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Et Tu, Nosferatu?

Nail Fellow, Well Met: Max Schreck stalks the high seas in 'Nosferatu.'

The audience dresses to match the cast at screening of vampire classic

By Richard von Busack

STRANGE THAT a guild of costumers will host a ceremonial Halloween gathering to celebrate F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent classic, Nosferatu, a film starring the least-dashing vampire of all time (more about that in a moment). Jana Keeler is the co-founder of the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild, which has 170 members, some of whom will be meeting in San Jose for Nosferatu in costume--dressed, as it were, to the teeth. Keeler became involved with costuming more than 10 years ago. "I actually saw an ad for vintage patterns for corsets in Vogue magazine in 1984," she says. "The catalog that came with it had patterns for gowns from 1850 to the 1910s. I also started going to a store called Lacis in Berkeley, which carries lace-making equipment and vintage lace." Keeler is especially pleased to be a Bay Area costumer, adding, "Here we can walk around in costume, and no one will bat an eye."

Now, Keeler and her fellow members co-op with the International Costumer Guild, which includes groups making up events and sharing patterns for historical costumes. "Everybody has their favorite period," Keeler says. "Some periods have more embellishment. The 1700s were the most time-consuming era to get dressed. All of the proper constructions have to be built as forms for the fabric to rest on. They were often made out of cane in those days, but now they can be made out of lumber-strapping wire or electrical tape. Most of us will wear undergarments that are authentic to the period."

Keller adds, "It's really nice as a costumer when you see a movie with your time period in it." For the Nosferatu screening, she will model an outfit she made and wore once before to the premiere of Bram Stoker's Dracula. There's no mannerly count in Nosferatu, however. Murnau's silent film (an unauthorized but faithful borrowing of Stoker's plot) makes your flesh crawl, not quiver. Murnau wanted to make the story of the Count "Orlok" strange and disturbing, and it's still one of the most fearful and innovative of vampire films. The director used such revolutionary techniques as reversed negative and camera undercranking. The bald-headed Max Schreck, who plays the title vampire, is about as romantic as the Spirit of Syphilis--he's an irresistible, blood-sucking rat that needs killing. Women will like this version of the beloved story, since it's not Van Helsing but the Mina character (Greta Schroeder) who is actually the final weapon against the monster.

Nosferatu (1921) shows Sunday (Oct. 26) at 5pm at the Towne Theater in San Jose. The screening will be followed by a wine-tasting reception at the J. Lohr Winery, 1000 Lenzen Ave., San Jose. Costumes appreciated, but not mandatory. Tickets are $7 for the movie; $15 for the reception. Call the Costumer's Guild at 415/974-9333 for details.

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From the Oct. 23-29, 1997 issue of Metro.

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