Nosferatu: History and Home Video Guide, Part 6

by Brent Reid

1995 and 2006 Restorations

  • Nosferatu’s metamorphosis continues: two new versions, many new sets of intertitles
  • Both are equally complete and the only ones available on Blu-ray and HD digital video
  • They’re very different and excellent overall, but both are still a long way from perfection
  • One thing is certain: more restorations will follow and Count Orlok will be reborn yet again

This is one of a series of articles covering everything Graf Orlok and best read sequentially. They detail 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.

Count Orlok portrait by Daniel Crossland, 2010

Count Orlok portrait by Daniel Crossland, 2010


1995 restoration


“Black-and-white negative, based on the tinted print of the First French Version at the Cinémathèque Française (a first-generation print). Missing scenes and parts were completed by nitrate materials of the second French version (Cinémathèque Française), as well as from Die zwölfte Stunde. On this completed negative a new colouring scheme was applied; no filter tinting but colourising (B&W on monochrome film), mainly based on the tinted print of the first French version: yellow for sunshine, but also for lamps and candles; pink for dawn (but not always); nocturnal scenes in blue (especially outdoors) and blue-green (interiors, and for ‘creepy mood’)” – Enno Patalas

In 1995 Enno Patalas overhauled his earlier 1987 restoration completely, this time using a recently discovered original French print as the basis and retaining only the 1987’s intertitles. Patalas used the recreated original German intertitles, made by Studio Pfenninger in 1981, for all four of his restorations up to and including 1995. They were based on those in a copy of an original German print, as were the intertitles of Berriatúa’s 2006 restoration. Therefore, both sets of intertitles are accurately represented by the 1995 and 2006 examples below.

The 1995 restoration appears numerous times on home video but its original German intertitles only appear on three Spanish and German releases. While two are on VHS, the sole DVD‘s Spanish language option consists of translated intertitles that use the subtitle stream to cover the originals completely. It’s an unusual technique and the only other examples I’ve come across are several DVDs of Pandora’s Box (Die Büchse der Pandora, 1929). Do post in the comments if you know of any more!

Nosferatu (1922), 1995 restoration German opening intertitle, 2002 Spanish Divisa DVD

Recreated original German intertitle created on film. 2003 Spanish Divisa DVD

Nosferatu (1922), 1995 restoration Spanish opening intertitle, Spanish Divisa 2002 DVD

New Spanish intertitle, uses DVD’s subtitle stream to mask the German intertitles. 2003 Spanish Divisa DVD. Note these are different and superior to the replacement video intertitles given the 1987 restoration when it was broadcast on Spanish TV.

Photoplay version


David Gill (1928–1997), Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury of Photoplay Productions added new translated English intertitles to the 1995 restoration and a new orchestral score. This version was then broadcast in 1997 on Channel 4 and is the one featured on the BFI’s DVD and BD. The Photoplay version is unique among restored iterations of the film, in that it dispenses with the five-act intertitles altogether and is transferred at 19fps; all other versions retain the acts and run at 18fps. The very high quality intertitles replacing the remainder were created on film. Kevin and Patrick say they believe very strongly in replacing foreign language intertitles for domestic markets, as happened during the silent era. (Subtitling didn’t become commonplace until the 1930s.) They went to a great deal of effort and expense to have the original German font replicated in English; where necessary having missing characters newly designed as carefully as possible. They then ensured their intertitles were exactly the same length, frame-for-frame, as the originals. I can’t argue with the results: they’re by far the best such modern recreations I’ve seen. In fact, the only criticism I have of them is that they look too pristine, contrasting very noticeably with the worn material surrounding them. They’d have benefited from having an artificial layer of grain and scratches applied, as David Shepard did with his versions, to help them blend in better.

Nosferatu (1922), 1995 restoration (1997 Photoplay version), UK BFI Blu-ray

New English intertitle created on film; 1997 Photoplay version. 2015 UK BFI Blu-ray

Meanwhile, for their 2002 DVD, Kino in the US opted for a new set of translated English intertitles created on SD video.

Nosferatu (1922), 1995 restoration English opening intertitle, US Kino 2002 DVD

New English intertitle created on SD video. 2002 US Kino DVD

2006 restoration

Première unknown (get in touch if you know!). All home video releases feature the Hans Erdmann score “reconstructed” for full orchestra by Berndt Heller.

