The following article, as featured on Crane’s Cabinet of Kinetographic Curiosities, was originally intended to be part of a series on films that aren’t lost but are rather unavailable to the general public for one reason or another. While technically a Throwback Thursday candidate, I choose to present this heavily-reworked article–really, two articles in one–as a brand new thing. This is partly because it was written and posted near the end of the lifespan of Crane’s Cabinet, but also because it contains new information regarding the current status of the film.
And also because Mike is, as I said earlier, planning something special for Halloween (beginning in three hours, as a matter of fact–so stay tuned to our site for that).
Originally posted March 2, 2018.
Friedrich Wilhelm (F.W.) Murnau’s silent vampire masterpiece Nosferatu (1922) is extremely famous–and even with the qualifying adverb attached, that’s probably an understatement. Even if a person may not know the film by name, they have almost certainly been exposed to short clips of the film, whether in music videos (the official version of Queen’s Under Pressure), children’s cartoons (SpongeBob SquarePants), and God knows where else. Spit in any direction and you’re likely to hit a Nosferatu reference. And for good reason; Murnau’s horror film is a powerhouse of the Expressionist movement, held in high regard among scholars as being one of the best examples of the style alongside Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi social commentary Metropolis (which Lang claimed was not an attempt at Expressionism, though the film’s imagery suggests otherwise) and Robert Wiene’s 1919 killer thriller The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
But that’s Nosferatu. What does The Twelfth Hour: A Night of Horror have to do with Murnau’s film? The short answer is that The Twelfth Hour is the 1930 sound version of Nosferatu, not unlike the 1929 sound version of The Phantom of the Opera–but in order to put The Twelfth Hour into its proper context, I first have to provide an exceedingly brief background on Nosferatu for those playing along at home.
A Brief History of Nosferatu
In post-WWI Weimar Germany, about the only industry that was booming was the film industry. Though inflation was going through the roof at record speed and the common people were desperate and hungry (due in no small part to the reparations inflicted upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles), German film studios like Decla, Ufa, and Prana were cranking out movies like nobody’s business. What’s more is that most of these films were fantastic. Though commercialism was still a part of the business, it seems that production companies were primarily concerned with the art of film–building experiences as well as entertainment. This gave rise to several great directors, many of whom were later imported to the United States. Among these budding geniuses of the silent screen was one F.W. Murnau.
In 1921, Albin Grau–half owner of Prana Film–hired F.W. Murnau to helm a project written by Henrik Galeen. This project, entitled Nosferatu, eine Symphonie desGrauens–translated to English as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, or just Nosferatu for short–was to be an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s vampire novel Dracula, but there was just one problem: Prana didn’t have the rights to film Dracula. So, to avoid a lawsuit by Stoker’s widow Florence Balcombe, various characters, terms, and plot elements from the novel were altered or outright eliminated entirely.
What are those differences? Jonathan Harker becomes Thomas Hutter. Count Dracula becomes Graf Orlok. Mina Harker becomes Ellen Hutter. Renfield becomes Knock. Lucy becomes Annie. The term “vampire” never appears in the film; “nosferatu” is used in its place. The setting is moved in both time and geographic location–from England in the 1890s to Germany in 1838. Orlok seems unable to create new nosferatu; with extended/repeated feedings, he kills his victims instead, and the plague is ultimately blamed for their deaths (the rats Orlok brings with him on the ship aid this misconception when they are unleashed on Wisborg). Secondary characters like Arthur Holmwood and Quincy Morris are eliminated from the tale. But the most influential alteration of all–and one that has become a part of modern vampire lore ever since–is the introduction of sunlight as a way to kill the blood-drinking fiend.
So, how did Prana’s plan fare, you ask? That gets into spoiler territory.
SPOILER ALERT: It failed spectacularly.
Filming proceeded in 1921, and the movie was released in 1922. Soon after, Prana was slapped with a lawsuit by Balcombe, and after extensive litigation and a last-ditch attempt by Prana to avoid remuneration through the declaration of bankruptcy, a court ruled in favor of Stoker’s widow and ordered all copies of Nosferatu be destroyed. Thankfully, not all copies were destroyed, and so the film remains available for modern audiences. Nosferatu found its way to the United States in 1929, where–interestingly enough–most of the characters’ names were changed back to their rough correlations in Stoker’s novel. The sole exception is Ellen, who becomes “Nina” instead of “Mina” in the American release. Apparently, America didn’t really care about International Copyright laws back then. But I digress.
