frightful dreams, but they were only dreams. You mustn't worry about me."
He runs to meet a rider who takes the letter and heads back into the woods.
"As twilight came on, the empty castle became alive with menacing shadows."
And as the Count and Harker look over possible housing for the Count, he spies a picture of Nina. And his eyes widen. And here is my favorite line in the film....
"Is this your wife? What a lovely throat!"
It is at this point, that the Count agrees the apartment across the street from the Harker's is best suited to him. "That old mansion seems quite satisfactory. We shall be neighbors." Harker's not as excited as was before. And that night before retiring, when he puts Nina's picture back in his bag, he finds The Book of Vampires.
"Nosferatu drinks the blood of the young, the blood necessary to his own existence. One can recognize the mark of the vampire by the trace of his fangs on the victim's throat." The clock strikes midnight, and Harker is beginning to realize what is happening. Terrified, he opens his door, and sees Nosferatu in the hallway staring at him. Frozen at first, he then takes to his bed, turning aside to block out the view of the vampire entering his room.
"That same night in Bremen, in a somnambulistic dream..." Nina rises from her bed and takes to the balcony, walking the ledge. "Nina?" Westenra frantically asks, and catches her just in time, as she faints and falls. "The doctor, quickly!"
And while Harker sleeps, Nosferatu bears down upon his neck, and drinks. But back in Bremen Nina wakes suddenly, "Jonathan! Jonathan! Hear me!" And it's as if Nosferatu hears her, and he backs away, never moving his arms with his gait. Nina is exhausted and falls immediately to sleep, once Nosferatu has left her beloved's room. "A sudden fever" the doctor tells the Westenras.
"The doctor laid Nina's trance to some unknown disease. Since then I have learned that she had sensed the menace of Nosferatu that very night. And Harker far away, had heard her call of warning." Rising quickly, and in a state of panic, grabbing his neck, Harkern feels ill and weak. Searching for the Count takes him to the bowels of the castle where he spies a coffin. There between the broken slats of wood, he sees the face of the vampire, and throwing open the lid, he is floored, literally. Crawling up the stairs and away to his room, he is so shaken, he can barely make his way to the window to watch Nosferatu quickly assembling coffins, filling them with dirt, gathering them into a pile, and carting them off. Harker escapes his room by ripping and tying sheets together and lowering himself from the window to the ground, where he faints from fear and exhaustion.
Down the river, a ferry makes it's journey to the sea to meet the ship Demeter. “The men little suspected what terrible cargo they were carrying down the valley.”
Harker recoups in the home of the peasants who found him, but alas he still has a high fever. Waking with a fright, and in a state of delirium, Harker mumbles, "Coffins...Coffins filled with earth." The cargo in question is transferred to the ship's hold, and the Demeter sets sail to Bremen. The crew finds the boxes are not only filled with dirt, but also with rats.
“Nosferatu was en route; and with him disaster approached Bremen. At the same time, Dr. Van Helsing was giving a course on the secrets of nature and their strange correspondence to human life.”
“The professor told his students about the existence of a carnivorous plant” And his students, all four of them, watched while the Dr. fed a fly to a venus flytrap.
“Astonishing isn’t it, gentlemen? That plant is the vampire of the vegetable kingdom.”
“Nosferatu held Renfield under his influence from afar...That patient who was brought in yesterday has gone out of his mind!” And so the warden, the other warden, checks on him. He is seriously wacked, grabbing flies from the air.
“Blood!...Blood!” He screams, before he attacks the Warden, but the guard takes him down.
Class is still in session…. "And now, gentlemen", Van Helsing continues, "here is another type of vampire: a polyp with claws…” And it is really fascinating, it’s a real polyp, like under a microscope, moving, and everything. This is 1922 Prisoners! “…transparent, without substance, almost a phantom.”
And Renfield sees a spider in his cell, but the guard won’t let him get to it, and they tie him up.
“Nina was often seen alone among the dunes, watching and waiting for her husband’s return.” This is where the Westenras find her, and deliver a letter from her Jonathan, stating he has had frightful dreams, but is leaving immediately to return to her.
Harker is still very weak and pale, with deep sunken eyes and dark circles around. He thanks the peasants, makes his way to a horse, and begins the long journey home.
In his cell, Renfield spies a news page in the back pocket of the guard sweeping his room and snatches it. It reads.....
"New Plague Baffles Science
A mysterious epidemic of the plague has broken out in Eastern Europe and in the port cities of the Black Sea, attacking principally the young and vigorous. Cause of the two bloody marks on the neck of each victim baffles the medical profession."
This makes Renfield very excited....
