The first major adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to film was F.W. Murnau’s German expressionist classic. Yes it’s silent, but you can practically hear screaming every time Max Schreck shows up as Count Orlok. (The character names were changed to protect Murnau from a copyright lawsuit.) With his bald head and long pointy fingernails, he looks like a hungry rodent, not the debonair, courtly nobleman we’ve come to know from the Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman performances.
Not much is known about Schreck, but he’s a truly unnerving presence, one whose impact is still felt to this day. Christopher Walken’s villain in Batman Returns shares his name. His last name, which is German for “fright,” proved a good name for a certain green cartoon ogre. And he even inspired a horror flick of his own, 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire, in which it’s speculated that the reason Max Schreck (played by Willem Dafoe) was so convincing in Nosferatu was that he was an actual vampire. It’s as good an explanation as any.