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Category:    Home > Essays > Vampire > Horror > Film Studies > Vampirism, Sexuality & Death - The Legacy Of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu




By Nicholas Sheffo


          Fredrich Wilhelm Murnau’s original silent classic version of Nosferatu (1922), offers an influence only rivaled by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926) in the cannon of German Expressionist cinema.  Thanks to Murnau’s illegal version of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, only Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes have come close to the title of the most filmed character in world cinema.  Add the many non-Dracula Vampire films and you have a picture that is one of the most important films of all time.  In the United States, Kino International had issued the most pristine copies of the film in decades, on its 80th Anniversary.  We will look at the landmark film in three ways: 1) behind the scenes, 2) in its influence, and 3) how the Vampire Cinema that it began always seems to remarkably correspond with the way sex is dealt with in society.

          Murnau (real last name, Plumpe), was a major director in the Expressionist movement, and it is only in recent years the ugly Nosferatu has been re-associated with Dracula as the “romantic” image burned out in the AIDS-era.  The German Expressionist era began with Robert Wiese’s 1919 version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu was the first major film to play against the conventions of artifice the cycle offered.  Metropolis was the peak and end of the movement a mere seven years after it all began.  There has been an uncanny link between modern (and post-modern) culture and trends in the way Vampirism is portrayed cinematically.  We have come just about full-circle with the Murnau version.   

Jack Kerouac believed that “Murnau may have drawn a lot of information for the great vampire dissertations of Romft and Calmet written in the 18th Century.  Vampire is a word of Serbian origin (Wampir), -- meaning blood-sucking ghosts”.  The Stoker equivalent, “blood is life”, is used to back up a text that is pro-laborer insofar as it concerns the people who give their blood and sweat to a society that does not always compensate for their troubles and hard work.  That split is the key to understanding the pendulum nature of the Vampire in pop culture and cinema in particular.  The Murnau version deals directly with death, while the Stoker version deals with romanticism perverted by an evil, decaying elite who must gut out the innocent to survive.  This gives an interesting amount of wiggle room, both helping to explain the endurance of such films, and the various classics that some very talented filmmakers managed to come up with since.

          According to William K. Everson, Murnau embraces the death motif by presenting to his audience a sick-looking, dead bloodsucker, developing “expressionism drawn from naturalistic rather than artificial devices”.  As noted, Nosferatu is notorious in the German Expressionist cannon for breaking those standards of artifice.  In E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow Of The Vampire (2000,) much is made of this.  Murnau (played by John Malkovich) is obsessed with his camera work in and out of the studio.  Not only are the technical bugs and personnel problems getting in his way, but these problems seem to be manifesting themselves further in his lead actor, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe in an Academy Award Nominated performance).  The biggest joke of the film is that Schreck’s Count Orlock is so good that he may be closer to being a real Vampire than Murnau suspects.  A general in-joke involves how real method and character actors can get, but the biggest point may be that Nosferatu haunts the history of cinema so much, that it practically has a supernatural life of its own outside of the diegetic narrative it offers.

Another inside piece of information that exemplifies this about Nosferatu, also evolving into a joke, involves Bram Stoker’s widow successfully suing Murnau over copyright violation of the Dracula novel.  The most interesting legal result gave her the power to destroy all the prints of Nosferatu.  She acted upon this, but she was fortunately not totally successful, as if the film itself had some supernatural protection.  This joke is one Merhige missed out on in Shadow Of The Vampire.

          Lotte E. Eisner perplexedly wondered about a motive for the exterior shooting.  She asks why Murnau went from discovering “such moving natural images” that he “should have been satisfied little more than a year later with a few dull snapshots of rocks or a conventional picture-postcard sea” for his very next film.  Donald F. Glut counters “locations in Nosferatu may have displeased some of Murnau’s peers, but they gave the film an authenticity lacking in most studio-shot vampire movies”.  As a result, the fake look of the indoor studio and its sets do not negate the deathly presence of Murnau’s Orlock.  Although there are interior shots that do suggest a place of wealth gone badly, Murnau is far more interested in the death part.  He demonstrates this by simply being persistent in pointing out that this Vampire is the respectable Orlock (or Orlack, various spellings exist, but the compound word this alternate version offers suggests the vampire more clearly) as a way to point an accusing finger at the source of evil.

