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Film's Title - Shadow of the Vampire
Year of Release - 2000
Director - E. Elias Merhige
Stars of the Film - John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes
MPAA rating - R, UK rating - 15
A few weeks ago, Hubby and I watched Nosferatu for the first time. This amazing silent film from the 1920s impressed both of us and we thought Max Schreck was outstanding as Count Orlok. We started doing some research on the Internet about any other film roles he had done and the background to Nosferatu, which led to Hubby discovering Shadow of the Vampire - a film released in 2000, which is set during the filming of Nosferatu. It sounded an interesting idea and the cast sounded good (I especially like John Malkovich), so I bought the DVD from Amazon UK. (I also bought the Masters of Cinema remastered version of Nosferatu with extra features and a special booklet.)
Nosferatu itself is really the story of Dracula, but when the film was made, the Stoker family refused to give permission for the story to be filmed. This led to the changing of names and places, so Count Dracula became Count Orlok - but essentially, Nosferatu is the same story as Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Shadow of the Vampire is set during the filming of Nosferatu in the early 1920s. We follow the cast and crew throughout the filming process, with all its crises - funding problems, illness, disagreements, drug abuse and the complications of having a real vampire on board. Oh yes, this is where Shadow of the Vampire alters history somewhat. The audience is left to wonder - What would have happened if Max Schreck had really been a genuine vampire?
This explains the mystery surrounding Max Schreck. He appears late into filming, rarely socialises with the cast, appears to have come from nowhere career-wise and he is allowed to only film his scenes in the dark. The director F. W. Murnau tells the cast and crew this is due to Schreck's Method acting techniques, as he needs to fully immerse himself in the role. But really, Murnau has done a deal with Schreck that in return for a great performance, Murnau will give him what he desires....
I really enjoyed this film and thought it was a great original twist on the old vampire story. It has elements of several genres in it -horror, thriller, drama and black comedy - and I felt this worked very well, as you soon become involved in the unfolding story and care about the characters.
John Malkovich plays F. W. Murnau and puts in an excellent performance, as usual. I first saw Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons back in 1988 and he has never disappointed me yet. Here he plays Murnau as an ever-increasingly mad director. As the filming progresses, he becomes more and more driven and obsessive, until he will stop at nothing to get his vision onto film. I found I still sympathised with him, as having seen the original Nosferatu film, I believe it is one of the best films ever made, so if it was my "baby", I think I would be pretty ruthless too. (Would I hire a real vampire? I don't know.)
While Malkovich is excellent, Willem Defoe is outstanding as Max Schreck. Wow! He is unrecognisable under the amazing make up and delivers a truly great performance. His Schreck is very creepy with a huge presence and he has some wonderful spooky little mannerisms - sniffs, twitches and tapping his long fingernails together. He was nominated for an Oscar for this performance, but sadly didn't win.
The audience has sympathy for Schreck, even as an aged vampire. There is one wonderful scene where he talks about the sadness of the Dracula novel, how the Count has to prepare food and a bed for Jonathan Harker, as he has no servants and has to do everything himself. This demonstrates how both vampires - Dracula and Schreck - are at a nadir in their life, of low status, isolated and alone.
This kind of scene also shows how blurred the lines are between "good" and "bad". Who is the real monster here - the old vampire doing what comes naturally, or the director Murnau who is ruthless and willing to sacrifice lives for his art?
I think it helps if you have seen Nosferatu before watching this, as you will appreciate all the nuances of Shadow of the Vampire if you can compare it to the original film. It is amazing how the old black and white silent film is recreated too. The sets are beautiful too and the actors are close to the original stars as well. I also liked the use of title cards (inter-titles) for some scenes, keeping in well with the theme of the original silent film.
It was fascinating to see how the silent films worked behind the scenes too. While appreciating this is a fictional account, I felt it was educational, demonstrating how silent films were made in the 1920s, such as the use of heavy make up for the actors, to bring out their features on film. It was also interesting to hear the characters talking as that wouldn't be in the final shot and how the director Murnau would talk them through their motivation for each scene. This gave another dimension to the film, as it made me think of the original movie in a slightly different way and appreciate how difficult it must have been to make a silent film.
The rest of the cast fade into the background somewhat, compared to the outstanding portrayals by Malkovich and Dafoe. I was impressed by Eddie Izzard though, who I have found can be very good in straight roles. He plays Gustav von Wangerhein here (who plays the Jonathan Harker role) and does shine in the role, though I wish he had been on screen for longer. I find he often raises the level of any material he is given and is eminently watchable.
Catherine McCormack plays Greta Schroeder, which is the only main part for a woman in the entire film. She is rather an annoying character, as she is self-centred and seems to have few positive character traits. Personally, I didn't care whether she ended up as vampire fodder or not, as I really didn't like her.
