Nosferatu in Venice sees Klaus Kinski return to the night in this bizarre unofficial sequel to the 1979 Herzog film. Mostly remembered for its troubled production the film is an excellent atmospheric Eurocult thriller co-starring Donald Pleasence and Christopher Plummer. Previously unreleased in the United States, Severin Films finally brings the film to Blu-ray with a solid A/V package featuring a new 2k scan of the negative and an outstanding documentary on Kinski’s later years. Italian horror collectors and Kinski fanatics shouldn’t miss this release. Recommended.
“He has come to destroy the precarious peace that reigns in this house.”
A sequel in name only, Nosferatu in Venice a.k.a Vampire in Venice sees the return of Klaus Kinski as the titular vampire. 200 years after leaving Venice during the plague, he is awakened from his eternal sleep and returns to Italy. Princess Helietta Canins (Barbara De Rossi) invites vampire expert Professor Catalano (Christopher Plummer) to Venice because she believes the vampire is buried in a tomb under her home. The wealthy Canins family emigrated from Translyvania centuries ago and bore witness to a murder in their home during the 1786 plague that was committed by Nosferatu before an exorcism was attempted. Catalano, like most, believes the vampire left Venice during the plague and died in a shipwreck in the Bay of Biscay.
Helietta’s grandmother (Anne Knecht) reveals to Catalano that Nosferatu bit her ancestor Letizia during the murderous spree in their home. When a seance is performed to contact the undead Don Alvise (Donald Pleasence), the family’s spiritual protector, busts in to stop the proceedings. An obviously possessed Helietta calls out “Come my prince, my lord.” A tired and frustrated-looking Nosferatu (Klaus Kinski) stumbles out of his crypt with long flowing hair sporting a lovely bald spot. He sucks the bloody neck of a woman and pulls away looking like a pouty ambiguous 1980’s male model.
By 1988 Klaus Kinski was entering a difficult phase in his career with most of his notoriety stemming from his on-set demands and penchant for tantrums uprooting entire productions. Nosferatu in Venice is no exception and highlights the kind of films that are created out of sheer creative chaos. Having four credited directors, including Kinski himself, the film had a tumultuous journey attempting to wrangle some control over its power-hungry star. Other credited directors include Luigi Cozzi (Contamination), Maurizio Lucidi (Probability Zero), and producer Augusto Caminito. While it's impossible to miss the meandering narrative and disjointed assembly of scenes there is ultimately a strange beauty and infectious charm to it.
Early on Catalano amends the legend of vampirism by offering additional ways of becoming one other than a bite. He and Don Alvis decipher some ancient books learning more about the 1786 incident and how to kill Nosferatu. According to Catalano, he can die when a virgin falls in love and offers her virginity to him. This tidbit explains why Nosferatu paws over Helietta’s body before immediately dumping her in the third act for her sister Maria. In reality, Kinski changed the story so he could replace Barbara De Rossi as the female lead with a cast member’s girlfriend he saw on set at the time. At every turn women in the film are either in danger of getting killed by Nosferatu or having sex with him.
Cinematographer Tonino Nardi captures Kinski's arrogance shining through Nosferatu as he glides effortlessly through the foggy canals and gazes into the camera before biting necks or grabbing breasts. I feel like every time Kinski is on screen we’re supposed to be overwhelmed with his presence and performance even if he is just sitting in a chair. One of my favorite shots happens during a flashback to the exorcism when three priests attempt to rid the Canin’s palazzo of the bloodsucker. In a sustained slow-motion sequence the three men are hurled backward through an enormous window falling to their deaths on iron posts below. It has that action movie pacing to the edit that makes it all the more satisfying to watch.
Nosferatu in Venice wouldn’t be much without its memorable performances. Barbara De Rossi is radiant offering a truly committed performance as Helietta Canins. Christopher Plummer looks tired but acts circles around Kinski when spouting any dialogue. When the two finally meet on the screen there is an amusing moment when Plummer grins for a second upon seeing the slouching vampire. There is also an enormous circular hole in Kinski’s chest, but I won’t spoil anything for you there. Donald Pleasence musters enough energy to make his scenes of yelling dialogue entertaining but his physicality sells the irate Catholic priest schtick to the end. The clear focus here is the enduring charm and presence of Kinski even in his later years. His brilliance was only matched by his sheer lunacy which I think resonates throughout the film.
The film’s multiple directors and aimless direction doesn’t bode well for a satisfying conclusion to the story. For me, it plays well as an Italian exploitation flick that aspires to be something grander than another late-career Fulci or Mattei Eurotrash cheapie. However, the ripe gothic atmosphere, unhinged performances, and a hell of a location make Nosferatu in Venice an enjoyable watch in all its absurd glory.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Nosferatu in Venice arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Severin Films. The film is pressed onto a BD-50 disc and housed in a shiny black keepcase. If you ordered direct from Severin it comes with a white alternate artwork o-card slipcover. Loading the disc greets you with the Severin logo before landing on the Main Menu with scenes from the film playing with typical navigation options available.
Nosferatu in Venice steps into the light with a 1080p transfer in a 1.77:1 aspect ratio from a new 2k scan of the negative. While not a flawless image transfer this is the best this film has ever looked on home video. As the film begins you are met with an errant hair on the lens during the duck hunt sequence that never seems to go away. While annoying it isn’t an indication of the film’s complete presentation. When out of the bleak settings of Venice primaries look sharp and well defined. Ornate gowns at the costume ball are filled with jeweled elements and bright colors that juxtapose the gloomy atmospherics as Nosferatu arrives in Venice. Grain levels hold solid throughout the film. HD image presents adequate depth with solid detail from facial features and costuming. Black levels are strong with minimal noise in shadow. A dreamy softness permeates the image though a few scenes allow the crisp HD image to be seen during small moments with Professor Catalano.
Previous iterations of the film on home video include a non-anamorphic Region 2 DVD from Spain, an unauthorized DVD from Germany, and an unauthorized DVD from MYA sub-label One 7 Movies with the film retitled as “Prince of the Night” in 2014. If you have any of those releases then consider Severin’s Blu-ray is a worthwhile upgrade.
Nosferatu in Venice calls into the night with both English and Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio tracks. The English track is mostly clear with dialogue coming through without distortion or hiss. Some exchanges retain a bit of echo possibly from additional dubbed tracks. Luigi Ceccarelli’s score is inspired by the themes of Vangelis offering plenty of synth choruses and ominous bass chords languishing through the foggy streets of Venice. Plenty of atmosphere here that only adds to the visual presentation creating an exciting experience for the viewer.
The documentary on Kinski’s later years is the highlight of the disc which is an excellent accompaniment to the film and a solid standalone feature.
Nosferatu in Venice is a disjointed mess of a movie that without its bombastic star would’ve been another forgotten gothic horror dud. With Klaus Kinski’s captivating presence, excellent supporting roles from Donald Pleasence and Christopher Plummer, and the hauntingly beautiful setting of Venice this mess of a film is a treat for exploitation collectors. Severin Films Blu-ray provides a solid A/V package coupled with an outstanding documentary on Kinski’s later years. Eurocult collectors and Kinski fanatics shouldn’t miss this release. Recommended.