In 2005/2006 a completely new restoration was supervised by film historian and preservationist Luciano Berriatúa for the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung (FWMS), again in conjunction with various archives. Except for the BFI BD, this version is the one featured on all BDs and DVDs from 2007 onwards. You can see a fascinating side-by-side, before and after comparison of the entire digital clean-up, which clearly shows the sometimes shocking state even some of the best surviving materials are in and just what an incredible job restorers really do.

This restoration was based on the 1922 tinted French print at the Cinémathèque Française. Missing scenes were taken from the Bundesarchiv’s early 1940s B&W safety copy of a 1920s Czech export print and a print of Die zwölfte Stunde at the Cinémathèque Française. Intertitles were digitally scanned directly from those in the Bundesarchiv’s B&W 1962 safety copy of the original 1922 German version and restored in high definition (HD). Missing ones were recreated using the same technique and have FWMS in the lower left corner. Additionally, new English-translated intertitles, in a fairly similar style to the originals, were prepared for some countries’ BD and DVD releases.

Nosferatu (1922), 2006 restoration German opening intertitle, UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray

Original German intertitle restored digitally in HD. 2013 UK Eureka/Masters of Cinema Blu-ray

Nosferatu (1922), 2006 restoration English opening intertitle, US Kino Blu-ray

New English intertitle created digitally in HD. 2013 US Kino Blu-ray

Composer Paul Hembree on his 2011 Nosferatu score:

“My favorite intertitle: “Nosferatu: Does this name not sound like the deathbird calling your name at midnight? Beware you never say it – for then the pictures of life will fade to shadows, haunting dreams will climb forth from your heart and feed on your blood.”

The last line is particularly telling. Is Nosferatu [sic: Count Orlok] a real person, a corporeal menace who murders his victims with claws and teeth? Or is he a dream, the product of a fevered mind, haggard from disease and the aftermath of war? Does he come from afar, with the gaunt countenance of a foreigner, or does he come from within – does he “climb forth from your heart?”

The idea that a part of Nosferatu is our own dark desires manifested is a driving force within this music. It is constantly searching, yearning for something which it cannot find.”

Editing errors

Both the 1995 and 2006 restorations have many inconsequential editing variations in terms of missing frames and the exact placement of title cards, but they also have a trio of minor flubs between them:

  • In the 1995, Hutter is looking out of a window at Orlok loading a cart when a one-second-long shot of him appears too early. There’s a cutaway to Orlok then back to Hutter, where said second repeats, this time in its correct place, before running as intended. On the BFI BD it’s at 0:37:48.
  • The 2006 actually manages to invert a brief shot of Slovakian Jánošíkove diery (Janosik holes), which are usually incorrectly referred to as a waterfall. In the shot, the water is clearly running upside down! On the Eureka BD it’s at 0:35:24 (corrected clip).
  • The 2006 has a second editing error which is similar to the one afflicting the 1995. In a long shot of the town crier walking down the street, there is a jump and the image repeats itself momentarily. On the Eureka BD it’s at 1:16:24.

In early 2016, Patrick revisited Photoplay’s version to perform some additional clean-up. As a result of this article, he also fixed the editing error! The improved version is now on their DCP, will be used for any future streaming versions and, should they ever be reissued, replace the version currently on the BFI BD and DVD. I must emphasise that these errors range in length from a split second to a couple of seconds. You’re unlikely to spot them without being forewarned and even then they’re likely to pass you by unnoticed. In no way will they mar your overall enjoyment of either restoration.

Greta Schröder in Nosferatu (1922) UK BFI Blu-ray, on beach

Greta Schröder not enjoying her day at the beach. UK BFI Blu-ray.