"Aboard the Demeter first one man was stricken, then all." And still the coffins lie unattended. "One evening, at sundown,the captain and his first mate buried the last man of the crew." One more burial at sea. The First Mate grabs an ax, and heads down to take a look in the hold. When he smashes open a coffin, the rats come pouring out, but this is not the worst of it. Across the room a coffin lid opens, and Nosferatu stands up, stiff, with arms stuck to his sides, and the First Mate freaks out, goes up on deck, and jumps overboard. The Captain sees where this is headed, ties himself to the wheel, (Is this what Captain's do when they go down with their ship?) as Nosferatu makes his way to the bridge.
“Despite all sorts of obstacles, Harker pushed on towards Bremen. Meanwhile, driven by the fatal breath of the vampire, the vessel moved rapidly towards the Baltic.”
Nina is still drawn to the balcony, and raising her arms, she cries, "He's coming. I must go to him..." But she is under a spell, and is not talking about her husband, I don't think, please correct me if I'm wrong, as the ship approaches the harbor. Renfield is also sensing the arrival, "The Master is coming! The Master is Here!" And he starts going nuts, trying to escape up the wall, but he can't so he crawls up onto his bed and sits on his knees in the corner like a little kid waiting in anticipation. Seriously one of the creepiest sights I've ever seen, as he is not a little kid, but a wild haired old man.
The Galley door opens, and Nosferatu rises from the depths of the ship. A guard enters Renfield's cell, and that was a major mistake. Renfield takes him down and flees.
From Cavallius's Diary...
"I have long tried to understand why Nosferatu travelled with the earth-filled coffins. Recently I discovered that to preserve their diabolic power, vampires must sleep during the day in the same unhallowed ground in which they had been buried."
He enters the town of Bremen with his coffin under his arm. The rats have entered Bremen as well, and flee the ship. Harker hurries down the road towards his home, and finally, after many moons, he is home safe in Nina's arms. She is quite weak, but he kisses her, like he hasn't seen her for months. It's very sweet.
Nosferatu reaches his destination, and standing in a small boat, with his coffin under one arm, he crosses what looks to be a moat. Seriously, one of the craziest sights I've ever seen.
When the villagers check out the ship, they find the captain, dead, or near death, tied to the wheel, and not a single soul left on board. The ship's log reads....
"Ship's Log~Varma to Bremen 29 April 1838
Passed the Dardanelles--East Wind--Carrying 5 passengers, mate, crew of 7, and myself, the Captain."
As they examine the Captain's body, they read on...
"6 May 1838
Rounded Cape of Inatagran~One of my men, the strongest, is sick~Crew is restless, uneasy.
"7 May 1838
Mate reported stowaway hiding below decks~will investigate...
"18 May 1838
Passed Gibraltar~Panic on board~Three men dead already~Mate out of his mind~Rats in the hold~I fear the plague..."
And they panic..........
"The Plague is Here!
Stay in your Houses!"
And they flee, leaving the body of the Captain where it lay, and covering their faces with their handkerchiefs. A declaration is read aloud by the town crier.
To halt the spread of the plague, the Burgomaster of Bremen forbids the citizens of this city to bring their sick to the hospitals until further notice."
The townspeople seek shelter in their homes and barricade their windows. The undertaker goes door to door marking the dwellings of the dead with a cross. There are many crosses.
“Nina had promised her husband never to open the The Book of the Vampires, but she found herself unable to resist the temptation..."
"One can recognize the mark of the vampire by the trace of his fangs on the victim's throat. Only a woman can break this frightful spell~a woman pure in heart~who will offer her blood freely to Nosferatu and will keep the vampire by her side until after the cock has crowed."
When Harker finds her, they embrace. She knows he was bitten, and she knows by what, or in this case, by whom, and she knows Nosferatu is a vampire, and she knows that she has been under his spell, and she knows what she must do. Harker knows to, and cannot stop her.
"The townspeople lived in mortal terror. 'Who was sick or dying? Who will be stricken tomorrow...'" And now their dear friend Lucy is sick, as well. Nina stares out the window as more and more caskets are carried down the street.
Meanwhile, Renfield is running a muck through the town, a village mob hot on his tail. He's run through alleyways and straddled rooftops, while Nina cross stitches devising her plan. He gets to a field, but the villagers catch him, tearing his clothes to shred, and taking him back to prison.
At his window, Nosferatu stares across the street, beckoning Nina to hers. While Jonathan sleeps in the chair next to her bed, she throws open the window inviting the vampire to enter. He disappears, and is on his way.
She wakes Jonathan and asks that he call the Professor, to get him out of the house. Nosferatu's shadowy form creeps up the staircase and into her room. She takes to her bed holding her heart in terror as the shadow hands reach and clench towards her.
He goes down on her lovely throat, but he stays too long, and the cock crows, and he realizes his grievous err too late. Renfield senses it, and calls out through his cell window, "Master! Master! Beware!"