          Murnau’s other big contribution to the light-as-good/dark-as-evil duality offers sunlight’s power to vaporize a vampire.  It is also his greatest contribution of all, as the Vampire is (as Glut points out) “always defeated by some force of Good – or light”.  Just before the Bela Lugosi/Tod Browning Dracula (1931) brings the character into mainstream, legally-approved and sound-era filmmaking, Carl Theodore Dreyer’s Vampyr (shot 1930, distributed 1932) takes this idea much farther.  The ideas of light and dark become less black and white, more complex, and this allows Dreyer to delve much deeper into the dreamlike and deathlike realms that make it a masterwork in its own right.  Though produced as a silent film, some copies would be made with various soundtracks after the fact.  The boom of sound and the phenomenal success of the Lugosi/Browning film only encouraged further interest in the more comparatively attractive version of the Count.

          After his performance in the 1931 Dracula, the Lugosi’s name became shorthand for the hypnotic and the seductive (heterosexually), and his early iconic status delivered then-smaller studio Universal’s reputation from silent era has-been to the home of Horror films.  In this way, it was more easily assimilated to the audience and that meant big box office.  Those prints that did survive from the Nosferatu post-lawsuit were many incomplete copies of the film, which Glut points out did not get widely booked until the 1960s.  That is when the Lugosi model finally began to fall.  He reigned from 1931 to 1957, but both Nosferatu’s resurrection and the British Hammer Horror studios first Dracula film in 1958 marked a significant shift for the character.

          Christopher Lee’s portrayal of the title character retained the heterosexual/wealthy old man style, but brought a new menace that challenged Lugosi for the first time.  The very fact that his Dracula films are highly stylized color productions that (as in the goal of all Hammer films) restore British hierarchic values by their conclusion, offered a formula that made that studio legendary.  The denial of the darker, more death-like Nosferatu is also obvious.

          One reason Nosferatu resonated with later audiences who saw it had to do with the fall of the Enlightenment resulting from the terrible realities of World War I and World War II (and the Horrors of Nazi Germany itself foreshadowed by the “something’s wrong” feel of Expressionist films).  Nosferatu was ever a film ahead of its time, fresh and challenging in an era when most filmmakers were unwilling to explore the darker side of the mythos.  They were content to let the Lugosi/Lee models of the Vampire dominate.  In all this time, other concepts of sex and alternate sexualities were just as suppressed.

          Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend also was issued in the late 1950s and gave rise to three films in a short period of time.  The “official” versions so far are The Last Man On Earth (1964) with Vincent Price and The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston.  The leads in both play a man who must face a worldwide disaster in which the rest of the human race has succumbed to disease.  In the book and the Price film, it is actual Vampirism.  The Heston version gives it a science fiction twist as the two Communist/Socialist superpowers (the former Soviet Union and China) turn human race into a race of night-dwelling mutants hunting-down and assimilating any uninfected humans left.  Ridley Scott attempted to remake the book as a film for a third time in the 1990s, finally under its original title with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that project fell through when Scott and Warner Bros. ran into conflicts about it.  It is still in the works with a new director and star.

          In the same circumstance that produced Nosferatu, the original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead puts director George Romero on the map by being an unofficial version of I Am Legend down to copying the look of Last Man On Earth to a great extent.  However, his knock-off also takes the next big step after Vampyr by dealing with race, sexuality, power, and has golden timing (as did the Roman Polanski masterwork Rosemary’s Baby the same year) of being released as America’s Vietnam involvement and civil rights explosions marked a major return of the repressed.  Romero would more explicitly take on Vampirism in his 1978 film Martin, even though the title character is not a supernatural version thereof.