Cary Elwes was in Bram Stoker's Dracula (the 1992 film) so is no stranger to the story. Here he is Fritz Wagner, but despite being one of the starring names, I admit to hardly noticing him. A lot of the cast and crew seem to merge together a bit - not because they are inadequate, but because Malkovich and Defoe are so amazing!
The film is quite dark (as in 'lack of light') at times, but it works in context. The filming of Nosferatu is shown chronologically, so you can follow that story too, from beginning to end. I thought it was very clever how the "new" story (Schreck being really a vampire) combines with the facts of the film being shot in the 1920s. It becomes easy to believe the plot, as the acting is so good and Dafoe is incredibly convincing - you really would be scared of him in real life and could well believe he was a genuine vampire!
I was very impressed by the witty script, as there are some really funny and clever lines in this, like the title ("The script girl? I'll eat her later!") and some laugh out loud moments. Malkovich gets to deliver lots of great lines too, in that wonderfully mean, dark, brooding, and sinister voice of his. (Hubby said if Malkovich recorded an audio book of Dracula, it would be the creepiest thing ever!)
There is a good pace and built-up of tension and I never became bored or distracted - though it is relatively short anyway, at only 91 minutes. It is a thoughtful film - atmospheric, compelling and involving - but not an action movie by any means!
The main criticisms of other reviewers seems to be about the ending being disappointing, but I thought it was fine and I felt satisfied with it. I liked how it fitted in with the original Nosferatu, but with an added twist or two.
The film is rated 15, as there is some swearing (but not too much), drug use, a topless scene of a woman, horror themes, creepiness, drinking blood and so on. However, my daughter watched it and she's nearly fourteen and was perfectly fine with it. I would suggest a 12 rating might be more accurate.
Overall, both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed Shadow of the Vampire. It is an interesting story, a clever twist on the Nosferatu theme and the performances of John Malkovich and especially Willem Dafoe are outstanding. If you're a fan of Nosferatu, you will get even more out of the film - and I would recommend you see both.
Shadow of the Vampire is currently available from Amazon UK for just £3.98. It does not have any extras though, not even subtitles, which would have been handy, as sometimes the words are hard to make out, due to rather quiet dialogue or being a bit too heavily accented.
The Masters of Cinema remastered version of the original Nosferatu is £9.56 from Amazon UK and I would definitely recommend buying both.
E. Elias Merhige's 'Shadow of the Vampire' is a very original film indeed. It takes the premise that Max Schreck (the guy who played the incredibly creepy 'Nosferatu' back in 1922) was actually a Vampire himself.
The film is set during the making of Nosferatu and explores the lengths which the cast and crew went to in order to get Schreck's co-operation as an actor. However, having a vampire on set can lead to dire consequences...
If you're a fan of F.W Murnau's Nosferatu, then this movie is an absolute must-see. Although the events portrayed are largely fictitious, many of the filming methods shown are grounded in reality, and as such, give us a great insight into the way silent movies were created.
John Malkovich stars as Murnau - Nosferatu's director. He plays the part in a sinister manner, with his character seemingly willing to sacrifice anything, even if it's human life, to get the film completed.
Willem Defoe plays Max Shreck - and conveys a timid but threatening presence with beautiful timing. As he's heavily covered in make-up, it's difficult to recognise Defoe - instead we see an elderly, long-fingernailed, freakish persona.
I suppose this movie is technically a black comedy - but you do have to look pretty deep to find the humour, which comes in subtle expessions and Max Shreck's sinister actions.
In combination, both Malkovich and Defoe have created believable characters with wonderful chemistry - this film really showcases their talents as actors. One great scene shows the two of them deciding which of the cast Shreck can drink the blood of next... as I said... black comedy.
If there is a weak link on the acting front, it would probably have to be Eddie Izzard who plays 'Gustav'. Although i've seen Izzard in roles where he's been pretty good, he just seems a little unbelievable here.
I really enjoyed this film - I suppose because it's not your typical horror movie. As it's presented as fact, the whole thing has a really eerie feel about it - so on that level it works.
Another element which adds to the atmosphere of the piece, is that it's filmed entirely in black and white. This helps convey the darkness and depressing nature of some of the locations used in the original film.
Shadow of the Vampire is a cleverly made piece. It's not overly action packed or bloody, but it's thoughtfully produced and gets a big thumbs up from me.
The DVD version is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, and includes a theatrical Trailer, Original Nosferatu Trailer, Directors Audio Commentary, Behind The Scenes Featurette, Special Effects make-up Featurette, Cast & Crew Interviews, and Production Notes.
