Nosferatu: History and Home Video Guide, Part 2

1920s Screenings and Die zwölfte Stunde (1930)

  • Every known première and early screening of the tenacious vampire film that refused to die
  • Even legal action from the widow of Dracula’s author couldn’t halt the spread of its deadly virus
  • The budget for Nosferatu‘s lavish world première was reportedly greater than that for the film itself
  • Like fellow silent classic The Phantom of the Opera, in 1930 it was reshot, recut and reissued in sound

This is one of a series of articles covering everything Graf Orlok and designed to be read sequentially. It details the film’s history, many different versions and home video releases, and I suggest you start reading from Part 1, unless you want to skip straight to the restored DVD and Blu-ray reviews. Note that this article, like most on this site, is in a constant state of flux, with new info and screening dates being added regularly.

Nosferatu (1922) German poster by Albin Grau

German poster by Albin Grau. This pull-out from trade magazine Der Film: Zeitschrift für die Gesamt-Interessen der Kinematographie, sold for a whopping $21,000 in July 2014. A rear scan is at the foot of the page.


Contents


1920s screenings

Germany

Zoologischer Garten, Berlin - Der Marmorsaal im Zoo

Der Marmorsaal im Zoo, the venue for Nosferatu’s gala première

Original version: 35mm, 1:1.33, five acts, 1,967m (106mins at 16fps)
Censorship: 16.12.1921, no. B 4960, Jv. prohibited for children

  • Gala première: 4.3.1922 as Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, Berlin Der Marmorsaal (Marble Hall). Hans Erdmann orchestral score
  • Theatrical première: 15.3.1922, Berlin Primus-Palast. Score as above.

Note there were even earlier screenings in Holland the previous month.

Nosferatu (1922) Film-Kurier magazine advert

Film-Kurier magazine advert for première

Nosferatu (1922) magazine advert

Magazine advert for première

Nosferatu had a high profile advertising campaign in the run-up to its gala première, which was billed as “The Festival of Nosferatu”. One scene-setter was an extravagant promotional spread in issue no. 21 of the journal Bühne und Film[1] (Stage and Film; note there were at least two identically titled Filmprogrammen being published around this time). It consisted of adverts, production stills, a synopsis of the film, and various essays including a highly fanciful yarn by Albin Grau on a supposed real-life vampire who served as the inspiration for the story. Grau’s essay, simply entitled Vampir, has been translated to English for the booklet in various Eureka/Masters of Cinema releases from 2007 onwards.

“Das Fest des Nosferatu” took place on 4th March 1922, in the opulent splendour of Der Marmorsaal in Berlin’s Zoological Gardens. Those present included potential distributors and several notable Berlin filmmakers, such as Ernst Lubitsch and his frequent collaborator Hanns Kräly, alongside the likes of Richard Oswald, Heinz Schall and Johannes Riemann. The festivities commenced at 8pm with an introduction by Graf Orlok himself, actor Max Schreck. Next, immediately preceding the screening, was the curtain raiser, a projected, written prologue by Kurt Alexander, based on the premise of the “Prelude in the Theatre” which commonly introduces stagings of Goethe’s Faust. Over this, the Otto Kermbach Orchestra played the overture to Heinrich Marschner’s Romantic opera, Der Vampyr (1826). During the screening itself, the orchestra was conducted by Hans Erdmann to his specially composed accompaniment, Fantastisch-romantische Suite. Following the screening was a solo performance by Berlin State Opera dancer Elisabeth Grube to The Serenade, another Erdmann composition. Guests had been asked to attend wearing suitable costume for the grand finale of the night, a Biedermeier-themed masquerade ball, which continued until 2am. It’s not hard to see why more money was reportedly spent on this huge social event and attendant publicity for the film than it actually cost to make.

For examples of the intertitles from the première version, see those in the 1995 and 2006 restorations.


Austria

Nosferatu (1922) Austrian Primax Film poster by Albin Grau

Austrian poster by Albin Grau

Première: before 9.3.1923, Vienna Horticultural Cinema – Béla Balázs: Nosferatu review in Der Wiener Tag newspaper, 9.3.1923; reprinted in Béla Balázs: Schriften zum Film, Erste Band 1926–1931 (1982, 1984) p. 175f.


Czechoslovakia

Upír [Vampire] Nosferatu (1922) Primax-Film advert with Albin Grau artwork in Czech film exhibitors' book, c. 1926

Upír [Vampire] advert with Albin Grau artwork in Czech film exhibitors’ book, c. 1926

Première: 2.2.1923 as Upír Nosferatu, Prague Bio Louvre cinema – Prager Tagblatt28.1.1923. Note that a copy of a Czech print is the source of all “public domain versions”.