Tinting variations

Regarding their respective colour schemes, though they both use the same tinted original print for reference, for technical reasons they vary hugely. Silent film tints are primarily used to denote the time of day and setting of individual scenes. The most commonly used tints, most of which would apply to Nosferatu, are:

  • Yellow: exterior daylight
  • Blue: exterior night
  • Amber or sepia: interior natural and artificial light
  • Pink or lavender: dawn and dusk
  • Green: outdoor rural scenes and intrigue or suspense
  • Red: fire, explosions, anger

The tinting varies greatly between the 1995 and 2006 restorations but in both versions there are several baffling, as well as annoying, choices made that defy all logic. The 1995 has two similar minor ones in that Hutter’s darkened hotel room is already tinted in an amber shade, indicating indoor light, seconds before the innkeeper’s wife enters bearing a lit candle. Later on, this happens in reverse: the wind from an open window blows a candle out and there’s a split second delay before the room goes dark. In the first instance, in the 2006 the room is initially tinted in green, denoting darkness in this case, before changing to amber at the correct moment. Conversely, elsewhere the 2006 reintroduces old mistakes or makes many new ones. The only other tinting oddities of the 1995 are scenes of Knock in his cell in the final reel being tinted blue for night, while intercut with everywhere else that’s pink for dawn. But that’s it. For the rest of its length the tinting choices are entirely logical and pleasing. The 2006, on the other hand, borders on maddening, with its sins being far more egregious due to their utter lack of variation. It only has pink dawn/dusk tinting for a total of four minutes; then believe it or not, the rest of the film is divided wholly between the amber and green shades in the screenshots below. Therefore it gets quite confusing when being given contradictory messages as to what time of day (or night) it is, which unfailingly takes one out of the film.

One thing is for sure: the 2006 is not the last word in restoration and Orlok will be comprehensively made over again. In fact, circa 2010, it very nearly happened.

"Your wife has a beautiful neck..." Max Schreck (L) and Gustav von Wangenheim in Nosferatu (1922) UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray

“Your wife has a beautiful neck…” Max Schreck (L) and Gustav von Wangenheim. UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray.

Additionally, all pre-2013 DVDs featuring each restoration differ from the colours of their BD counterparts. Martin H. Larsen, 13th November 2016:

“The tints differ for three reasons: 1) Different conclusions made by Patalas and Berriatúa regarding the original tints, 2) the choice between keeping to the original (but illogical) tints in one scene or correcting it, and 3) different methods of applying the tints to the final prints and digital versions.

1) The tinted original 1922 French release print, used for reference, has all its different colours varying in hue. Patalas made the assumption that the colour for night-time, varying from blue to an almost blue-green, was supposed to be two different colours; blue for night exteriors and green for unlit night interiors. Berriatúa concluded that the variations in hues were merely due to the printing and dye tinting techniques used, and that there was only supposed to be one hue of each colour. Hence night exteriors and unlit interiors were all supposed to be the same, namely greenish blue.

2) In the tinted French print, the section where Hutter leaves the inn and travels into the mountains does not really make sense regarding the tints. Hutter leaves the inn at dawn (pink, normally used for dusk and dawn), travels into the mountains at dawn (pink), remarks that the sun is setting (whereafter the film changes to yellow, normally used for daylight!) and arrives at the castle at night (greenish blue). Patalas saw this as an error in the French print and chose to correct it in the 1995 restoration: Hutter leaves the inn during daytime (yellow), remarks that the sun is setting (change to pink) and arrives at the castle during night (blue, as per Patalas’ conclusion about night-time exteriors). For his 2006 restoration, Berriatúa agrees that the original tinting is illogical but chose to leave it as was, since it could not be determined for certain that there was an error in the print.

3) Another difference in tinting is the saturation of the colours. When producing tinted 35mm positive prints of both the 1995 and 2006 restorations for theatrical release, the Desmetcolor method was used, meaning that exact colour replication is not achieved. This resulted in both sets of prints having overly saturated colours. For DVD versions of both the 1995 and 2006 restorations the tints were applied digitally, using (over saturated) tinted positive prints for colour reference. For Blu-ray versions of the 2006 restoration the tinted French print was used for colour reference, meaning that they represent the colours most accurately.”

Max Schreck as Count Orlok in Nosferatu (1922) UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray, carrying coffin

“He’s creepy and he’s kooky…” Max Schreck as Count Orlok, up to no good as usual. UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray.

Nosferatu: History and Home Video Guide, Part 7

Grateful thanks to Aitam Bar-Sagi, David ShepardLokke Heiss, Martin H. Larsen and Patrick Stanbury for help with this series of articles.

If you like this, you’ll love:

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

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28th September 2019 08:30

Did the 1995 version with the editing fix that was done in 2016 ever get released on Blu Ray?

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