Nosferatu, Phantom Der Nacht | 1979
Werner Herzog’s revisiting of the 1922 silent classic moves along like a slowly unfolding nightmare, oozing atmosphere.
Although the film was obviously made in Europe, to see the mummies featured under the opening credits, you need to travel to central Mexico. They’re on display at the Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum) in the old Colonial city of Guanajuato, about 200 miles northwest of Mexico City.
Unlike their Egyptian counterparts, these are ‘accidental’ mummies. The municipal cemetery had a short-stay policy, with residents getting the boot after 5 years if relatives didn’t fork out an extra rental fee. A small percentage of the bodies were discovered to have been naturally preserved, and now more than a hundred of them earn their keep as a tourist attraction. They were temporarily removed from their glass cases for the film.
The historic cobbled town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, was previously seen on screen in 1972’s Las Momias de Guanajuato, a lucha libre epic, with top masked wrestlers El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras naturally grappling with the city’s undead mummies.
The film proper follows closely the silent original, with Lucy and Jonathan Harker (Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz) living in the northern German town of ‘Wismar’, which is where the original film was shot. Herzog, though, substitutes the magnificently picturesque town of Delft with its network of canals, between Rotterdam and The Hague, in the Netherlands. One of the prettiest cities in Holland, Delft is 55 minutes by train from Amsterdam, famed for the blue and white porcelain known as Delftware, and as the home of painter Johannes Vermeer.
The town square of Delft is featured in the nightmarish sequence of Lucy Harker witnessing the terrible toll of the plague brought to the town by Nosferatu.
Sent by his employer to visit Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker is obliged to journey through the ‘Carpathian Mountains’ of ‘Transylvania’ (now Romania). The wild, spectacular peaks are actually are the High Tatra mountains of northeastern Slovakia.
The dreaded ‘Borgo Pass’, through which Harker must make his way, is Partnachklamm (Partnach Gorge), in the Reintal valley near the south German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about 50 miles southwest of Munich (and near Oberammergau, home of the famous passion play).
The gorge, more than 700 metres long and, in places, over 80 metres deep, was designated a natural monument in 1912. Since then it’s been developed for tourists and there’s an entry fee (between 8am and 6pm in summer; and between 9am and 5pm in winter). Outside these times, you can still visit the gorge – at your own risk.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen itself was the site of the 1936 Winter Olympic Games, and is now a favourite spot for skiing, snowboarding and hiking.
The interior of Nosferatu’s castle was filmed in the 13th century Hrad Pernstejn (Pernstejn Castle), perched above the village of Nedvedice, southeast of Prague toward Brno, in South Moravia in the Czech Republic. Pernstejn appeared more recently in Timur Bekmambetov’s 2008 Wanted and in Stephen Sommers's Van Helsing.