Among the many pleasures of The F.W. Murnau Collection, a boxed set of five of the German director’s movies, is seeing how the miraculous filmmaking that fired up Alfred Hitchcock and others was applied to such divergent genres. ”Nosferatu” (1922) is still unparalleled horror. ”The Last Laugh” (1924), a weepie about a demoted doorman at a posh hotel, is directed with such visual acuity that it needs only one intertitle. (It’s also the film that turned Hitchcock on to the possibilities of purely visual storytelling, a career-long enthrallment clearly apparent in ”Vertigo” and ”Psycho.”)
”Tartuffe” (1925) brilliantly frames Moliere’s 17th-century satire as a movie within a movie. The great ”Faust” (1926) unfolds like a stunning chiaroscuro fever dream. And the South Seas doomed-lovers drama ”Tabu” (1931), completed just weeks before Murnau’s fatal car accident at age 42, hauntingly interweaves supernatural chill with tropical sensuality. In a word: Awesome.
EXTRAS Tantalizing excerpts from three other Murnau movies and an academic ”Tabu” commentary.