Nosferatu Unleashed in HD: Every Blu-ray Reviewed

by Brent Reid
  • The first vampire film and earliest screen version of Dracula
  • It’s one of the most popular and recognisable of all silent films
  • Reissued countless times on Betamax, VHS, LaserDisc and DVD
  • Count Orlok materialises once more on a clawful of Blu-ray discs
  • All are very different in terms of image, scores and extra features
  • There are also some festering pirate discs to avoid like the plague
  • For the first time, here’s a detailed breakdown and review of each one

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.

There have been many great quality DVDs of the restored versions of this timeless vampire tale and for a long time, film fans thought it couldn’t get any better. But then Blu-ray (BD) came along and even for a worn, battered old journeyman like Count Orlok, who made his début way back in 1922, audio and video quality shot up immensely. As of his 2022 centenary, six very different BDs are available, but which is the best one to buy? The simple answer is… it’s a tie: there are four joint winners and one in close fifth place. Sadly there’s one also-ran, which barely gets off the starting blocks.

Nosferatu (1922) by Dustin Condie aka DCon, 2014

Count Orlok by Dustin Condie, 2014


UK: British Film Institute

Nosferatu (1922) UK BFI Blu-ray

  • Photoplay Productions version of 1995 restoration with James Bernard score
  • “Christopher Frayling on Nosferatu” (2001) featurette (24:08)
  • “Le Vampire” (1945) short directed by Jean Painlevé, with a new score by Saint Etienne’s Pete Wiggs (8:27)
  • “The Mistletoe Bough” (1904) short directed by Percy Stow (8:20)
  • Stills gallery (2:24)
  • 36-page booklet featuring essays and photos
  • New English intertitles
  • Soundtrack: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo

BD (2015) | BFI Player

Eureka/Masters of Cinema

Nosferatu (1922) UK Eureka / Masters of Cinema Blu-ray

  • 2006 restoration of film with reconstructed Hans Erdmann score
  • Audio commentary by film historian David Kalat
  • Audio commentary by film historian R. Dixon Smith and critic Brad Stevens
  • The Language of Shadows: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and His Films (1996–1998/2007) documentary (52:34)
  • Interview with filmmaker Abel Ferrara (12:18)
  • Interview with BFI Classics: Nosferatu author Kevin Jackson (19:41)
  • 56-page booklet featuring essays and photos
  • Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
  • Soundtrack: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo

BD | steelbook BD/DVD (2013)


Spain: Divisa

Nosferatu: Una sinfonía del horror (1922) Spanish Divisa Blu-ray


  • 2006 restoration of film with reconstructed Hans Erdmann score
  • El lenguaje de las sombras: Primeros años y Nosferatu (The Language of Shadows: First Years and Nosferatu, 1996–1998/2007) (53min)
  • El lenguaje de las sombras: Murnau: Las primeras películas (Murnau: The First Films, 1996–1998/2007) (31min)
  • Los vampiros (The Vampires)
  • Anécdotas del rodaje (Anecdotes of filming)
  • La novela de Bram Stoker (Bram Stoker’s novel)
  • El verdadero Conde Drácula (The Real Count Dracula)
  • Galerías (Galleries)
  • Filmografías (Filmographies)
  • Fichas (Sheets/notes)
  • Original German intertitles with optional Spanish and Portuguese subtitles
  • Soundtrack: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo

BD/DVD (2013) | reissue BD/DVD (2018) | 64-page Digibook BD/DVD (2020)

France: Potemkine Films

Nosferatu le vampire (1922) French Potemkine Films Blu-ray and DVD


  • 2006 restoration of film with reconstructed Hans Erdmann score
  • The Language of Shadows: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and His Films (1996–1998/2007) documentary (52:34)
  • Analysis of sequences by Philippe Rouyer
  • Interview with Laurent Mannoni of the Cinémathèque française
  • Interview with Jacques Sirgent, historian and specialist in vampires
  • Composition d’un symphonie de l’horreur (2022) 130-page book – ltd ed only
  • Wooden box – ltd ed only
  • Original German intertitles with optional French subtitles
  • Soundtrack: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo

Steelbook BD/DVD/alt/alt | 777 limited edition BD/DVD/book/box/alt (2022)

The book consists of reprints of vintage essays and extracts from some of the many other books on Nosferatu.

