An eclectic batch of golden oldies make their video debuts this week. Anchor Bay is offering Werner Herzog's acclaimed 1979 vampire thriller "Nosferatu the Vampyre" ($15), and Universal Home Video is adding three more musicals ($20 each) to its popular "Deanna Durbin Collection."
The languid, leisurely paced adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel by the acclaimed German director Herzog bares absolutely no resemblance to the 1931 "Dracula" classic starring Bela Lugosi
"Nosferatu" is Herzog's remake of F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 German silent, "Nosferatu." Because Stoker's book was still in copyright at the time, Murnau changed the character's name from Dracula to Count Orlock. Memorably played by Max Schreck, Orlock was truly a frightening creature with bat ears, a bald pate and rat-like claws.
Because the Stoker book is no longer in copyright, the vampire in Herzog's version is called Count Dracula, but his makeup and attitude closely resemble Schreck's Count Orlock.
This time around, Dracula (the perfectly cast Klaus Kinski) is a much more sympathetic count than Lugosi's or Schreck's incarnations. He's a lonely bloodsucker who desires not only to be loved, but also to become human.
Herzog's remake is slow going at times, but it offers cinematographer Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein's incredibly beautiful, near poetic images. Kinski is remarkable as Dracula, and he's ably matched by Bruno Ganz as Jonathan Harker and the ghostly pale Isabelle Adjani as his frail wife, Lucy.
Anchor Bay is offering pristine wide-screen versions of "Nosferatu" in English and German with English subtitles. Both versions are available in a limited edition set ($30) that also features behind-the-scenes footage, three theatrical trailers, a 16-page photo booklet and a collectible postcard.
From 1936 until her retirement in 1948, Deanna Durbin was one of the most popular film personalities thanks to her winning, wholesome personality and exquisite soprano voice.
Universal Home Video has already released 14 of Durbin's films, and is now adding "The Amazing Mrs. Holiday," "Because of Him" and "I'll Be Yours."
In the so-so 1943 comedy-drama, "The Amazing Mrs. Holiday," Durbin plays the daughter of missionaries who accompanies a group of orphaned children out of war-torn China to the U.S. Along the way, their boat survives an attack by a Japanese torpedo. Durbin also has plenty of opportunity to exercise her vocal cords, singing such tunes as "Rock-a-Bye-Baby" in Chinese. The famed French director Jean Renoir was one of the directors of the film, which was nominated for an Oscar for scoring.
Also from 1943 is "I'll Be Yours," a serviceable musical remake of the classic 1935 comedy "The Good Fairy," which was written by Preston Sturges. Durbin plays a wholesome small-town gal who moves to New York, gets a job as a movie usher and soon finds herself involved with an older millionaire (Adolphe Menjou) and a young lawyer (Tom Drake). Durbin trills "Granada," "It's Dream Time" and "Sari Waltz." The always wonderful William Bendix and Franklin Pangborn also star.
"Because of Him," from 1946, finds Durbin playing an aspiring young actress who tries to land the lead in a Broadway production by faking a letter of introduction from a stage star (frequent Durbin co-star Charles Laughton) to a producer (Stanley Ridges). Franchot Tone is the playwright who is against Durbin being cast in his play. Durbin sings "Lover, Goodbye" and "Danny Boy." The good cast almost overcomes the limp script.