Who Was Gustav Von Wangenheim?

Nosferatu (1922) fans such as myself (and, hopefully, yourself) are highly aware of its iconic status, its gothic cinematography, and its limitless ways to inspire today’s filmmakers. It may not be as jump-out-of-your-seat scary as some later horror films, but we highly appreciate how it broke ground and managed to create a beautifully haunting atmosphere.

Oh, and we’re also well aware of this guy:

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Yup, that guy.

This acquired taste in human form is Gustav von Wangenheim, the source of a few unintentional chuckles in the early scenes of the movie. But maybe that’s a little harsh. As I wrote in my Nosferatu review, Gustav’s babyface and habit of laughing just a little too long actually make his later scenes with Count Orlok pretty effective–if a character that happy-go-lucky starts getting scared, it must be for a good reason.

Gustav von Wangenheim - Classic Monsters

In fact, his acting left enough of an impression that I decided to take a closer look at this young actor. How did he come to star in Nosferatu, and what happened to him thereafter?

Let’s just say his story…threw me for a loop.

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The Strange Saga Of “Nosferatu”

One of the few silent classics virtually anyone’s willing to watch, Nosferatu has been iconic practically since its release in 1922. The strange, hunched Count Orlok has a permanent place in cinema history, a unique pedestal that keeps him apart from the suave villains of later pop culture.

Max Schreck in Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

I’ve reviewed this gothic masterpiece before, but didn’t delve much into the details of how or why it was made. A few of you may already know the tale, with its background of modern art, WWI, occultism, flu epidemics, and gleeful copyright infringement. But if not, do read on.  Continue reading

12 Spooky Films I Watch Every October

To kick off the sacred Halloween Time, here’s a listicle that I thought would be fun. Like countless others, I love watching classic horror films around Halloween (spooky, atmospheric ones, not those gory slasher films), and there are certain classics that make up my “must see” list. Now, these aren’t just twelve films I watch every October. Oh no, these are twelve films I have to watch religiously every October, or Halloween will be RUINED (maybe). Plot twist: just a few of them are silent, mainly because I had to narrow the list down to twelve.

12. The Cat and the Canary (1927)

Image result for the cat and the canary 1927 Continue reading

6 Silent-Related Locations Still On My Bucket List

So thanks to several carefully-planned Hollywood trips, I’ve been very fortunate to visit some really cool silent-related locations, such as the site of the former Keystone studio, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Chaplin studio, Buster Keaton’s gravesite, the Egyptian Theatre, Musso & Frank’s, and the closest a stranger can legally get to Buster’s Italian Villa.

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About this close (before the guard comes out).

I’ve also had priceless experiences at both the Buster Keaton Convention in Muskegon, Michigan and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. For a classic film lover, each and every one of these experiences was a dream come true–from the big festivals to the little moments like relaxing in L.A.’s Echo Park and thinking, “That’s the same lake all those Keystone comedians had to jump into!”

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If the water wasn’t…questionable, I would totally jump in too.

But there’s still several places I’m bound and determined to visit one day, and as of right now these sites are in my top 6: Continue reading

A Halloween Post Roundup!

Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!

This wonderful illustration is from Dennison’s Bogie Book, a book of Halloween decoration and party ideas that seems to have been published every year, with updates I presume. This comes from the 1925 edition–isn’t it priceless? Here’s another  illustration:

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To celebrate this spooky holiday, here’s a roundup of all my Halloween-inspired posts from the past. Counting my posts from this month, this includes the films: Continue reading

Thoughts On: “Nosferatu”

Why do we hold such reverence for Nosferatu? Why does a film with such simple special effects and occasionally humorous acting linger in our minds? Why, when Hollywood offers a wealth of svelte–even sexy–vampires, do we keep turning to the gaunt, bushy eyebrowed Count Orlok with his protruding rat teeth?

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It must be more than simple curiosity to see one of our earliest vampire films, although that’s probably a big factor for many. According to some of my non-silents-accustomed friends, its style and film speed can make it effectively creepy. That said, I’ll admit that plenty of people find it hysterical. Continue reading

Thoughts On Herzog’s “Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht” (1979)

To be unable to grow old is terrible… Death is not the worst… Can you imagine enduring centuries, experiencing each day the same futilities…

My favorite vampire film of all time happens to be an homage to film history’s most significant vampire film of all time. You could call it a remake, but the word doesn’t fit…”homage” is far more appropriate. And to use another appropriate word, it’s deeply haunting: Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979).

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Happy Birthday, Nosferatu! (A.K.A. Max)

On this day, 136 years ago, an actor was born who would one day embody the idea of brooding, creeping, sinister evil in a way that no film actor ever had before–or arguably ever did since. His last name even translates to “terror”–I kid you not (get thee to Google Translate!). Here’s a brief overview of the life of this remarkable presence: Continue reading

So What Exactly Was German Expressionism?

You run into it time and time again when reading about film history: “German Expressionism, German Expressionism.” It pops up even more than “French New Wave,” another term that tends to make people’s eyes glaze over. Silent newbies and casual fans probably wonder: just what exactly was this movement that all the film historians go nuts for?

To answer that, we have to glance through a little art history, learn a bit of theater history, reflect on WWI and Germany, and get acquainted with how “the ghosts which haunted the German Romantics had revived, like the shades of Hades after draughts of blood.”

From Morn to Midnight skeleton

AIIEEEEE!!!

Or something like that. Bear with me, for there’s a lot of pieces to put together to get a good picture of German Expressionism. Continue reading