Germany: Universum Film

Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) German Universum Film Blu-ray

  • 2006 restoration of film with reconstructed Hans Erdmann score
  • The Language of Shadows: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and His Films (1996–1998/2007) documentary (52:37)
  • 8mm version of Nosferatu with music by Lucía Martínez (27:50)
  • BD-ROM section with promotional materials and texts by Albin Grau
  • Trailers: The Blue Angel (1930), M (1931), La Dolce Vita (1960), Midnight Lace (1960) and Double Indemnity (1944)
  • 20-page booklet
  • Original German intertitles
  • Soundtrack: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

BD (2014), also in 4-BD/DVD Deutsche Filmklassiker Weimarer Kino 1920–1931 and 6-BD Fantastische Filmklassiker

US: Kino Lorber

Nosferatu (1922) US Kino Blu-ray

Don’t even consider buying it!

  • 2006 restoration of film with reconstructed Hans Erdmann score and new English intertitles
  • The Language of Shadows: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and His Films (1996–1998/2007) documentary (52:46)
  • Clips from Murnau’s films Journey into the Night (1921), The Haunted Castle (1921), Phantom (1922), The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924), The Last Laugh (1924), Tartuffe (1925), Faust (1926) and Tabu (1931)
  • New trailer (0:59)
  • Stills gallery (16 pages)
  • Second disc with same version of film as above but with original German intertitles and optional English subtitles
  • Soundtrack: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

Listed for illustration only – do not buy this disc, for reasons explained below. If you’re in a BD region A country and can’t play any of the region B discs above, the best DVD equivalents are this particular region 1 Kino and region 2 Eureka. Note with those too, the latter is superior. Or go region free! Another option is the same restoration’s streaming-only “100th Anniversary” version with a superior, exclusive score and unique transfer.

Ones to avoid

Nosferatu (1922) US Reel Vault bootleg BD-R

Just say no: Reel Vault’s bootleg BD-R

Note that as of October 31st (Halloween!) 2022, there are no official BDs emanating from Italy, though a couple of leading bootleg labels, Studio 4K and Ermitage Cinema, previously threatened their own illicit versions but thankfully both failed to materialise. Another BD (and DVD) from Zima in Mexico is of very shaky provenance as the sleeve indicates that Zima have, perhaps unwittingly, ‘licensed’ the Kino BD transfer, artwork and image gallery from French scammers Films sans Frontières. Zima made the same mistake with The Blue Angel, M and many, many others.

A recent BD-R and DVD-R, billed as the “100th Anniversary Edition” with an improvised piano score by silent film musician Keith Taylor, comes from prolific US pirates Reel Vault. The only extra is a one-minute “TV promo” and they’ve supplied no other firm info on their effort which is unsurprising. As I originally predicted it features a stolen transfer, altered to disguise its origins. According to Nosferatu expert Martin H. Larsen:

“It is taken directly from BFI’s Blu-ray (meaning the 1995 restoration with some changes by Photoplay Productions) with the following modifications:

  • The colors of the tinting have been changed.
  • The image is slightly cropped on all four sides.
  • The intertitles by Photoplay Productions have been replaced with intertitles from the MoMA version (ie. using names from Stoker’s novel), except the “Nosferatu” title card which is newly generated. Since the MoMA version is not complete, intertitles that don’t exist in the MoMA version have been left out.

So what you get is a sort of hybrid, with a complete version of the film but an incomplete set of intertitles.
It retains the speed correction from the BFI Blu-ray which used a complicated pattern of repeating frames for varied speed, but averaging to about 19 fps. The fewer number of intertitles accounts for the shorter running time of Reel Vault’s version (1:25:52 including nine seconds of added end credits for Taylor’s music), compared to the BFI (88:32).”

Taylor’s accompaniment is said to be more than competent which, based on past form, is unsurprising but it’s the only reason to acquire this release. However, if you support classic film preservation and restoration, don’t buy anything from these thieves. The irony is, of course, that in no time at all someone is bound to rip and upload Reel Vault’s version to YouTube – which I’m sure they’ll be fine with. Every single official Nosferatu release, on every format, is listed here.

Do bear in mind a much better alternative, especially for US fans, to both this and Kino’s travesty is the 2006 restoration’s streaming-only “100th Anniversary” version with a superior, exclusive score by Hugh Doolan and unique transfer. There are also many other excellent, audio-only scores that synchronise with all versions of Nosferatu, with their various different lengths and framerates.