Estonia

18.5.22, Tallinn Apollo kino – Waba Maa, Nr. 113 (1067), 18.5.1922


France

Nosferatu le vampire (1922) French magazine advert

“An hour of terror!!” Cinéa magazine advert, 1922

Billed as Nosferatu le vampire, distributor: Cosmograph, length: 1,900m

  • 27.10–22.11.1922, Paris Ciné-Opéra – M. Bouvier and J. L. Leutrat: Nosferatu (1981) pp. 252f, 272; Cinémagazineno. 45, 10.11.1922, p. 179, 203: full-page ads.
  • From 6.6.1925, Paris Ciné-Carillon.[ref]
  • 25.1.1928, Paris Adyar Room, Tribune Libre du Cinéma film club.[ref]
  • From 24.2.1928, Paris Ciné-Latin – Bouvier and Leutrat: Nosferatu (1981) p. 256.

See this informative article: La sortie de Nosferatu de Murnau à Paris en 1922 (et 1925, 1928, 1931).


Hungary

30.9.22–6.10.22, Budapest Renaissance and Helikon cinemas – Film-újság30.9.22, p. 12–13.


Latvia

23.4.1922, Riga Kino A T – Rigasche Rundschau, Nr. 89, 22.4.1922


Netherlands

16.2.1922, The Hague Flora and Olympia cinemas – Haagsche Courant, no. 11964, 16.2.1922, p. 3.

10.12.1927 as Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, Amsterdam Centraal Theater; fourth event of the Dutch Film League – Céline Linssen, Hans Schotts and Tom Gunning: Het gaat om de film! Een nieuwe geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Filmliga 1927–1933 (1999) p. 284. The programme was announced as a “reprise”, presumably referring to the screenings above.

Note that the initial screenings took place before the German première. In November 2018, film journalist Kees Driessen elicited the following response via email from Dr. Robert Kiss, scholar and expert on German silent film:

“…concerning the early release of Nosferatu in The Hague… although this may look unusual when considered in isolation, I actually find it fairly standard practice for the period, with many tens of German features between roughly 1915 and 1924 opening in the Netherlands prior to being seen in Germany; of course, with the overwhelming majority of these features now lost or forgotten, the phenomenon can too easily be overlooked.

Following the loss of French product from the marketplace upon the outbreak of war in 1914, Germany had swiftly entered into a phase of domestic hyperproduction of features; a situation exacerbated by the loss of American product from the marketplace after March 1917, and which continued throughout the inflation-ravaged early postwar years when domestic production remained far more affordable than expending hard currency to acquire imported American movies. One consequence of the vastly increased levels of production, however… was that there were more ‘quality features’ being manufactured in Germany than there were ‘high-class cinemas’ in which to premiere them; this led to a backlog of unreleased features that were held back until a slot in the calendar became available at a major metropolitan venue. In the case of Nosferatu, it had already been passed by the Berlin censor on 16th December 1921, but then had to wait three months before there was a week available in the schedule of the Primus-Palast for its general opening.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok, resting between takes on the set of Nosferatu (1922)

Max Schreck as Count Orlok, resting between takes on the set. Interestingly, he doesn’t actually appear here in the film; the seat and fountain are seen outside Hutter’s house as he sets off on his fateful journey.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which distributor commenced the practice, from early 1915, it became fairly commonplace for German major releases to turn up at Dutch cinemas prior to being seen in Germany. The practice seems to have had no negative consequences, since these early Dutch playdates didn’t impact on the reception of the film in Germany; indeed, neither the Dutch nor the German trade or mainstream press drew the slightest attention to the practice. At the same time, these early bookings may have provided a welcome injection of hard currency to German producers who had otherwise been left waiting for months for their films to open. In the case of Nosferatu, the film specifically reached German cinemas at a time when ticket prices were no longer published in newspapers, because hyperinflation caused them to change during the course of each day – with some suburban, small-town and rural movie houses even having gone over to the barter system, giving a number of eggs, heating briquettes or other goods in exchange for a ticket. In this context, a hard-currency early sale to the Netherlands seems even more desirable and understandable.

Clearly the above three paragraphs are merely a shorthand attempt to sum up a practice that probably merits an entire research paper, but hopefully it may be sufficient to satisfy the question in this instance!”