          Polanski himself had just sent-up Vampirism with his previous 1967 effort The Fearless Vampire Killers or Pardon Me But Your Teeth Are In My Neck (also known as Dance of the Vampires).  This effort would later be intertextually tainted by the real-life horror of the film’s female lead (and Polanski’s girlfriend) Sharon Tate, brutally murdered not long after, in the ever-notorious Manson killings.  The 1960s also saw the end of the Lugosi model in TV’s long-running soap opera Dark Shadows, shot on videotape and turning the perversion of the capitalist elite into an almost-sexless melodrama.  It would go on to spawn two feature film versions and other revival series.

          A golden era of reactionary and innovative films on Vampires followed up until 1979, and the edgier, more disturbing Nosferatu (and Vampyr to a lesser extent) Vampire images were embraced by a rising Pop culture.  In June 1970, the Batman comics saw the introduction of the monstrous, Nosferatu-like Man-Bat, a creature born from a scientists' lab experiment (ala Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Murnau’s other Horror work) that turned him into a flying, human-sized bat.  With this kind of doppelgangering around, Batman (hero figure) must confront an aspect of his own darkness while trying to tame/stop Man-Bat.  With Batman almost Vampiric himself and often portrayed as such in the early days as “The Bat-Man”, it becomes one of the key forerunners of his Dark Night Returns revision in the 1980s.  He is a nearly sexless psychotic about to crack-up again after years of retirement and in ways he may never have before.  Such darkness may even be a reaction to the campy Batman series and theatrical film of the 1960s, despite being decades later.

          Matheson would again prove to be vital to the rise of the more frank Vampirism when he teamed up with Dark Shadows’ Dan Curtis and writer Jeff Rice to create the teleplay to The Night Stalker.  This TV movie was produced in 1971 and broadcast in January 1972; it quickly became one of the highest-rated shows in TV history and a classic.  In it, middle-aged reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is a reporter on vacation, called back to his current job in Las Vegas to cover a series of murders that turn out to be committed by a real Vampire, Janos Skorseny (Barry Atwater).  The most important thing about the film is that it is the first ever to explicitly admit to the perversion of the power structure and how that structure will do anything to stay in place, no matter the toll in human lives or in suppression of the truth.  In this respect, it is a forerunner of Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) and would span a great TV Movie sequel a year later (The Night Strangler), a near-classic single season TV series the year after that (Kolchak: The Night Stalker), countless imitators, and the 1990s hit The X-Files.  Curtis even does his own Dracula telefilm with Jack Palance in the title role with Matheson writing when they both pass on participating in the Kolchak series.

          Polanski would again be linked to Vampire cinema by simply making a cameo in Paul Morrissey’s Blood For Dracula (1974), which went even farther with gore, blood, politics, comedy and oddball violence than any other Vampire film has ever gone nearly 30 years later.  The film received what was then an X-rating, but would now get an NC-17, or be released unrated.  The once-glamorous Dracula (Udo Kier in a great performance) is on his way to “Nosferatuville” if he does not get the blood of “wirgin” girls and will remain in a very sickly state until that occurs.  Here, one old elitist preys on another in the form of a family that consists of an old married couple, their three beautiful and developed daughters and a Communist/Socialist farm boy worker-stud (Joe Dallesandro).  Dracula and his assistant are the only ones who know their mission, but the streetwise and politically wise hired help and poorest of all of them catches on quick.  As was the case with the 3-D and X-rated Flesh For

Frankenstein that Morrissey directed, and finished days before this film began shooting, the Hammer films take the brunt of this film’s satire.  There are also sexual situations in Blood For Dracula that one would NEVER see in Hammer or Universal film.

