Studio: One 7
Theatrical Release: September 8th, 1988
DVD Release: September 9th, 2014
Directed by Augusto Caminito, Mario Caiano, Maurizio Lucidi, Luigi Cozzi & Klaus Kinski
Review by Craig Sorensen
So, someone thought it would be a good idea to make an unofficial sequel to Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht staring Klaus Kinski almost ten years after the fact. I’m not sure why they thought that would be a good idea. Thankfully there were still a few lunatic producers left in the Italian film industry at the tail end of the horror boom. I’m not sure if Kinski is playing the exact same character here as he now sports a full head of hair instead of his hairless, rat-like appearance in Herzog’s film or if it even matters. The film is so dreamlike and disjointed that any real narrative sense is very difficult to come by. My kind of film of course.
Professor Catalano (Christopher Plummer of The Pyx) has just arrived in Venice at the behest of Helietta Canins (Barbara De Rossi) who has some questions about a locked casket in her basement. The good professor is an expert in vampirism and has been brought in to advise Helietta before the casket is opened. Helietta and the Professor have a seance with other members of the family, against the wishes of live-in priest Don Alvise (Donald Pleasence of The Pumaman). The seance awakens Nosferatu (Klaus Kinski of The Great Silence) and he slowly makes his way back to town.
As you can see from the long list of directors up at the top of this review, Nosferatu a Venezia (as it is known everywhere else except this DVD) had quite a troubled production. This is, of course, due to Kinski, who was notoriously hard to work with. The production went through three directors before principle photography even began. And Kinski refused to shave his head and reprise the iconic makeup effects from the Herzog film. Eventually producer Augusto Caminito decided to direct the film himself (he can’t walk off his own film I guess) with a little help from Italian genre stalwart Luigi Cozi (uncredited of course). It’s rumored that Kinski himself directed bits of the film as well (his only directorial credit, Paganini, was released the following year).
Still, given the tumultuous shoot, the film is strangely compelling. None of it makes any goddamn sense but it looks great. It’s strange to get such a gothic film this late in the Italian horror cycle (it would putter out in the early ‘90s). This thing is dripping with atmosphere. Venice is almost a character unto itself here and the film definitely gains a lot of production value by filming there. The film is light on gore (also out of character for late ‘80s Italian horror) but does feature some startling nudity from De Rossi and Anne Knecht. The real reason to seek Nosferatu a Venezia (I’m refusing to call it Prince of the Night) is the atmosphere and performances. Plummer is great as the ineffectual vampire hunter. I don’t want to give away how his first encounter with Nosferatu ends up but I laughed out loud when it happened. Pleasance is also very entertaining here. He gets a few good opportunities to scream his head off. But of course you can’t out-crazy Kinski. He doesn’t even overact that much in the film and yet you can’t take your eyes off of him when he’s on screen.
One 7’s DVD is a problematic one. One one hand, it actually doesn’t look too bad. The film is presented in it’s original aspect ratio and it’s anamorphic. So that’s good. Color and detail seemed pretty good to me. The whole thing isn’t the most colorful of productions but the transfer does a good job of presenting the film. It does appear that this transfer is taken from a PAL source and so the speed-up issues that occur when converting that to NTSC haven’t been corrected. It’s not that noticeable though unless you’re looking for it I guess. This DVD’s real problems start with the audio tracks. First, there is the mono Italian language track which doesn’t sound too bad. BUT there’s no English subtitles so that’s a bit useless. Besides, the film was obviously shot in English with Plummer, Pleasence and Kinski all delivering their lines in English. The English language track preserves the actor’s performances but if I didn’t know any better, was taken from a bad VHS tape. At the beginning and end of the film is the tale-tell audio warble and drop out of a bad video tape. And it sounds as if someone filtered the fuck out of this audio track to try to cover up the source. Now that in and of itself wouldn’t be so bad but they went so far overboard that it sounds like an extremely low bitrate mp3 file. It’s very distracting to watch the film in this way and one has to wonder if anyone at One 7 is paying attention to these things at all. Why even include the Italian track on the disc without providing subtitles? And if they couldn’t find any other audio options for English (if they even tried) then just say so upfront. Put a little disclaimer at the beginning of the film or something. And why the hell rename the film for this release? Is Nosferatu not a bankable name anymore? Are you trying to trick people into buying this ala The Asylum and Transmorphers? I don’t get it. Just put a little bit more effort into these discs and you might have something special.