Like Christopher Lee in Hammer’s Dracula series, the film itself survived what seemed –but the original musical score for the film, composed by Hans Erdmann, was not so lucky. It is considered lost, though some attempts have been made to reconstruct the score using various elements (one of which, appropriately enough, is The Twelfth Hour).
An Explanation of The Twelfth Hour: A Night of Horror
In what is possibly the most ironic turn of events in history, an unauthorized version of the (itself unauthorized) Nosferatu entitled Die zwölfte Stunde, Eine Nacht des Grauens–roughly translated to The Twelfth Hour: A Night of Horror, or just The Twelfth Hour for short–was released in Vienna, Austria in 1930. As can be expected, F.W. Murnau was not credited during the film’s opening credits, just as Bram Stoker was not credited during Nosferatu‘s opening credits. The Twelfth Hour also follows the tradition of Nosferatu by changing the names of the characters yet again. Graf Orlok becomes Prince Wolkoff. Thomas Hutter becomes Kundberg. Ellen Hutter becomes Margitta. Knock becomes Karsten. Annie becomes Maria.
Produced by Deutsch-Film-Production and featuring “new scenes” directed by the presently-unknown Dr. Waldemar Roger, The Twelfth Hour is a bit of an oddity. Though comprised mostly of scenes present in the original Nosferatu, these scenes are arranged/edited in a different order, and are alternate takes, unused takes, and/or outtakes–not unlike those in Phantom ’29.
Those scenes which are completely new are not necessarily integral to the plot; rather, they are incidental scenes of pastoral life (early on), a funeral/wake (presumably during the plague scare sequence), and the like.
A scene from the original film–in which Orlock lingers by a window across the street from Ellen, watching her intently–is even believed to have been reshot with an actor who wasn’t Max Schreck in vaguely similar vampire make-up.
The biggest change, though, is the ending. If you’re one of those folks who think that Nosferatu‘s ending is far too morose, you’re in luck; The Twelfth Hour ends on a pointedly non-tragic note.
Also similar to Phantom ’29 is the promise of audio provided by sound-on-disc accompaniment, which is typical for the time. Sadly, the characters onscreen are not given voice; the soundtrack only provided musical accompaniment (a recomposition of Hans Erdmann’s original score, so bonus) and sound effects.
Dead Ends and Roads Going Nowhere
Do you want to see this version? Yeah, good luck with that.
The problem isn’t that it’s a lost film–quite the opposite, in fact. Apparently, The Twelfth Hour has been all over the place. It’s been shown multiple times on television in various nations throughout Europe since the commercial introduction of television on the continent. At least one complete print exists in the Cinémathèque Française, though the soundtrack has been lost–and it is this print that’s used whenever cinema archives around Europe show the movie. The film couldn’t possibly be less lost.
But you can’t see it. I can’t see it. We can’t see it (unless we live/vacation in Europe and happen to attend a rare showing).
There’s no copy of The Twelfth Hour available for purchase anywhere: Not commercially (in the United States or Europe), not on the gray market (ditto–though one scammer on YouTube claims he can provide you with a copy, for a price), and not as a special feature on any release of Nosferatu. It exists, but as of right now, it is unavailable.
The good news is that we’re only a few years away from the 100th anniversary of Nosferatu (in 2022), so hopefully Masters of Cinema, Kino-Lorber, Flicker Alley, or [INSERT NAME OF FAVORITE DISTRIBUTOR HERE] will include The Twelfth Hour in the inevitable 100th anniversary boxed set (hint, hint).
Originally posted March 3, 2018.
What I have for you folks today is a follow-up to yestarday’s post on The Twelfth Hour, an unauthorized sound reissue of the 1922 silent horror classic Nosferatu from 1930. A gentleman by the name of Brent Reid posted some pages (four through seven, to be exact) from the eight page German program for The Twelfth Hour on his website, Brenton Film. These pages contain a (brief, and partial–pages two and three are not made available) summary of the film’s story, including references to/still frame images from some of the new scenes–and the happy ending!
Since the program is, as stated, German, it is written, of course, in German. I don’t know German. Thankfully, Google does. So what follows are Brent Reid’s scans as posted on his site, with translations of the text by Google and edited by me, where warranted.
