Watch Nosferatu, the Seminal Vampire Film, Free Online (1922)

What, you haven’t seen Nos­fer­atu yet? But you’re in luck: not only do you still have a few days left to fit this sem­i­nal clas­sic of vam­pir­ic cin­e­ma into your Hal­loween view­ing rota­tion, but when the 31st comes, you can watch it free online yet again. An inspi­ra­tion for count­less vam­pire films that would fol­low over the next nine­ty years, F.W. Mur­nau’s 1922 silent fea­ture adapts Bram Stok­er’s Drac­u­la, but just loose­ly enough so that it could put its own stamp on the myth and not actu­al­ly have to pay for rights to the nov­el. Jonathan and Mina Hark­er? Now Thomas and Ellen Hut­ter. Jonathan’s boss Ren­field? Now a fel­low named Knock. Count Drac­u­la, to whose vast and crum­bling estate Ren­field sends the hap­less Jonathan? Now Count Orlok — and unfor­get­tably so. We can post no more rel­e­vant endorse­ment of Nos­fer­atu’s endur­ing val­ue than to say that it remains scary, or at least eerie, to this day. I defy any sophis­ti­cat­ed mod­ern view­er to spend All Hal­lows’ eve with this pic­ture and not come away feel­ing faint­ly unset­tled.

Part of it has to do with sheer age: while some visu­al effects haven’t held up — get a load of Orlok escap­ing his cof­fin in the ship’s car­go hold, employ­ing a tech­nique trust­ed by every nine-year-old with a video cam­era — the deeply worn look and feel seems, at moments, to mark the film as com­ing from a dis­tant past when aris­to­crat­ic blood-suck­ing liv­ing corpses may as well have exist­ed.

This same process has, over four decades, imbued with a pati­na of men­ace every hor­ror film made in the sev­en­ties. Fans of the 1979 Wern­er Her­zog-Klaus Kin­s­ki col­lab­o­ra­tion Nos­fer­atu the Vampyre, a com­pan­ion piece obvi­ous­ly worth view­ing in any case, can attest to this. You might also con­sid­er incor­po­rat­ing in your Hal­loween night view­ing E. Elias Mer­hige’s Shad­ow of the Vam­pire, a satire of the 1920s film indus­try’s col­li­sion of eccen­tric old-world crafts­man­ship and sav­age com­mer­cial buf­foon­ery which imag­ines Orlok as hav­ing been played by a geni­une vam­pire. As for Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la’s rights-hav­ing 1992 adap­ta­tion Bram Stok­er’s Drac­u­la… well, its chief point of inter­est is still Gary Old­man’s hair­style.

You can always find Nos­fer­atu on our list of Great Silent Films, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Fritz Lang’s Metrop­o­lis: Uncut & Restored

Where Hor­ror Film Began: The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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