Review and Summary

The race between the six official HD releases is a three-way tie between the UK British Film Institute (BFI) on one hand, and the UK Eureka/Masters of Cinema, Spanish Divisa and French Potemkine discs on the other. Germany’s Universum Film edition comes hot on their heels but as for the US Kino Lorber: oh dear. It should be given a wide berth but more about that later. All BDs feature two distinct restorations: the BFI uniquely features the 1995 restoration, as opposed to the others’ more recent 2006 restoration, but the former is by no means inferior. Both draw from the same batch of surviving prints and are equally complete; they are best thought of as co-existing alternate versions. Latest isn’t always best, as has been known for a long time:

Some praise at morning what they blame at night / But always think the last opinion right.” – Alexander Pope​, An Essay on Criticism (1711)

The Euro editions are all coded for region B, so if you’re unable to play them it’s another good reason to get a region free set-up. As with its many scores, there have been a multitude of differing extra features on various Nosferatu releases over the years but most of the best ones are shared between these five.

Nosferatu (1922) UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray, Orlok on carriage

UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema BD with its ubiquitous greenish night-time tinting. Hmm…

The Eureka, Divisa, Potemkin and BFI BDs may appear to vault ahead on the extras, but only if taken at face value: they’re actually all, ahem, neck and neck. The BFI is minted from a brand new 2k scan supervised by Photoplay’s Patrick Stanbury, who originally worked on the film two decades ago, and BFI producer Douglas Weir. It ports over the excellent featurette hosted by leading film historian Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, who is easily one of the best in his field. It first appeared on the 2002 BFI DVD but here they add two excellent shorts on a similar theme and a stills gallery, while omitting some now redundant text-based extras. This is due to the added bonus of the BD’s glossy 36-page booklet containing two highly readable articles: David Kalat on Nosferatu’s history and Brian J. Robb covering its occult origins. It’s rounded off with a couple of pages by James Bernard on his brilliant orchestral score.

Meanwhile, Eureka’s 2013 BD and DVD mark the fourth distinct occasion they’ve released this film; the first two are detailed here. This time around they’ve gained an excellent Kalat commentary and two interviews over their most recent 2007 DVD set. Conversely, the booklet from that incarnation – complete with ridiculously small font that will be unreadable to many – is now slimmed down from 80 to 56 pages, dropping the “No End to Nosferatu” essay by Thomas Elsaesser, extracted from Weimar Cinema: An Essential Guide to Classic Films of the Era (2009). Don’t worry, you’re not missing much: it’s rife with scholarly theorising and tedious over-analysis, with academic (or art) speak a-plenty slathered on top. He preceded it with a couple of similar treatises: “NosferatuTartuffe and Faust: Secret affinities in FWM” for his own Weimar Cinema and After: Germany’s Historical Imaginary (2000), and “Six Degrees of Nosferatu” for Sight and Sound (2001).

Another booklet essay remains by Gilberto Perez; with that too, its dryness is matched only by its excessive length. More highbrow, pseudo-psychoanalytical waffle comes courtesy of The Bridge by Craig Keller, which thankfully limits itself to just under two pages. I’m not averse to a certain degree of subjective interpretation but have little time for turgid extras like this; for those wishing to learn about the film itself, they’re next to useless. Ultimately, they tell you more about the way the author’s mind works than anything else. If this sort of thing really quickens your blood, I suggest you head over to the likes of or ResearchGate and knock yourself out with dozens of similarly-minded monographs.

Faring much better than all that posturing piffle is a fascinating, though likely fanciful, piece on Nosferatu‘s origin by its principal creator, Albin Grau, first penned for the film’s première programme. Last up is a very insightful 1995 essay by Enno Patalas on his earlier restorations. Although packed with information, it doesn’t pertain in any way to the restoration actually on the disc; ironically it concerns the restoration on the BFI BD. Eureka obviously managed to nab it first, for inclusion on their 2007 DVD, but they really should have left it alone for more appropriate inclusion elsewhere – like on any of the 1995 restoration releases. Never mind: you can read my corrected, annotated version here. Also gone from the Eureka DVD is a fairly inconsequential restoration featurette (3min), which also appeared on various other DVDs. If you’re curious, it can be viewed in low quality here.

