In 1922, FW Murnau, a German film director, released the vampiric horror classic Nosferatu. Based loosely on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Murnau created a hyperstylized, proto-noir in this silent film. It set the standard for horror films for decades to come.
Even shooting the film was creepy. The main actor, Max Schreck, was reportedly obsessed with his role. And due to the complicated makeup process, fellow actors never saw him out of character.
Due to the very tight budget, Murnau used outdoor locations (to avoid building sets) whenever possible. There was only one camera on set (resulting in only one negative). The entire film was heavily storyboarded in advance. There are reports that Murnau even used a metronome on the set to calibrate the actors’ movements.
His careful work did not escape the notice of Bram Stoker’s estate. Nosferatu was an unapproved adaptation and the estate set out to sue the production company. The company was quickly dissolved and the estate failed. The film cemented Murnau’s position as a popular and hardworking director. He would eventually gain the attention of Hollywood and move to the US in 1926.
You can watch Nosferatu here.