          In the face of all of this, the old Lugosi model of Dracula becomes impotent as Horror image, transforming instead into a Marvel Comics superhero with his own Tomb Of Dracula comic book that runs for much of the 1970s.  Though it is not explicitly Lugosi, the message and point are obvious.  This also became a classic comic series of its time.  More horror titles came along at the same time (Werewolf By Night, the original Swamp Thing,) that crossed into anti-hero territory like nothing since the comics code arrived in 1955.  This would have been unthinkable without Vietnam, or excluding Vampires.

          Returning to the big screen, two films from 1979 complete this era’s cycle: John Badham’s Dracula and Werner Herzog’s unusual remake of Murnau’s Nosferatu.  Badham was coming off of the success of Saturday Night Fever (1977) while Herzog had received international acclaim for Stroszek, so both men were facing unusual scrutiny with their vampire projects.  For Badham, Dracula was not the commercial success that he, his stars and Universal Pictures had hoped for.  Frank Langella did score as one of the screens more memorable Counts, a role he had pulled off on stage that won him the film.  With Sir Lawrence Olivier in his thriller cycle as Van Helsing, a Star Wars-hyped public wanted a throwback to the Bela Lugosi.  Instead, they got a more challenging variation with unexpected twists that went against expectations.  As Robin Wood points out, the film’s idea of the Dracula/Lucy relationship is so boldly heterosexual, it negates the bisexuality and other subversions typically associated with Vampirism to the point of adding an implicit Fascist tendency.  I would add that the conclusion might suggest a flaw in the conclusion of Stoker’s original book (repeated, oddly, in the Coppola version) that the only way the world can survive is the overthrow of the perverted old elite guard.  Badham, as if to respond to the Morrissey Blood For Dracula, suggests ways how that elite could be reborn in a new way.

          Herzog’s Nosferatu The Vampyre also had to live up to the Murnau film, but Eine Symphonie Des Grauens (A Symphony Of Shudders) was not retained as the subtitle of the film as Murnau had used.  Instead, we get Klaus Kinski as the title vampire as total victim.  A more sympathetic variant of Kier’s starving Dracula in the Morrissey version, the film also has its share of humor and would be followed by similar films that reflected more deeply and explicitly on Vampiric needs.  Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983), Katherine Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987, dubbed a “redneck vampire film”) and Abel Ferrera’s The Addiction (1995, in black and white) would be among the most noteworthy of these and the themes of various sexualities would not be held back.

Of course, as noted with Polanski, full-length comedies have been done about Vampires.  While the Disco-era Love At First Bite (1979) was the hit Badham had hoped for with his serious Dracula, later attempts at humor with the subject in Mel Brooks’ awful Dracula – Dead And Loving It and Wes Craven’s Eddie Murphy vehicle Vampire In Brooklyn (both 1995) bombed critically and commercially.  The Murphy film wanted it both ways, scary and funny, but not even Craven could pull that off.  It did lead to Craven’s quickly tiresome, but financially viable (non-Vampiric) Scream franchise.

Badham’s commercial failure discouraged an increasingly commercial Hollywood from doing more Dracula films and Vampire pictures in general during the 1980s, but the films that did get made continued to fascinate.  A Vampire film is being made within the gruesome happenings of Brian De Palma’s Body Double (1984), a purposely-sleazy film about sleazy existence.  By association, the Vampire film was totally relegated to B-movie status as the Reagan years fostered a media culture that suppressed and denied any type of alternative lifestyle or non-heterosexuality. However, such Conservatism only encouraged De Palma to go in the opposite direction.  Up to that time, Blood was always considered a good thing, but not any more.