And when the sun begins to glow on the buildings outside, he tries to flee, but is caught in it's rays, and disappears before my eyes, leaving nothing but a bit of smoke rising from the ground.
Renfield, all tied up, is a broken man, and simply mumbles, "Master, Master."
But Nina rises, and is finally free, shouting "Jonathan! Jonathan! Just as he and the Professor arrive. "And at that moment, as if by a miracle, the sick no longer died, and the stifling shadow of the vampire vanished with the morning sun."
One last shot as the sun shines on the Count's castle...
And I am left in awe, and probably a needlessly lengthy post, but I simply could not help myself. One of the things I like most about this film is how realistic everything is. I mean, when you watch Gunsmoke and Miss Kitty and Matt are in the wagon, they’re not doing much bouncing, no pun intended. What I mean is, the wagon ride looks fairly smooth and comfortable. Now, I’ve never been in a wagon out in the desert, but I doubt very highly that it is a smooth ride. I’d say it was loud and dusty and bouncy and downright uncomfortable, and probably scary as hell, because you figure each rotation of the wheel was going to be it's last, and you'd be stuck out in the middle of the desert, and by the time one reached their destination, they were sore and miserable. The wagon on the way up to the castle was realistically wrenching from one side to the other, with wheels going into ruts on each side, and the whole dang wagon looking like it was about to fall apart. I think that’s what it was really like. And as a History major, I found so many simple things so fascinating, the height and simplicity of the bed. The slipping out of the nightshirt and tying the sleeves around his waste. The extra rider on the lead horse of the carriage. And how Count Orlok disappeared. He literally disappeared. It was filmed almost 100 years ago, and it wasn't even botched. And when Harker cut his thumb, I'd say he really cut his thumb. The hyena was a surprise. At first I thought it was some sort of animal that really lived there that is now extinct, so that's a little off, because who thinks of hyenas in the Carpathians right off the bat. Who knows? Maybe there are hyenas in the Carpathians. I've never been there, so I couldn't tell you. And Nosferatu carrying his coffin under his arm like it was a newspaper. And the passion between Jonathan and Nina was so clear and evident, but not slimy or dirty, just passionate. The way he held her. The things he wrote to her. And how it was just normal that he would be home in a few months. Ya know, I'll bet, and please bear with me, while I go on a little tangent here that really bugs the crap out of me. You can fast forward if you don't want to listen, but it's my blog, so I'm writing it. I could argue, and I believe I could argue successfully, that the number of divorces has risen steadily with the rise of technology. Seriously. 100 years ago people didn't have to account for every second of the day. They didn't expect a reply to a text in five seconds, and start getting nervous if they don't get one. They just lived. And if they received a letter, that was a treat. One didn't waste time writing about how you should have done this or why didn't you do that or where were you or why didn't you answer my texts. I think it has made us all paranoid and anxious and impatient and expectant of something right this second. They didn't deal with stuff like that. And they sure wouldn't waste their paper and ink to write about stuff like that. It was sharing the good things, and saying how much you missed each other, and then when you got to see them in three months, it was just heaven. Not that I'm given up my cell. I see the value, especially when children are involved. It's far less invasive, and they are far more likely to respond to your texts, by text, then they are to a phone call they actually have to pick up. But as far as relationships go, I think people are far to quick to just text off a frustration, and since there is not inflection in a text, they are often misconstrued, and then the trouble starts. So with relationships...limit the texts, unless they are sweet. With kids, hey, if you can shoot them a short message, they'll look at it. If you call them? Well, it depends. But back to the film. One problem I have, is a loose end, and if I've missed something, please comment and straighten me out. Dr. Van Helsing makes what I will call a cameo appearance. He is in the film, as far as I can tell, simply to infer to the relationship between vampires and the animal and plant world. Somehow making it plausible that there could indeed be vampires, because there are essentially vampires in flora, i.e.venus flytraps, and fauna, the polyp. He is in no way a vampire hunter, at least in this film, but simply to state scientific argument that vampires could exist. Unless I am missing something, and that may very well be the case. I am in no way an authority on Nosferatu, nor am I the sharpest tack in the box. So please, if you know something I don't about this particular aspect of Nosferatu, please chime in on the comments! And this story just goes to show, how misunderstood disease was, and how stories and myths and legends are made up to explain what can't be explained or stopped. If it can't be explained, than it must be supernatural, right? It's been going on for thousands of years, take the gods for example. That's how panic begins. And witch hunts. And vampire hunts. And Inquisitions. And mob mentality. Such a scary thing. And, as far as I'm concerned, the film is a little long. Probably like my post. Well, these little nit picky things certainly don't warrant taking away a flame, and Nosferatu, without a doubt, warrants five flames on the flame scale. What they pulled off in 1922 blew me away...again.
Next it's Disc #2, Movie #2, Swamp Woman!
Until next time...Keep those fires stoked!