That’s right, off-brand. The rights to Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula weren’t purchased, so names had to be changed to keep it legal. Main characters Count Dracula is renamed Count Orlok, and is played by Max Schreck (“Die letzten Vier von Santa Cruz”), Jonathan Harker is renamed Hutter (played by Gustav v. Wangenheim, “Danton”) and Mina Harker is renamed Ellen Hutter (played by Greta Schroeder, “Circus Girl”).
Hutter is a real estate agent sent to Transylvania to sell Count Orlok property in his hometown of Wisbourg, Germany. The property in question is directly across from Hutter’s home, in fact. Once in Transylvania, strange things begin to happen to Hutter, which only increase once he reaches Orlok’s castle. After determining that Orlok is a vampire, Hutter enters into a race against time to beat Orlok back to Wisbourg and defeat him, before he kills the entire town, and Hutter’s wife, Ellen.
The story remains fairly faithful to the meat of the original novel, which is to be commended given both the length of the film and the primitive technology of the time. Motion pictures were still new in the early 20’s; sound (background music) had only recently been added in. The use of stop motion photography in some of the sequences created a jerky effect to items that are levitating on film, which adds a bit of creepiness to it that we don’t often get in more modern movies.
The over dramatized body movements and actions are a testament to the film’s age; actors could only use their body to convey emotion, and it resembles what one sees in theater performances. This makes the acting appear cheesy, but for its time, it was necessary. Schroeder’s portrayal of Ellen is the best example of this; she throws her body in giant gestures that seem ridiculous at first, but do their job. Eventually, the audience gets used to it.
Writer Henrik Galeen and Director F.W. Murnau do a brilliant job packaging this well loved horror story for film for the first time. Don’t expect explosions, high grade acting or amazing vocal skills, but do expect a well-told story with decent acting and a good “creepy” vibe.