          The late 1970s slowly began a transition into an era we now known as the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.  Body Double is the last film involving Vampirism to be able to ignore this.  The advent of AIDS would change the context of Vampirism forever, and with Hollywood avoiding AIDS like they had originally avoided Vietnam, the genre would be explicitly revived by Warner Bros. and producer David Geffen for The Lost Boys, Interview With The Vampire and Queen Of The Damned.  Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987) was a modest hit that has had a growing following ever since, crossing teenagers, their groups (the title references Peter Pan) and pop culture.  Despite their age, suggestions of the films’ homoeroticism still haunt it beyond the sexual preference of some of its creative participants.  This becomes much more explicit in Neil Jordan’s film of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire (1994), featuring Tom Cruise controversially cast as the Vampire Lestat (initially against the hopes of a distressed Rice) and Brad Pitt as “lovers potential.”  The prequel, Queen Of The Damned (2002) took a very long time in production, and then had the real-life tragedy of its lead die in an unexpected plane crash.  That was the R&B vocalist Aallyah, who finished just enough work for the film to be issued, but it still felt somehow incomplete.

          Tim Burton, with many retroactive images of old Hollywood Horror films haunting practically all of his work, would revive Batman (1989) with a Nosferatu-like look (though not as far as Man-Bat) and his Ed Wood (1994) would literally have Bela Lugosi (as played by Martin Landau, finally receiving an Academy Award for his acting efforts).  Batman was more promiscuous than in previous incarnations, while remaining heterosexual, but Ed Wood had gender issues that seemed to play in well with Lugosi’s Horror-molded persona.

          Francis Ford Coppola boldly entitled his film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and it would be the first to implicitly deal with AIDS, even if the film itself ran into a multitude of problems.  Coppola, one of the most cinematically literate filmmakers of all time, even references the flame from Murnau’s Faust (1924) and allows his Van Helsing (an over-the-top Anthony Hopkins) to identify his Dracula as Nosferatu!  What would Murnau’s widow have thought?  Combining many visual references to silent and early sound classics with religious symbolism and a sense of Italian Neo-Realism, the film remains his most commercially successful since the ever-brilliant Apocalypse Now (1979).  This does not mean it is entirely successful.  Very little, if any, of the alternate sexuality survives in this telling of Dracula, but it goes further to say that love will survive AIDS and death.  It is played as optimistically romantic, but that has some major problems.  Besides ignoring the finality of death AIDS offers, but Vampirism does not, the film runs the risk of trivializing the crisis unintentionally.  This is furthered by the fact that the group that gets the disease the most is not at the center of the film.  Then, the idea that the undead and the living must merge into the semi-dead to survive is not exactly the epitome of Romanticism.  However, the film still continues the thesis that Vampire films reflect sexuality in society and Coppola had his Dracula (a Lugosi-sounding Gary Oldman) alternately in handsome “Lugosi/Lee/Langella” mode and a modified version of the Nosferatu ugliness.  The film’s ambitions are more impressive than its results.

          Around the same time, the growing influence established of filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese parallels the arrival of newcomers like Quentin Tarantino, Brian Singer, Todd Haynes and Danny Boyle.  The next stage of Vampire films currently involves Vampires arriving in large groups, participating in battles to destroy them that play out like the Professional Westerns like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) and Sergio Leone’s brilliant cycle of the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns” from that same period.     Tarantino, a fan of such cinema, co-produced and co-starred in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), the better of these films and the first.  Two criminal brothers (George Clooney and Tarantino) find themselves in an unexpected alliance with a priest (Harvey Keitel) and his daughter (Juliette Lewis) to battle Aztec Vampires.  Two (so far) poor sequels have been made and Hollywood rolled the dice with John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) and the extremely pointless Dracula 2000.  Carpenter’s film disappoints by not picking up on the implicit Vampirism of his last great film to date, 1988’s They Live.

          That brings us to the last explicitly Vampiric classic of this over-80-years period.  It has influenced The Matrix (1999, and it 2003 sequels), Charlie’s Angels (2000), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), the look and style of the Nightcrawler character in X-Men 2 (2003), and all of their many sequels, while taking the next step forward into the maturity of comic books finding their way to the big screen.  Steven Norrington’s Blade (1998) finally proved a Marvel Comics character could be a critical and commercial big-screen success.  After many failures, mini-major New Line Cinema did it and Wesley Snipes (an underrated dramatic actor) was right on the money as the half-human, half-Vampire superhero that owed as much to Batman as it did to the original Shaft (1971).  Sex was not a major issue, but reproduction and infection of the blood was.

