The Clerk’s Wife… Ellen Hutter… Mina Harker… she’s been called by several names in the film’s near-century existence (and near non-existence), but the brave heroine of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 picture, Nosferatu, starts this list.
Nosferatu is one of the iconic vampire films of all time, and the word “vampire” could probably be dropped from that sentence without affecting its truth value. Most horror films, films noir, and nearly everything made by Tim Burton owe a debt to this movie, director, and the style he employed– German Expressionism. It was also a blatant copyright dodge. The studio wanted to make Dracula without paying royalties to Florence Stoker, Bram’s widow, so they changed the names, gave the vampire a thing for rats and the plague, and released it. She was not fooled, and won the resulting lawsuit, which decreed that all copies of the film be destroyed. In the 1970s, a few resurfaced.
The Dracula storyline is the same. The clerk goes to sell property to the count, realizes he’s a vampire, and remains a prisoner while the vampire wreaks havoc on his unsuspecting new neighbors until he is eventually destroyed. Frau Hutter (played by actress Greta Schroder) is the biggest difference between the two stories, especially when contrasted to Universal’s later take on the story.
She senses her husband’s danger. She takes charge of the ugly situation in Wisborg by doing her research on vampires and sends her husband, Thomas, to fetch the expert, Professor Bulwer. After he is gone, she does what needs to be done– offer herself to the vampire, Count Orlok, and keep him in her house long enough that he will be destroyed by the dawn. She has set things up that Bulwer can deal with the fallout and take care of Thomas. Now try to imagine any legal incarnation of Mina Harker doing that.