UK

Première: 16.12.1928 as Dracula, London New Gallery Kinema; 27th programme of the Film Society – The Film Society Programmes 1925–1939 (1972, UK 1976) p. 104f; Bouvier and Leutrat: Nosferatu (1981) p. 259ff.


US

Nosferatu the Vampire (1922) US Film Guild Cinema advert, 1929

US Film Guild Cinema advert, 1929

As Nosferatu the Vampire, English intertitles: Benjamin de Casseres, 70min, at New York Film Guild Cinema

  • Before 16.5.1929 – NY State Motion Picture Division license application, ?.?.1929; Nosferatu in New York in Lichtbild-Bühne magazine no. 116, 16.5.1929; Bouvier and Leutrat: Nosferatu (1981) p. 261. Theatre Guild Magazine Vol. 6, no. 7, April 1929, p. 59, Film Guild Cinema ad: “NtV… coming attraction… inspired by motives from Dracula… a symphony in gray… moods macabre and mordant… a powerful psychopathic study of blood-lust…” In May issue (no. 8, p. 59) an ad for the pending “European Film Sensation” Moulin Rouge (1928), also reiterates the upcoming performance: “Coming! Nosferatu the Vampire directed by Murnau, director of The Last Laugh.”
  • 14.12.1929 –Bouvier and Leutrat: Nosferatu (1981) p. 261, with regard to a meeting in Variety, 25.12.1929; Luciano Berriatúa: Los proverbios chinos de F. W. Murnau (1991) p. 138; Georges Sadoul: Histoire générale du cinéma 5: L’Art muet (L’après-guerre en Europe 1919-1929) (1975) p. 509, unsourced, cites an American copy in seven acts with a length of 6,942 feet (2,117m). He names the makers of this version as Symon Gould [head of the FGC*] (editor), Benjamin de Casseres (intertitles) and Conrad West (screenwriter). *Dutch Film League magazine no. 4, 12.1927, p. 9: Symon Gould: The Film Arts Guild (New York).

Die zwölfte Stunde (1930)

Die zwölfte Stunde. Eine Nacht des Grauens (1930) revision of Nosferatu (1922), German 8-page programme. Copy in Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek Archiv.

Die zwölfte Stunde. Eine Nacht des Grauens (1930) revision of Nosferatu. German 8-page programme; copy in Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek Archiv.

Die zwölfte Stunde. Eine Nacht des Grauens (1930) German programme, pages 4 and 5

Die zwölfte Stunde programme, pages 4 and 5

 Die zwölfte Stunde. Eine Nacht des Grauens (1930) German programme, pages 6 and 7


Die zwölfte Stunde programme, pages 6 and 7. Both stills of Wolkoff (Orlok) are different from the original film and this appears to be is an uncredited non-Schreck actor or stand-in, with distinctly campy make-up. Also see comments section below.

35mm, eight acts, 1893m, after cut-outs: 1799m (1:05:30)

Censorship: 14.11.1930, B27446, Jv. Censorship card not in Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv nor Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek. Reproduced in Lotte H. Eisner: F.W. Murnau (1964, US 1973) p. 233; more editions.

Produced by Deutsch-Film-Production (D.F.P) Berlin SW 48, Friedrichstraße 233, 1930 / Artistic editing: Dr. Waldemar Roger / Music: Georg Fiebiger / Sound system: Organon GmbH, Polyphon-Grammophon-Group / World distribution: German Sound Film Distribution GmbH, Berlin

D.F.P was also registered as “Deutsche Film-Produktion (D.F.P.)”. Until 1932, the company released only two features: the American Wild West films In höchster Gefahr (In Highest Danger) and Bill… Augen auf! (Bill… Eyes Open!), which were both censored on 26.2.1930.

Count Wolkoff (Orlok) in Die zwölfte Stunde. Eine Nacht des Grauens (1930), revision of Nosferatu (1922)

Count Wolkoff (Orlok) in Die zwölfte Stunde. This appears to be the original version of the seemingly retouched photo in the programme above and the basis for the Spanish poster below.

Screenings

Austria

  • Première: 16.5.1930, as Nosferatu (The Vampyr), Vienna – Paimann’s Film Listen no. 737, 23.5.1930, p. 79 states the Viennese première is with six acts and about 2,300m in length; Klaus[2] says 2,297m. Paimann’s name the German “Prana-Organon-Film” as the company of origin.