          To backtrack for a moment, African-Americans finally found themselves in the forefront of Pop Culture of the time in the early 1970s.  As far as the Horror genre was concerned, there were supernatural doings in the otherwise unlikely place of a James Bond film with Guy Hamilton’s Live And Let Die (1973), plus outright Vampirism in William Crain’s stylish and humorous Blacula (1972), its sequel Scream Blacula Scream a year later and writer/director Bill Gunn’s Ganja & Hess from 1973.  Though the Bond lacks any Vampires, these films comprise a landmark period for the genre, sparred on somewhat by the African American hero in Romero’s

Night Of The Living Dead.  The Blacula character is obviously an exaggeration of the Lugosi Dracula, but Ganja & Hess offers something different.

          That film, in its full-length cut, has the most explicit nudity and language of just about any film in the genre, rivaling Morrissey’s X-rated Horror films.  Yet, the sexuality is always tinged with the specter of death, never feeling explicitly erotic.  This has much more to do with the distance of the camera and cold lighting schemes than anything else.  The Vampirism, bloodlust, and even quasi-cannibalism come across with the authenticity of documentary-style filmmaking and recall Dreyer’s Vampyr more than any other film of the era.  Likely an influence on Romero’s Martin, the film casts the actor who played Romero’s hero Duane Jones as Dr. Hess, and has all the ethnic authenticity of the non-Horror Reggae classic The Harder They Come (also 1973), but also offers quite a different and innovative music score.  African-American sexuality realized on celluloid, which is a metaphor for all suppressed sexuality on film, offers a new landmark moment for Vampire films up there with the Murnau classic.

          With its smart, pounding Electronica soundtrack and fascinating wide-screen camerawork, Blade was not a blockbuster and print critics (as usual) missed the boat, but its reputation grew and it became a huge home video hit.  The army of Vampires was there, but this time, they had a new foe to contend with.  Snipes has the perfect timing and pacing with one-liners and exceptional martial arts action that is not overly staged like so any a Hollywood film that wishes it was as hip as a low-budget Hong Kong action import.  It becomes the cumulative return to where those early 1970s films (Morrissey’s included) left off.  The science fiction of Omega Man had also finally arrived again in this film and even Udo Kier plays a Vampire!

          The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) would be Norrington’s next big commercial film, having turned down any Blade sequel, yet it did not allow him to totally escape Vampirism.  Mina, now a Vampire, is among its motley cast of would-be heroes.  For the 80th Anniversary of Murnau’s Nosferatu, New Line released that first sequel, Blade 2.  The film ran into some glutting, repeating too much of the original installment, but whether they had Murnau in mind or not, the sequel is haunted more so by him that the original.  Thanks to Blade, a Nosferatu-like overlord has taken over as the worldwide leader of the species, but members of an elite hit squad in training for several years to hunt down Blade are sent to notify him that a new mutant species is on the loose and They will need to pull their resources together, as it feeds on both Vampires and humans.  With Blade being a combination of both, he reluctantly agrees to participate.

          The other twist is that all the mutants also look very Nosferatu-like, but also owe something to another one of his descendants: H. R Giger’s Alien that debuted in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film of the same name.  It to is gender-ambiguous, either seen as a giant running and hunting phallic symbol, or as a mad mother on the loose.  Either way, the German Expressionist influence is undeniable and Blade 2 tries to throw this in too, if not successfully.