Nosferatu (1922) UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray, Orlok reading letter

Eureka/Masters of Cinema BD, with ubiquitous amber tinting, though it’s perfect for this night-time interior.

The Twinned Evils of Nosferatu – J. Hoberman

I’m not alone in eschewing endless analysis: brilliant early C20th sculptor Constantin Brâncuși had no time for pretentious prattle and theorising either. His work was labelled as abstract and fawned over by critics, but he pronounced, “There are idiots who define my work as abstract; yet what they call abstract is what is most realistic.” He also provided my favourite art-related quote: “Don’t look for obscure formulas or mystery in my work. It is pure joy that I offer you.”

Bloodsuckers: Vampires, Antisemitism and Nosferatu at 100Noah Berlatsky

Of course, I’m not (quite) a complete philistine: part of the innate beauty of this film and a large reason for its enduring popularity is that it is so open to multiple interpretations. But you can only go so far. For instance, I concur with the far-from-unique sentiments expressed in this extracted review (spoiler alert):

Nosferatu is a classic because a perceptive viewer can see so many themes in it. Is it a movie about sexuality, Weimar politics, or a foreshadowing of the National Socialists? I’d like to promote a view of the movie I haven’t seen yet (although it may be out there somewhere). I couldn’t help but see a lot of potential anti-Semitic themes playing out in the movie. Orlok’s physical presence resembles in no small way the depictions of Jews that often appeared in Germany even before the Third Reich rose to power. Associating the count with rats and plague is similar to how the Jews were portrayed in notorious anti-Semitic propaganda. I think, too, that the encrypted letter the count sent to Knock underscored what many Germans thought about Jews, that they communicated in esoteric languages and practised a strange religion.

Orlok, when he arrives in Germany, is an outsider, a dangerous foreigner seeking to kill and corrupt the good German people. Again, the Jews were always seen as outsiders with a hidden hostility to gentiles. The conclusion of the film only confirmed this theory in my eyes, when a pure German woman using her wiles managed to defeat the evil count. Germans always worried about Jews marrying their women, so the idea that a girl could not only withstand the advances of the count but also use his lust to destroy him must have resonated deeply with certain segments of the audience. I could go on and on, matching certain scenes with how many Germans perceived the Jews. I hope the film isn’t anti-Semitic. But as a horror film, it is unmatched.”

Exploring Nosferatu’s Complex Relationship with Nazism – Robert Vaux

Nosferatu (1922) UK BFI Blu-ray, Wolfgang Heinz (L) as first mate and Max Nemitz as the captain

BFI BD. “We’re all doomed!” Wolfgang Heinz (L) as first mate and Max Nemitz as the captain. Pink tinting for dusk.

Perhaps Eureka’s most significant extra, which accompanies most releases of the 2006 restoration, is Luciano Berriatúa’s The Language of Shadows documentary (52:37). It’s very informative but seems quite oddly structured, concerning itself with Murnau’s early years right up to and including the filming of Nosferatu – and that’s it. This is because it’s actually part of a series of Language of Shadows documentaries covering the whole of Murnau’s life, which weigh in at a hefty total of 240 minutes. They were originally titled El lenguaje de las sombras (1996–1998, despite some sources claiming 1995) and written and directed by Berriatúa for Televisión Española, Madrid. The Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung (FWMS) acquired the rights to the Spanish language originals, dubbed them into German, crudely carved them up and slapped a new copyright date of 2007 on the resultant fragments.

Now collectively retitled Die Sprache der Schatten, these vary widely in length from 6–54 minutes and their inclusion as extras is compulsory on all FWMS-approved releases of Murnau’s films worldwide. The majority of the series remains unreleased and some of it is inevitably dated, especially as so many of Murnau’s films have been restored over the last couple of decades. However, it’s a terrible shame, resorting to dismembering this impressive beast and releasing it in such a piecemeal, haphazard fashion. An added irony is that even the Spanish releases including it now have chopped-up, German-dubbed, Spanish-subtitled scraps of a documentary that was made in Spanish in the first place. Hardly the best advert for preservation of original versions of works of art, is it?

Incidentally, Nosferatu had to wait until its centenary for the first full length, dedicated, ahem, dracumentary.