But even though some translation is/was needed, anyone who has seen Murnau’s Nosferatu can likely follow the storyline and fill in the blanks for themselves; The Twelfth Hour isn’t too radically different from a narrative standpoint. Still, as it is linked to Nosferatu‘s legacy, the film is at least worth a budget release–if only as a footnote and nothing more. Hopefully any one of those DVD distributors I mentioned in the last post are taking note.
The carriage comes to a stop with the setting of the sun.
“Not for all the money in the world will we drive you on. The Devil does his work atop this mountain!”
As silly as this appears to Kundberg, he graciously takes his satchel an continues on the path until, late in the night, he reaches his destination. The great gates of the castle open mysteriously, and with a slight shudder, Kundberg crosses the bridge into the land of secrets.
In the courtyard’s shadows, Kundberg believes the figure awaiting him is Prince Wollkoff, and follows him into the castle. His great fatigue prevents him from seeing his surroundings clearly, and, exhausted, he falls asleep in a chair.
When Kundberg awakens, the sun is already high in the sky. Only dimly does he remember the events of the past night. He looks in his mirror upon feeling the pain in his throat. He notices two strange wounds there, but he cannot explain their origin.
The day, bathed in bright sunlight, belongs to Kundberg alone. Only in the ghostly shadows of evening’s dying light does he see his host again. When talking about the purchase of the house, a locket containing a portrait of Kundberg’s wife falls into the hands of Prince Wollkoff.
“Your wife has a beautiful neck. I will buy the house, but only because such a lovely woman lives opposite of it.”
And so Kundberg retires to his room.
Again, the twelfth hour strikes. Again, the doors open mysteriously to Kundberg’s room, and again Kundberg is subjected to the terrible events that haunted his previous night.
At the same hour, Margitta—Kundberg’s wife—finds no rest.
After a night of horror, spurned onward by fear, Kundberg flees the castle.
Prince Wollkoff, too, sets out for Kundberg’s homeland; and in the port of Galaz, the strange cargo of Wollkoff—many black coffins—is loaded onto a ship. The contents of these boxes are given as soil for experimental purposes, and no one suspects that Prince Wollkoff himself is hiding in one of these boxes.
During Kundberg’s absence, the estate agent Karsten becomes completely insane, and Kundberg rushes home in a race against the ship carrying Prince Wollkoff.
The newspaper then delivers a report that makes the world sit up and take notice:
“The plague broke out in the Carpathians and near the Black Sea. Young people are dying in large numbers. All show strange wounds on their necks. The doctors are faced with a puzzle…”
All the while, the mysterious ship sails the high seas, carrying Prince Wolkoff’s gruesome cargo—until:
“The plague is on board; the helmsman is dying!”
With this frightful cry, the son of the captain rushes to his father. But the plague is unstoppable. Soon, the ship drifts without a captain, instead driven toward its goal by a mysterious force.
Kundberg and the death ship reach their destinations simultaneously. And as Kundberg hugs his wife, Prince Wollkoff leaves his hiding place on the ship and nestles in the home opposite Kundberg and his wife. A Commission meets the newly arrived ship but find no living soul aboard upon investigation. Their worst fears are realized as they cry:
“The plague! Hurry home! Close the doors and windows!”
And terror spreads across the city.
Numerous are the victims the plague demands, and Margitta searches desperately through ancient texts for deliverance from the disease.
“Many thought that the plague was spread by a devilish creature, and that there was no other salvation than when a sinless woman sacrifices herself,” reads Margitta, who at that moment decides to sacrifice herself for the good of all.
The burgers seek salvation from their plight through prayers in the Church. Through solemn songs, and with imploring requiems, God’s help is made manifest.
Believing his wife to be seriously ill, Kundberg leaves her and hurries to the doctor in her darkest hour.
Margitta’s sacrifice is not in vain. When the forces of good align, it is always possible to find salvation.
And so it is that the great plague ends. And as the shadow of death disappears before the victorious rays of the sun, Margitta and Kundberg find themselves looking forward to a life of love and happiness.
Nosferatu the Shapeshifter – Brenton Film
Nosferatu Versionen – Grabstein fur Max Schreck
Two Classic Horror Film Board threads on the subject: