What is it when a leader in the horror genre goes against the grain and avoids showing populist entertainment in place of honoring films that paved the way for what horror has become? What of setting the new releases aside and saying, this is what the horror community needs to see? I asked myself these questions as I enjoyed the latest episode of Shudder‘s The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.
I’m not saying that Joe Bob should show off more recent fare on The Last Drive-In, quite the opposite. I enjoy it when Joe Bob throws a curveball to the audience and says, “Hey, we’re watching this, and there’s nothing you can do!” Just look at VHS Night. At the same time, Joe Bob respects the horror genre and gives those worth giving their proper due. So, the latest episode of The Last Drive-In was a mish-mash of honoring horror classics while throwing a slight curveball.
What’s a theme that could make most people turn the channel? Why, German Night, of course! I kid, but Joe Bob wasn’t as he celebrated the centennial anniversary of the vampire flick Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. Having Joe Bob present this silent film classic from F.W. Murnau was a welcome showing as it had been many years.
I’m not going to be able to do justice to Joe Bob or Darcy the Mail Girl, but right from the get-go, you knew it was time to buckle up and enjoy this week’s ride. As a nod to celebrating the 1922 masterpiece, Joe Bob and Darcy dressed in appropriate attire throughout the entire show. Decked out like Willy Wonka’s cousin who does some pimping on the side, Joe Bob had a ball diving into the history of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. As would be expected from Joe Bob Briggs, he analyzed the life and times of the cast and crew, the production history of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, and bitterness at Florence Stoker.
Why such bitterness, you might ask? As the literary executor of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, Stoker engaged in a legal battle against the filmmakers. As Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror was produced as an unauthorized work, drawing from Stoker’s literary masterpiece, the pieces were there for a lawsuit. Stoker won and worked to get all prints of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror removed from cinemas with the negatives destroyed. Since we are still watching Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror 100 years later, Stoker’s efforts to destroy everything associated with F.W. Murnau’s film failed, thankfully. As a pioneer of horror cinema, Joe Bob made sure to voice his displeasure with such an effort by ensuring that the audience knew where he stood—stating multiple times on the show and on social media, “F*ck Florence Stoker.” Joe Bob: speaking on behalf of the Mutant Family, we love you!
Marking a first for The Last Drive-In, after Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror completed, German Night continued with the 1979 semi-remake, Nosferatu the Vampyre, directed by Werner Herzog and starring certified-crazy pants Klaus Kinski. Those deep within the film community know what happens when you team this writer and director together. Even if you haven’t seen a Herzog/Kinski film collaboration, the odds are good you may know their turbulent history. While the two men struggled in maintaining not killing one another, their collaborative works are some of the finest in cinematic history—and Nosferatu the Vampyre is no exception.
Nosferatu the Vampyre was a film on my radar for the longest time, yet, something always prevented me from getting that chance. One of the many reasons I champion Joe Bob Briggs and The Last Drive-In is the constant progression with not offering the same-old, same-old. You can show Halloween, Friday the 13th, or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre until the cows come home, but any horror fan has seen those. I’m sure Joe Bob wouldn’t mind watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre multiple times; his favorite movie and all, yet he takes us to Germany. He shows us a Werner Herzog/Klaus Kinski masterpiece. For me, that’s special. I hadn’t seen Nosferatu the Vampyre yet; shame on me. Thanks to Joe Bob and The Last Drive-In, I have. I can now check that off my watchlist.
And while I was getting my rocks off, watching one of the finest vampire films in existence, Joe Bob dispensed with his usual anecdotes and film factoids. Knowing this is a Herzog/Kinski joint, there’s plenty to dispense on. Tracing the history of Werner Herzog is just as interesting as the films he makes. Joe Bob runs us through his early years, and how he ended up in Mexico, leading to the opening sequence of Nosferatu the Vampyre.
Even more fascinating comes later in the show with Joe Bob delving into the insanity that is Klaus Kinski. A hilarious story comes from Joe Bob and Kinski during the early days of the Cannes Festival. It rubbed me the right way, and hearing Joe Bob tell the story (I won’t get into it) seems correct about what is said of Kinski and funny at the same time.
Another reason why I prefer the choices Joe Bob makes for films on The Last Drive-In is his weaving history and stories together. Stories and history we may never hear about otherwise. Popular movies have been talked about and analyzed to death, but there isn’t much more to say about them that is fresh and exciting. Sure, the Nosferatu films Joe Bob screened this past week are well-known classics and have had people write about them; there’s no denying that. They’re not populist films, though. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror or Nosferatu the Vampyre has never hit the upper echelon of mainstream horror films that writers love to dictate.
And that is that! Another exceptional week with Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl as they took us to Germany for five hours of Nosferatu goodness on The Last Drive-In. Sure, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror and Nosferatu the Vampyre are not the sexiest picks that The Last Drive-In might offer. Was it the biggest or most lavish episodes? No, and it doesn’t matter. It’s Joe Bob doing what he does best: presenting horror films, big or small, to the horror community. Week Four was one of the most entertaining and satisfying weeks of The Last Drive-In. And to think, we’ve got many more episodes ahead!