Nosferatu versus Blade

         Although the title certainly implies it, this is not an essay covering what would happen if cinema’s first vampire met up with the popular Marvel comics vampire slayer. The purpose is to compare the vampires of old with the current cinematic run. To honestly compare the two, I realize that a description of each would be appropriate.

         F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu,eine Symphonie des Grauen (A Symphony of Horror) was made in 1922. It stars Max Schreck as Count Orlok, the titular monster. Murnau originally wanted to do his own adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but could not obtain the rights, so he made his own story, making miniscule changes. In fact the changes were so small he would end up being sued over his film, and most of the copies were destroyed. This film would not even be around today were it not for a few copies having escaped such treatment.

         For those unaware of the plot, it involves the journey of a real estate agent, named Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) in this film (his name in Stoker’s Dracula was Johnathan Harker) to the estate of Count Orlok. Once there, Orlok seems intent on traveling abroad to find more victims to consume on. And when his attempts to feed on Hutter fail, he goes to the city where he finds more than a large share of prey. Eventually, however, Orlok decides to feed on the wrong woman, Ellen (Greta Schröder), forgetting about the sun rising, and is killed.

         The film itself was not much of a success at the time, due to the lawsuits, but now it is regarded as a horror classic. Such honors bestowed upon it include being #47 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments, countless attempts to re-master it for today’s audience, and a fictional movie of the making, called Shadow of the Vampire, which starred John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.

         Now it would be best to discuss Count Orlok’s “opponent.” and that is Blade (1998). Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Blade (played by Wesley Snipes) is an intriguing vampire. He is only half vampire, and he is also a hero. This is unique in the fact that he is a vampire, a monster, but also a hero, something that has not really been done previously. He also hunts other vampires because of the fact they made him what he was. It is due to his human half that he does not have all of the weaknesses of normal vampires (for example, he can walk around just fine in daylight, which is why he gets the name “Daywalker”).

         The film itself concerns Blade’s attempts to stop a powerful vampire, Deacon Frost (played by Stephen Dorff) from becoming something of a vampire god through ancient rituals. Before Blade can find him, he has to make his way throughout all of his minions using a variety of vampire-hunting gadgets and his abilities at martial arts. This all sets up a climatic battle at the end between the vampire and the vampire hunter.

         The plot alone should show that this movie is vastly different from its predecessors. That is not to say it was not successful, however. Blade spawned two sequels, made 130 million dollars in box office sales and is one of the primary reasons other comic book adaptations were given a green light?. In a subtle nod to the other film in question, Blade II references Nosferatu by introducing a new breed of vampire. Called “Reapers,” they bare a striking resemblance to Count Orlok.

         So besides the glaring plot and time differences, how else are these movies different, or alike? The theme of heroism is definitely a main difference. Nosferatu has no hero. The main villain falls because of his own failure to remember his weakness. No one really stops him or attempts to stop him. He is a monster, and everyone runs from him. Blade’s main character, while an anti-hero, is still heroic. He does save people, he does stop evil, and he does destroy the monsters.

         Another difference would be sex appeal. The monster in Nosferatu is certainly nothing pretty to look at. His appearance is grotesque, with his long fingers, pointed ears and large head. The vampires of Blade, for the most part, resemble normal people. Not only that, they resemble attractive normal people. Both women and men, who would be considered “sexy,” are featured as the monsters in the film. Wesley Snipes, who is also part vampire, is considered by some to be good-looking. The only way you can tell they are vampires, is if they show any vampire weaknesses or reveal their fangs. You could clearly see Orlok was a monster from the way he looked.

         Lastly, another big theme would be the gore/special effects. Blade obviously features better effects; because of the fact it was made and set in a newer time when the technology was available to show things Nosferatu simply could not. That is not to say the earlier film did not try to use effects of its own. Orlok is shown disappearing into nothing at the end, using the technology of the time. Blade also features a lot of gore, something common in vampire movies of today. When the vampires are killed, their flesh burns away revealing a skeleton; then that burns away as well. Lots of blood is shown as Blade destroys the monsters. Nosferatu not only did not use the effects, but some would argue it did not need to (or possibly that again, they just could not). It uses what is available, the shadows and the good make-up effects to display Count Orlok as a brooding, menacing monster. And in that regard it does a commendable job.

         When everything is said and done, and when all the blood was drained, it is easy to see Nosferatu and Blade are both vastly different films. However, they each have something of merit in their own right. Nosferatu is a highly influential classic that should be essential viewing for any horror fanatic. Blade is a blood-filled action flick that should entertain the masses, and it is also influential in its own right, due to what it did for the comic book genre. Both movies are recommended viewing.

Joseph Stone

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