The bottom line is that in terms of Eureka’s extras, the only ones of any real value are the commentaries, interviews and Grau’s mini-essay. Even for these, you’ll find far more info if you read this series of articles and follow their many links and recommendations. In comparison, the BFI acquits itself very admirably overall and manages to stay on point just as well.

Once again, the BFI BD features Nosferatu‘s excellent 1995 photochemical restoration, while the other four feature the latest (though not always superior) 2006 digital restoration; both are similarly complete. The BFI 1995 restoration often shows more visible damage and is generally darker with fewer shadow details, but this actually works in the film’s favour: its grittiness adds to the atmosphere, while the shadows often lend a pleasing chiaroscuro-like effect. In short, subjectively speaking, it simply looks more ‘authentic’.

The 2006 restoration is very good and certainly shines on its many screenshots here and elsewhere but looks can be deceiving. Though much work has been done in the digital domain to clean up the appalling state of the source material, damage remains in every single frame but is much more apparent in motion. Granted, it’s more detailed but has been greatly over-brightened and seems at times more like a beautiful painting in motion than a film with pretensions to gnarly horror. If terror truly does hide in the shadows, it’s almost entirely absent in the 2006, because there are simply so few of them. It’ll never happen, but if somehow a pristine copy of the film was ever discovered, I’d be first in line for its première. But having said that, Orlok’s had a hell of a journey and earned the right to wear his battle scars with pride.

Theoretically, neither restoration is more ‘accurate’, per se, than the other but the 2006’s distinctive bright, creamy palette takes some getting used to. Additionally, there are major problems with its tinting scheme that go way beyond this. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll refer you to this article. I find it hard to believe this doesn’t appear to have been commented on before. Put simply, all restored versions, including those on DVD, use a logical combination of various colours. And generally agreeable they are too. All, that is, except for any releases with the 2006: for various reasons, not all of which are adequately explained, it has a gross over-reliance on amber and green, alternating between the two for around 95% of its running time. The remainder is made up of just one other colour: pink for dawn/dusk. No matter what the “evidence” says, I’m totally unconvinced this faithfully represents the original intended look of the film. Clearly, those responsible for the many other restorations felt the same way too.

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

BFI BD with Greta Schröder, acting her gothy socks off.

On another note (pun intended), the FWMS, who control the 2006 restoration, make it a condition of licensing that all home video releases only carry their approximation of Hans Erdmann’s 1922 faux-première score. Note that it’s usually incorrectly referred to as the “original”, which no longer exists. Not for the first time, as well as misleading the public, they’re the enemies of choice. They’re buggers for pulling stunts like this and ultimately it’s always the fans who miss out. For instance, back in 2010 the Alloy Orchestra were commissioned by Kino to provide an additional score for the US release of the fully restored Metropolis (1927).

Alloy’s 2½hr score was duly written, recorded and mastered at a great deal of time and expense, only for the FWMS to tell Kino it was no dice. At the 11th hour, they said it was to have their reconstructed, ie also approximated, Gottfried Huppertz score only or Kino couldn’t use their restoration. Talk about being had over a barrel. There are many other similar examples I could cite; in this regard the FWMS really need to sort themselves out. Incidentally, Alloy’s superlative – and some think superior – score, which they’ve been touring to international acclaim for the past three decades, can be had here. It will sync perfectly to any Complete Metropolis BDs, streams (UK) and NTSC DVDs, including the US Kino and UK Eureka. PAL DVDs would have to be played slower in a computer drive, to correct their 4% speed-up.

In Nosferatu’s case, the stance taken by the FWMS is particularly frustrating because, as previously explained, Erdmann’s original score does not survive and like the Metropolis-Huppertz score, was almost certainly played only once anywayNosferatu’s current Heller recording is merely an educated reimagining of Erdmann’s original and all subsequent custom scores are every bit as valid – if not more so.

While the Eureka/FWMS accompaniment is very good, for my money it’s no match for the BFI’s vastly more effective James Bernard score, also newly remixed in 5.1 surround from the original multi-track masters. The former, while a beautiful listening experience, from the outset frequently fails to invoke the requisite sense of dread, often seeming more suited to pastoral, fairy tale-like imagery. it certainly suits the 2006’s pretty visuals, but it’s supposed to be scary! At key moments, when the music needs to go hard and really thunder, it inexplicably goes limp. But apparently it works better if you think of the film as a comedy! With Bernard though, right from the dramatic, suspenseful opening credits you know you’re in a safe pair of hands. Bernard really delivers and makes Nosferatu actually feel like a horror film. Advantage BFI.

