18 May 2014

Blu-ray Reviews - Aguirre: Wrath of God (1972) Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Drama, World Cinema
Rating: PG
BD Release Date:
19th May 2014 (UK)
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Werner Herzog
Klaus Kinski, Ruy Guerra, Helena Rojo

Horror, World Cinema
BD Release Date:
19th May 2014 (UK)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
Running Time:
107 Minutes
Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz
Buy:Nosferatu, The Vampyre (Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook) / Aguirre, Wrath of God (Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook)

BFI has lovingly restored the majority of Werner Herzog’s work from the 60s to the 80s. The first two to drop are Aguirre: Wrath of God and his remake of Nosferatu the Vampyre. They also happen to be two of his finest films in a career that is still ongoing and he is still making fantastic work. They are both on Blu-Ray and are a taste of what to expect in the mammoth box set in July, which comprises of both discs along with another 12 films or so.

Aguirre is considered by many to be his finest work and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a film about madness of Aguirre who was a real-life conquistador who lead a mutiny of an expedition to find the mythical city of El Dorado. Klaus Kinski stars in one of his most deliciously unhinged performances but unlike many roles he had later it works perfectly. Werner Herzog famously threatened to shoot Kinski and then himself when he threatened to walk off the film because he wouldn’t fire an extra. Kinski’s megalomania only reflected in the characters he played, none more so than the films with Werner Herzog.

It opens with one of the most legendary opening scenes in cinema: starting with a shot of a mountain in the Andes, it slowly zooms though the mist and you start to make out a large group of explorers. It’s the kind of scene only a truly visionary can pull off; it’s showy but in a subtle way. The film was shot relatively cheaply and on a stolen 35MM camera from the Munich film school, which makes the cinematography even more astonishing.

The film stands out because it’s one of the quintessential Herzogian films. It has Kinski who was his “muse” for the much of the 70s and 80s. It’s the indifference of nature to the exploitation of mankind; a theme he constantly revisits, along with the madness of mankind as well. It continues to dazzle viewers and has inspired many great films since its release such as Apocalypse Now, The New World and the more recent Valhalla Rising.

Nosferatu is deliberately a more commercial film from Werner Herzog; it was actually shot both in German and English at the time to make it easier to sell overseas. Despite the more commercial nature of the film, however, it doesn’t detract from it being a high quality piece of cinematic art.

Kinski stars again as the title character and does a pitch perfect impression of Max Schreck’s performance in the F.W Murnau original. Herzog considered the original the finest film ever to come out of Germany but he adds his own spin on it too, despite constantly referencing the original film though copying shots from the original.

The main differences between the remake and the original are partly the obvious ones such as it’s in colour instead of black and white, and it’s a “talkie”, as opposed to being silent. It also reverts back, for the most part, to using the original names in Bram Stoker’s Dracula unlike the original film which was an unauthorized adaptation and was almost lost due to a lawsuit by Bram Stoker’s widow.

Atypically of vampire films and especially the 60s and 70s, it’s a deadly serious take on the vampire. It expands on the plot of Dracula more than many versions, as well as the loneliness of the vampire and the doom of being immortal is explored. It’s one of Herzog’s finest films and it’s up there in the great lineage of vampire cinema.

The Blu-rays look quite stunning especially Aguirre which looks almost like a totally different film to old DVD editions. The disc includes commentaries from Werner Herzog on both films and it also features short films from Herzog in the 1960s, which are worth watching. One of Herzog’s earliest feature documentaries, Fata Morgana -which is quite a beautiful film and mostly consists of long tracking shots of the Sahara desert- is also included.

Aguirre: Wrath of God (1972)


Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)


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