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‘NOSFERATU’ COMES BACK TO HAUNT US

Times Staff Writer

You haven’t seen F. W. Murnau’s classic 1922 horror film “Nosferatu” until you’ve seen it in in the version restored to its stark, eerie clarity by the Munich Film Museum’s Dr. Enno Patalas, who presented it with a full orchestra last year at the Berlin Film Festival.

Patalas, who reconstructed Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and countless other landmark German films, will introduce this version with live musical accompaniment Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Bing Theater as part of The Films of F. W. Murnau series.

Never mind that much of the story of this first important screen version of the Dracula legend seems corny and dated, for what counts is its atmosphere and its images, which are timeless in their power. Most memorable is the shot of the cadaverous, claw-nailed Count Dracula (Max Schreck) standing at the prow of his ship, resembling, in film historian Ivan Butler’s apt phrase, “a combination of a vulture and the Flying Dutchman.” What “Nosferatu” evokes is not so much terror but a sense of infinite loneliness. Playing with “Nosferatu” is the 1921 “Haunted Castle,” adapted by Carl Mayer from the Rudolf Stratz novel. With the exception of “Sunrise,” which launched the series last week, Patalas restored the other eight films in the series, which include some extreme rarities along with such famous Murnau works as “The Last Laugh,” “Tartuffe” and “Faust.” For program information: 857-6201.

Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1952 “The Life of Oharu” (at the Vista Thursday only) is one of those films that is never forgotten. So awe-inspiring is Kinuya Tanaka as a court lady who loses her position and is gradually reduced to a streetwalker that it makes you reevaluate your ranking of the great screen actresses. The dignity with which Tanaka confronts increasing adversity gives the film an extraordinary spiritual impact.

In his only film for Mizoguchi, Toshiro Mifune has a small role as one of the men in her life. Playing with “The Life of Oharu” in the Thursday evening Ozu-Mizoguchi series is Ozu’s wonderfully titled “The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice” (1952), which is one of Ozu’s characteristically subtle studies of domestic life, in this instance of a couple (Michiyo Kogure and Shin Saburi, the latter the star of Kobayashi’s “Kaseki”) whose marriage becomes troubled as they approach middle age.

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“Squizzy Taylor” (at the Vista Wednesday only as part of an Australian film series) is a minor but likable 1982 Australian gangster movie. In the early ‘20s, Joseph Leslie Theodore Taylor, whose motto was “When you live, live in clover/For when you’re dead, you’re dead all over,” emerged as the Al Capone of Melbourne, which in director Kevin Dobson and writer Roger Simpson’s telling, was as corrupt as Chicago was at that time. Simpson, who was also the film’s executive producer, makes the indomitable Squizzy’s multiple intrigues, involving various policemen, unduly complicated, yet the film is redeemed by its gritty period atmosphere and especially by David Atkins, who has plenty of Frankie Darro moxie as the handsome, diminutive (5-foot-2) Taylor, a bright young man alternately brutal and charming. Both Atkins and Squizzy deserved a more fully realized, more dynamic movie than they got, yet “Squizzy Taylor” is nevertheless worth a look. Playing with it is “Between Wars,” a biographical drama about pioneering Australian psychoanalyst Dr. Edward Trenbow (Corin Redgrave), who treated shell-shocked World War I veterans. Directed Michael Thornhill and written by Frank Moorhouse.

Philo Bregstein’s “Whoever Says the Truth Shall Die” (at the Vista today only) is a provocative, thoughtful documentary on Pier Paolo Pasolini that raises disturbing questions about the brutal 1975 death of the director, ostensibly at the hands of an apparent hustler but which some believe involved a political conspiracy. Playing with it in the Monday evening Pasolini series is the unspeakable “Salo,” the most morbidly despairing film ever made by a major director.


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