Germany

  • 17–22.3.1931, Berlin Kamera – Film-Kurier, no. 61, 13.3.1931: “Have You Heard?” memorial for Murnau in the Camera; Lichtbild-Bühne, No. 64, 16.3.1931: “The film appears mute and tinted under the title The Twelfth Hour (A Night of Horror).” The reviewers of these events, however, always speak of Nosferatu. See: The Murnau Memorial Presentation: Nosferatu in the Camera. In Lichtbild-Bühne, No. 66, 18.3.1931.

Spain

Die zwölfte Stunde (1930) aka Nosferatu, el vampiro, sound version reissue of Nosferatu (1922) Spanish poster

Spanish poster of Die zwölfte Stunde aka Nosferatu, el vampiro. Note its close resemblance to the photo on page 6 of the programme above. The window is arched, not square and partly boarded-up, as in the original film.

Die zwölfte Stunde. Eine Nacht des Grauens (The Twelfth Hour: A Night of Horror) was a drastically revised version of Nosferatu, to the extent that the film now had a happy ending! It had sound-on-disc accompaniment, comprising music and sound effects only; no dialogue. The characters were all renamed (yet again), with Orlok becoming Wolkoff, Knock – KarstenHutter – Kundberg and Ellen – Margitta. It also contained some entirely new footage.[2] shot by cameraman Günther Krampf under the direction of Dr. Waldemar Roger. This included a scene at a wake, and a variety of pastoral sequences depicting rural life. Actor Eduard von Winterstein, coincidentally the real-life father of Gustav von Wangenheim, who played Hutter, also joined the cast as an innkeeper in some new scenes. Also appearing was Hans Behal as a priest.

So you see, the idea of giving Count Orlok a voice really is nothing new. There are only two known early prints of Die zwölfte Stunde, but sadly the only one in good, complete condition has been locked away in the archives of the Cinémathèque Française for years and they have no intention of releasing it. It’s just sheer bloody-mindedness and not a first for them; in fact it’s often virtually their modus operandi. I have no idea why this is, but you can ask them here. It’s a real shame, as even just a compilation of the newly shot scenes would make a fascinating extra on any future home video version of its parent film. The Münchner Stadtmuseum recently screened a copy of the Cinémathèque Française print with live piano accompaniment, as its sound discs are now lost. Apparently it’s not much more than a curiosity, concomitant with poor contemporary reviews. For all that, it still deserves to be seen more widely.

Nosferatu (1922) Albin Grau watercolour poster design for the Berlin Cinema at Alexanderplatz

Albin Grau watercolour poster design for the Berlin Cinema at Alexanderplatz


References

This article incorporates some info from Jeanpaul Goergen’s Performance Data, originally published in Filmblatt (Film Sheet), vol. 7, no. 18, Winter/Spring 2002. The same issue also features the article Gute Kopien. Restaurierungen und Editionen (Good Copies: Restorations and Editions). Though superseded by this and my other articles, nonetheless it still contains some points of interest. Additionally, there are many useful documents held at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Orlok in print: books on Nosferatu, Grau and Murnau

Nosferatu (1922) watercolour artwork by Albin Grau

Watercolour artwork by Albin Grau

Nosferatu: History and Home Video Guide, Part 3

Grateful thanks to Aitam Bar-SagiDavid Shepard, Lokke Heiss, Martin H. Larsen and Patrick Stanbury for help with this series of articles.


Current screenings (2019)

No rest for the wicked…

Let me know of any Nosferatu screenings anywhere; I’ll list them here and plug them via social media. Look up the accompanists at the Silent Film Musicians Directory.


If you like this, you’ll love:

Facebook: The Nosferatu Society | in-depth BD/DVD details: DVDCompare

Nosferatu (1922) German poster by Albin Grau, rear

German poster by Albin Grau, rear

8 Comments

  1. Frederik Olsen
    October 29, 11:25 Reply
    This is all extremely fascinating. There's a lot of stuff I knew about previously, but also information I didn't know. Specifically the information about Die zwölfte Stunde. I wonder who is posing as "Fürst Wolkoff" in the programme. Specifically in the photo on page 6. That is not Max Schreck, the window is different from the one we see in Nosferatu, and the make-up looks like that of a circus clown down on his luck. Is it a frame grab from Waldemar Roger's footage or a promotional still, I wonder? The wonderful shot of Wolkoff on page 4 looks more like Schreck to me, but something still seems off about his face to me. I really hope this version of the film will become more widely available once the copyright expires. There are some screenshots and a less than enthusiastic review (in German) at https://redaktion42.com/tag/die-zwoelfte-stunde. But I can't help but think there may be unused Murnau material in that print, such as alternate takes, that has either been ignored or missed by previous restorers. I'm basing this suspicion on the fact that Lotte Eisner's annotated version of the shooting script (https://dearetiennelouis.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/murnaus-shooting-script.pdf) states that the croquet scene was omitted, and yet, that sequence eventually turned up in the 1995 restoration. Die zwölfte Stunde is treated like some sort of black sheep we're not supposed to see beacuse it messes with Murnau's vision, so I wonder how seriously it has been treated by the restorers.
    • Brent Reid
      October 29, 17:45 Reply
      You've picked up on an interesting point, Frederik. Unless those scenes were recreated purely for publicity photos, it's possible that extra scenes with Orlok were shot using an uncredited stand-in. I'm certain that isn't Schreck in either photo: as you say, the appearance of both the window and Orlok are very different from the film and the same goes for the coffin and Orlok. Sadly, I think the chances of even one unique, unused frame being contained in either extant DzS print are slim to none, but it is baffling why they haven't yet been combined and restored or at least preserved. There are countless silent films with re-release, foreign release or similar re-edited part-talkie versions. For the most part, they're only of passing interest and its understandable why they're not more widely available. But Nosferatu is too well known and important a film to leave any part of its history, especially this, unexcavated.
  2. Frederik Olsen
    November 01, 11:56 Reply
    I agree completely, Brent. It's the one part of Nosferatu lore that's largely unknown by most fans, and it is a shame. I hadn't even seen that programme until I discovered your site. Regardless of whether it contains any Murnau material, there must be material we're still missing. The premiere version appears to have been a couple of minutes longer than the latest restoration, and like I mentioned earlier, material thought omitted from the shooting script before filming did eventually turn up. Off the top of my head, the shooting script also contains more material between Hutter and Ellen in the beginning of the film, more shots of Hutter's in Orlok's carriage (including a giant raven and a tree with eyes!), a shot of Hutter and Orlok walking through the castle hallways (with the eyes of the portraits on the wall following the two), an extended scene of Ruth's death and a couple of intertitles that are nowhere to be seen in the final film. I honestly doubt the carriage and hallway scenes unique to the script were ever shot. They seem quite cartoonish. But I always thought the cut away from Ruth to Ellen watching the endless coffin processions was too sudden. It's nothing but wishful speculation, of course, but the script and film differences might be the basis for a good article here some day.
    • Brent Reid
      April 08, 09:58 Reply
      Very interesting. You're extremely observant, Frederick, and I agree, re the article – so get writing!
  3. KEES Driessen
    November 04, 12:50 Reply
    Hi Brent, what a wonderful article & website! I'm re-watching Nosferatu and I love all this background information. On the Dutch premiere of Nosferatu, it is mentioned in an advertisement in the Haagsche Courant newspaper of February 16th, 1922, https://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/view?coll=ddd&identifier=MMKB04:000140640:mpeg21:p003. The usually reliable Cinema Context database, based on official cinema records, also acknowledges these early screenings, http://www.cinemacontext.nl/id/F003658#target2 (referencing the same newspaper ad). Also see this discussion on the (correct) IMDb dating, including screenshots, https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topics/how-does-imdb-get-its-information-on-release-dates-and-venues-especially-regarding-old-movies-such-as-nosferatu-1922. What I dón't know is how or why – if I find out more about that, I will let you know. One question: do you have a reference for 'more money was reportedly spent on this huge social event than the film actually cost to make'? If so, I would love to know. Thanks for all your efforts, KEES.
    • Brent Reid
      April 08, 09:27 Reply
      Hi Kees, Thanks for the complement! I've a long list of early theatrical dates that are slowly being added, but all new info is very welcome. Right now, I can't find the exact reference for your quote but I'll add it when I do!
  4. Martin Larsen
    November 11, 10:31 Reply
    Regarding "Die zwölfte Stunde", that version was studied for all previous restorations and all identifiable "Nosferatu" footage has been incorporated into the restorations. The reason Lotte Eisner stated that the game was omitted from the film was that she was using the Cinémathèque française print (equal to the "Public Domain" version) as reference. The scene is present in "Die zwölfte Stunde", which Eisner also saw, but apparently she had forgotten about this as she makes a couple of other similar mistakes in her script comments - probably because she had already dismissed that version as illegitimate.
    • Brent Reid
      April 08, 09:59 Reply
      Thanks for the clarification, Martin. As ever, it's very much appreciated.

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