Personally, I’m happy to own both permutations and, as with other silent film releases that offer a choice of soundtrack options on the same disc, I alternate between them and the various unique DVD scores on repeated viewings. But I find myself revisiting the 2006 least often. The Eureka repeatedly leans towards looking and sounding like a beautiful work of art, whereas the BFI more successfully imparts an impression of moody malevolence throughout.

I’ll go further: I’ve seen this film in more different versions, both live and on home video, more times than I can recall. But every time I’ve seen the 2006, in any circumstances, I’ve watched it with my head but not felt it with my heart. Dispiritingly, others I’ve seen it with voice similar sentiments, entirely unprompted by me. There’s an adage that music is half the film, which is especially true of silents, and never more so than with Nosferatu. Seriously, I’ve never seen a film metamorphose so completely according to its score. Though it’s the great-grandaddy of them all, this is not a modern horror and doesn’t have rapid, breathless editing, jump scares or sudden bangs and crashes to make us leap out of our seats. But what it does have is a preponderance of claustrophobic creepiness and sympathetic characters trapped in the throes of an inescapable fate. That is, providing its accompaniment is appropriately supportive.

With all the other home video versions, but especially the BFI, there’s an immediate, unrelenting atmosphere of inevitable doom. It’s truly gripping to watch the inhabitants of this seemingly lovely, safe world, knowing that all the while there’s an undercurrent of pure evil, insistently driving them towards their shocking demise. If screening Nosferatu with a pre-recorded soundtrack for others, and especially non-silent film aficionados, I’d pick the BFI every single time.

Nosferatu (1922) UK BFI Blu-ray, Orlok stalks the ship

BFI BD with blue night-time tinting. Nice.

The Divisa edition’s mostly unique extras are in Spanish, except for two German-language documentaries, and it has no English subtitles. The bulk of the extras are housed on a second disc, carried over from their 2-DVD set. Unfortunately, I speak little Spanish so can’t go into great detail about those. I can confirm though that the other, more English-friendly releases I have of theirs are uniformly excellent. On the whole, Divisa are a near equivalent to Eureka or the BFI and can always be relied on to produce among the best releases possible. Likewise, apart from The Language of Shadows, the Potemkine disc’s unique extras are all in French.

Fifth place goes to the German Universum Film edition. In addition to The Language of Shadows and a 20-page booklet, it has an extensive text and image gallery. Another significant and unique extra is an 8mm cut-down, ‘show at home‘ print of Nosferatu (27:50). It’s the DEFA-Heimfilm Nr. 507 from 1987 with original German intertitles, meaning it was likely originally struck from Staatliches Filmarchiv’s short 35mm print (now in Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv). This cut-down gives an idea of the only way a relative few collectors got to experience the film at all before the home video revolution. Even then, they would have been missing a decent score; here one is newly provided by Spanish percussionist Lucía Martínez. There are similar US examples below, the first scored by Frederick Hodges. These days, such condensations are little more than an interesting curio, but their inclusion is quite common on German releases of classic films. Note that this disc’s contents are completely in German and it has keine Untertitel.

 Narrated versions: Blackhawk Films | unknown

Lagging behind in distant last place is the US region A Kino, with its only noteworthy extras being the documentary and a 16-page stills gallery. Instead, what it does have is a totally unnecessary second disc with another copy of the film. From the very start, Kino had a habit of replacing any original foreign language intertitles with modern English ones. Here, their new English version is on the first disc, along with the extras, while the original German version is relegated to a second disc by itself. I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, at least they deserve some credit for including the original version for once, right?” Wrong: the German transfer is slightly cropped on the sides, but more importantly is badly compromised elsewhere – I’ll get to that in a minute. The English version, meanwhile, is softer in appearance and zoomed in, so is heavily cropped on all four sides.

What’s more, via seamless branching, both language versions could easily have been incorporated on a single disc. Incidentally, we can make grudging allowances for translated and replaced intertitles on pre-2006 releases of silent films: such versions produced a couple of decades ago were for a marketplace far less accustomed to them, let alone foreign language ones. In addition, many transfers date back to the pre-DVD era when subtitles were less accessible on home video. Nowadays, it’s generally accepted that original is best, presenting films as close to the way they were first seen as possible, with subtitles if necessary – “if you cannot authenticate, you do not fake.” Kino is the only label I know of that not only persisted with intertitle replacement but actually made it a blanket policy. There were some exceptions to this, swith several unaltered, originally-titled releases latterly but generally they keep reverting to form. Thankfully though, by 2018 Kino appear to have finally abandoned this misguided practice entirely.

Nosferatu (1922) UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray, Salzspeicher (salt warehouses)

Eureka/Masters of Cinema BD. Its amber daylight tinting is too deep by half, but do enlarge it to see the great detail in the salt warehouses’ bricks!

Sadly, Kino didn’t stop there: they actually mucked up both their transfers more profoundly. I’m going to have to get a little bit technical here but bear with me. Sound film and 1080p BDs basically run at 24 frames per second (fps) and most silent films run between 16–22fps. Nosferatu’s optimum frame rate is 18fps, so to slow it down Eureka simply repeated/doubled every third frame, giving a pattern or ‘pulldown’ like this: 112 112 112. Easy, right? In motion, this formula is undetectable to most people. Now, for reasons known only to themselves, Kino often transfer their silent films to disc using some highly illogical methods. In the case of Nosferatu the pulldown is 12121231, 12121231. So you see, they repeated every other frame twice, then the seventh frame three times. Huh?

As if that wasn’t enough, to make the resulting mess still fit into 24fps, they’ve then eliminated every eighth frame. This results in the complete loss of over 11% of Nosferatu’s images. The outcome is that visible motion jitter, a juddery, stutter-like effect, is introduced throughout and a goodly chunk of the actual film is gone. The restorer’s job wholly undone. To look at it another way, the Kino is cut, throughout its length, and the Eureka is uncut. If we rejigged the Kino transfer to match the Eureka’s pulldown, it would run shorter by about 10 minutes. No thanks. Who in hell mastered this aberration? All in all, it’s an absolutely pathetic effort and total rip-off.

Many people, unaware of this issue, will just see a picture that on the whole has more resolution than a DVD and, lacking a superior comparison, just accept the jerkiness as being part of the ‘silent film experience’. NO! Such thinking is akin to the dark decades following the silent era, when those expertly made films were rubbished as being uniformly amateurish, sped up, scratched, choppy cinematic daubings. That was before these more enlightened times of restoration and proper presentation. On the bright side, one thing the Kino does well is demonstrate how films came to be termed ‘flickers’: it’s akin to watching a flick book version of Nosferatu. In fact, that’s about the only thing it does well. To see just how herky-jerky and cropped the Kino looks, check out this B&W retooled version of their English transfer, and this useful comparison:

Kino have always been fantastic cheerleaders for silents, releasing copious numbers of them on all formats going back to VHS. But too often their credo has been quantity not quality, as evidenced by their commonplace PAL-NTSC transfers on DVD. But there’s no good reason for the state of their Nosferatu discs. I sincerely doubt it’s a one-off and that at least some of their other silents releases from around the same time will be similarly afflicted, but I don’t fancy risking my hard-earned in testing any others. If anyone knows of any more like it, let me know and I’ll highlight them here and elsewhere. Better still would be an insider’s word as to how and why this was botched so spectacularly. But as they’ve refused to admit anything’s wrong for over a decade, much less recall and remaster them, as with their unfit-for-purpose Blackmail discs, an explanation is extremely unlikely to be forthcoming.

Nosferatu (1922) UK Eureka-Masters of Cinema Blu-ray, Orlok's death

Eureka/Masters of Cinema BD; Orlok gets his. Pink tinting for dawn.

I’d advise you to avoid the Kino travesty altogether and, if you already have it, stick to their earlier 2007 DVD. Do note that too, has its own set of problems, as with all Kino DVDs and their SD extras that are struck from European PAL masters. Also beware Kino’s corresponding 2013 DVD: it’s culled from the same master as its HD counterpart and is equally disastrous. Again, your best option is to go region free and import one of the Euro BDs. If you’re after the 2006 restoration and have region free DVD playback, at least get Eureka’s superior 2-DVD set (2013); their third. It’s region 2 coded but unlike both their earlier ones is in the NTSC format, so fully playable in the US and Canada. The only Kino DVD really worth owning so far is their first (2002), featuring the 1995 restoration.

