In my review of Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, I neglected to mention the film’s delightfully bizarre ending, but it’s such a brilliant twist on the classic vampire formula that I’d like to briefly summarize it for your reading pleasure [forty-year-old SPOILERS below, obviously].
Initially, Herzog faithfully recreates Murnau’s original climax: brave, virtuous Lucy Harker tempts the nefarious Dracula into drinking her blood until well after the rooster crows, causing him to be slain by the light of the rising sun. In a departure from the source material, however, the count doesn’t dissolve; thus, Van Helsing (who has remained a hardened skeptic throughout much of the narrative) discovers his body lying beside his victim’s drained corpse.
Not wanting to take any chances, the good doctor grabs a stake and hammer to make damn sure the job is finished. And then… the authorities arrive and arrest him for the murder of a foreign nobleman. Unfortunately, Dracula’s reign of terror has so devastated the community that there are neither any judges left alive to convict him nor any jailers to imprison him. The scene ends with Van Helsing resolutely marching off to accept his punishment while his bumbling captors argue over where the hell they’re supposed to take him.
It’s pure Herzog, a wonderful bit of absurdist humor tacked on to an otherwise conventional horror story—and I absolutely adore it.
[Originally written May 8, 2018.]