          Like its predecessor, Blade 2 did poorly at the box office, and then was rediscovered on home video.  The studio might not have liked that kind of repeat performance, but there is one thing even they could do nothing about.  Blade 2 will hold the distinction of being the last Vampire film to be made before an event that is the most shattering since the advent of AIDS, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  The sequel backed off from the themes of blood, death, sex and existential reflectiveness that made the first a genre classic and decided to go broader for more commercial success.  It will gain Blade new fans, but that proved to be a bad move, as the picture was already in production and it was not escapist enough in the face of such dread.  2004 saw writer David Goyer (who wrote the first two installments of the series) taking over as director, making it one of four scheduled Marvel Comics feature films due all year.  Blade – Trinity brought us a new team called The Nightstalkers, a vampire who was supposed to be Dracula (more of a wrestler type than Nosferatu) and was such a mess that the franchise imploded and was spun into a far more inept TV series.  Suddenly, a new infantilism had befallen Vampire cinema.

          Earlier in 2002, another overlord-type in the Nosferatu mode showed up.  This was a much bigger surprise, since the film was Star Trek – Nemesis.  Despite the many alien creatures the previous series and nine prior feature films offered, Vampirism rarely crept into the franchise.  This was the final of four features with the entire cast of The Next Generation series.  Their big screen stint had been very disappointing, not doing nearly the business of the weakest four films financially with the original cast, nor having the critical impact of the better of those films.

          The militarizing of the series with the second film sadly planted the seeds for the franchise to go overboard with such ideas, which put Gene Roddenberry’s classic so far off his original intents that the general public never cozied up to The Next Generation cast.  The show itself took forever to get started, with its first few seasons sticking the tired stories in a virtual reality section of their version of The Enterprise called the Holodeck.  The cast was thus rendered plastic and happy with few challenges or little of substance to do.  That impression handicapped the feature films they did, though they had eventually developed their TV series and cast of characters into something worthy of the original.  Of particular statue was Patrick Stewart as Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard.  Stewart is one of those vocally great stage actors.  Add that he’s British and the seal of prestige is complete.  This bolsters the Picard character well, with his goodness and professionalism constantly challenged throughout the TV and film series.  Nemesis great twist is a bold undermining of this.

          Along with the Klingons that William Shatner’s Captain Kirk had to help The Federation make piece with in the vintage cast’s last feature film (Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country in 1991,) Picard and crew are asked as a wedding is taking place amongst them to broker peace with a new ruler of the Romulans, the other main alien race the franchise has offered clashing with Federation Starships since the original series.  Picard has no hatred of the Romulans, but it turns out they had attempted to create a clone of him, who would replace him once he was kidnapped and likely, killed.  The Romulans got as far as a cloned likeness named Shinzon (Tom Hardy,) but then abandoned him.  With the assistance of an evil Viceroy (genre favorite Ron Perlman) who retrieved him from the living hell they dumped him in, Shinzon has been snuck into the Romulan high command, intending to feign peace so he can destroy Earth and The Enterprise with a weapon on his ship, which is three-times the current Enterprise’s size.  He also intends to take Picard, gut him out and drain him of what makes him so Shinzon can stay alive.  For now, Shinzon must suck the blood of the Viceroy every time he becomes weak, which gets homoerotic (even counting the characters as alien) and recalls both Herzog’s Nosferatu, and Morrissey’s Dracula in Blood For Dracula.

          Though not noted at the time, the link between cloning and Vampirism  had not been presented this way before, while the film just does not throw the Horror elements in just to make the film different.  The ins and outs of how vampirism is applied to this film are impressive.  This went unnoticed by just about all the critics and writers of the time.  Even the concepts of Fascism and vampirism that Badham presented in his 1979 Dracula come out here, as Picard must ask how much of this lone monster of himself really reflects him.  How much does this Fascist side possibly make him such a success in his militaristic occupation?  How much farther does this delve into him and his private space, than the horrors of The Borg?

          Add some smart dialogue, great action, and a story that gets better as it goes along, and you get the possibly most underrated film the franchise will ever produce.  This one will hopefully be rediscovered as it circulates through various video outlets.  To reveal other clever Vampiric elements in the film would defeat the purpose of this work, and ruin the film for the majority of those who have not seen it.  However, we are at a point that even in the far-flung future and beyond the Horror genre, the figure of Nosferatu continues to thrive with no end in sight.


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