Basement Films: And Florence Wept

Sean Strain

An English solicitor travels to the haunted country of Transylvania to sell property to a mysterious count, but soon learns his latest client has a few more eccentricities than a Gothic taste in decor, such as a taste for human blood. This sounds very much like the beginning of Bram Stoker’s famous vampire novel, Dracula, but it is actually a summary of the silent film, Nosferatu, which should not be surprising since the movie claims to be an adaptation of the novel. Too bad the the production company never actually received rights to the novel.

This led to Bram Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker, taking the production company through a lengthy court battle, which led to their bankruptcy and orders from Florence to destroy all copies of the film. Of course, a few copies survived to the modern day.

It’s hard to imagine a story like this to happen today (not the whole copy right fiasco, because J.K. Rowling could tell you all about those kind of cases), but the attempt to eradicate all copies of any work in any medium. For example, in the old days before your grandparents, they produced maybe a few thousand, maybe even less than that, copies of books. These days, they can mass-produce millions of copies of books and in several different languages, depending on the demand for the book (which makes many Twilight detractors cry tears of blood).

I mean, we not only have millions of copies of movies on DVD, but we now even have them on the internet, which billions of people could watch at any time. I think it’s really quite amazing how we can more easily preserve our culture, especially movies as those are miniature windows into a time period or society. Though, I don’t think Mrs. Stoker would appreciate it as much. In fact, she’s probably rolling in her grave as millions watch Nosferatu on Netflix.
Random Fact: Although she spent several years suing Prana Film for their unauthorized adaptation of her husband’s novel, Florence Stoker never once watched the film herself.