As previously stated, yet another option is the streaming-only “100th Anniversary” version of the 2006 restoration with a superior, exclusive score and unique transfer.

Like Eureka, Kino have issued Orlok’s odyssey in several distinct editions but unlike Eureka, each one is worse than the last. Nosferatu is a flagship of Kino’s frequently brilliant silent film roster and surely one of their best selling titles in that category; incredible to think they could treat it like this. I’m a strong advocate of always choosing the best quality restored, authorised releases but sometimes – thankfully very rarely – even they can be screwed up. Kino’s lacklustre effort gets my vote for the worst ‘official’ silent film BD and DVD to date. I know there are various other similarly compromised silent releases of theirs, especially from the early-mid 2010s, so avoid buying any if there are alternatives. Feel free to flag up up any you know of in the comments.

Hmm… it occurs to me that as neither the 1995 nor 2006 restoration is perfect, my ideal BD would be a variorum, with an image, editing and tinting that combined the best of the two. Music would be courtesy of James Bernard’s score and both reconstructions of Hans Erdmann’s original. Via seamless branching it would have both restorations’ different sets of original/partially recreated German intertitles, as well as Photoplay’s new English ones. For completeness’ sake it could include the latest set of new English intertitles too, as found on the Kino BD and Australian Madman 2-DVD set… Well, I can dream, can’t I?

The final verdict is that of the six restored, officially licensed BDs available, the only five worth your time and money are all region B coded. Go region free! Of the 2006 restoration BDs, I’ll give Eureka the nudge on image, as close inspection shows they’ve performed additional work on their master to minimise the effects of dirt and scratches. But if you want to watch a horror film and not study a work of art, pick the BFI.

The great news is there’s no denying that any of these BDs, bar the Kino of course, will allow you to see and hear Nosferatu in the best quality possible and certainly far better than anyone’s experienced since the 1920s. And even better will surely come one day. I’m sure Count Orlok would be grimly pleased to know that though currently indisposed, he continues to seduce so many fresh, willing victims, all eager to fall under his deathless spell.

Nosferatu (1922) poster by Ken Taylor, 2014

Poster by Ken Taylor, 2014

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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19th May 2017 19:28

i recently attempted to watch kino, but i found the music apallingly horrid. the flute accompanying the stage coach as approaching orlocks castle seemed to want to create a comic effect. it was a travesty. are there any versions that feature music composed by someone who doesn’t think its necessary to create scene specific tunes for every scene. give me back dvorak’s from the new world as public domain generic score that was on tv the first time i saw this film many years ago.

27th August 2017 23:45

Great article. I actually came across this article because I have been trying for a while now to see if I have the only version of Nosferatu on bluray with image instability. I owned the Eureka DVD which I loved and was really looking forward to the bluray release from them. As much as I wanted to like it I was left really disappointed. I know the new grain visible is due to the restoration in HD and I have to put up with it if it means more detail, but I seem to be the only person who has… Read more »

Al de Baran
Al de Baran
1st June 2020 16:14

I really appreciate all the information you provide here. So much so, in fact, that I almost (but not quite) feel a little guilty regarding the following observations. 1. On the one hand, you deride (correctly) the pseudo-intellectual academic “piffle” in the various booklets that has no busy accompanying releases that are intended for the general public. But in the next breath, you hypocritically endorse an equally groundless, pseudo-intellectual (mis) reading of the film as anti-Semitic. Based as the review is on that individual’s own personal associations and innuendos, there is no better reason to believe that Orlok is a… Read more »

Jim McGaw
Jim McGaw
15th April 2022 13:56

For someone who has owned four different versions of this film (I still have the BFI and Masters of Cinema BDs), this article was a great read. Thank you. I’m a little puzzled, however. You say it’s basically a three-way tie, but it’s pretty clear from reading this that you prefer the BFI version. The score alone seems to be a pretty good reason to go with the BFI: “The Eureka repeatedly leans towards looking and sounding like a beautiful work of art, whereas the BFI more successfully imparts an impression of moody malevolence throughout,” you write.

Fr. Matthew Hardesty
Fr. Matthew Hardesty
27th August 2022 07:06

A new 100th Anniversary edition blu-ray from Reel Vault is coming October 11, 2022:

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