'Shadow of the Vampire' is a horror film regarding a German vampire, that takes the interesting turn of expanding on an ancient (and unfounded) view: that Max Schreck, the actor who played the eponymous vampire in the 1922 silent classic 'Nosferatu,' was himself a vampire. The film is set in Germany in 1921 and follows director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, his production crew and the actors from Nosferatu as they attempt to film their controversial motion picture. NOSFERATU: BACKGROUND In the 1910s-20s, Germany was seen as the world leader in the new industry of film-making. Silent films of the Expressionist era required the actors to exaggerate their movements and emotions in order for the story to be told in more than just words. F.W. Murnau was interested in creating a film version of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, however involvement of Stoker's widow meant that this would not be possible; still determined to make his vampire film, Murnau simply changed the names of the characters, the location of the story, and adapted scenes to suit his vision. Following the release of the film, Stoker's estate filed a lawsuit which led to all copies of Nosferatu being destroyed, however one survived. This surviving copy has provided the template for all video, televison and DVD releases of Nosferatu to this day. SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE: BACKGROUND This 2000 film is both a celebration of the efforts of early film-making, as well as an attempt to create a believable tribute to the ancient film. The rumour that Max Schreck (whose name translates from German as 'Max Te
rror') was indeed a vampire appear quite ludicrous when he is listed as appearing in a number of other silent films of the era in different roles, however this film presents the actor in a much more believable way than would be expected. There has also been constant talk since the 20s that actor Gustav von Wangeheim, who plays the innocent Thomas Hutter in the original film, was poorly trained and quite a bad actor, and Eddie Izzard's portrayal of a struggling actor whose only moments of glory arise from his genuine fear of Max Schreck make this film all the better. There are also exaggerations, presumably, of Murnau being so dedicated to his art that he allows the principal cast and crew to be killed on film, while leading lady Greta Schroeder is shown to be a drug addict drama queen with aspirations of becoming a star. The quite clear lack of sexual chemistry between the actors in the original film is also explored here, however the oft-debated air of homosexuality between Gustav and Nosferatu is not. It is fortunate that the original actors and crew are not alive to press charges... PLOT A background knowledge of the original Nosferatu is not required as the film features several captions that explain its history, however, as a fan of that film who has seen it many times, this interesting look behind-the-scenes is all the more rewarding. It is also very satisfying to see a mixture of clip inserts from the original silent movie, such as scenery, along with newly recorded re-makes of character scenes featuring the modern actors, which manage to stay true to the original. Murnau is travelling across Germany to the locations he has painstakingly researched for use in his film, however the actors are all told that Max Schreck, playing the vampire, will only appear in full make-up when he is required for a
shot. The rest of the time, he will be staying at the remote locations in order to 'soak up the culture.' As the film progresses it is clear that Schreck is himself some form of vampire, or at least a mutant with a lust for blood that can be killed through the same methods, and despite his killing of some of the cast, the film proceeds to be made. The final scene, in which Nosferatu is to feed off the sacrificial Ellen and then be killed by sunlight, goes ahead... CAST John Malkovich plays Murnau expertly, making a totally believable director who is obsessed with creating his 'science.' The other principal actor is William DaFoe, playing Schreck, whose performance is convincing, especially in his recreation of Schreck's original scenes in Nosferatu. Eddie Izzard plays the part of the arrogant and confused Gustav von Wangeheim surprisingly well, considering he's a blue stand-up comic most of the time, while Catherine McCormack plays the part of Greta Schroeder, making the ultimate sacrifice for her art, playing the part of Ellen, a character who makes the ultimate sacrifice for love. The actors playing the production crew are also very believable as they question their sanity and Schreck's methods. OVERALL Anyone who has seen Nosferatu and enjoyed it should see this film, as it serves as a fitting tribute. Despite obvious inconsistencies - 'Shadow' only feratures scenes which serve its vision that Schreck was a vampire and miss out a number that could prove he was simply an actor - there is nothing herein that would serve to spoil the film. Obviously Eddie Izzard, William DaFoe and Catherine McCormack look different to the original actors, but the similarity of their costume
s, make-up and the lok of their filmed scenes are a joy to behold. The film does drag on in places, and could be seen as too arty or seperate from modern society for casual vampire fans, but it is a good film in its own right that is well thought-out, well-produced and very faithful to an old classic. Even the musical score reflects the original and contemporary scores associated with Nosferatu. This is a very good and interesting take on the vampire film format, which clearly needs to be taklen in original directions to avoid repetition, and works very well when compared to the original. The final scenes are genuinely chilling and even the most hardened Nosferatu fan with his head firmly out of the clouds will find himself thinking, "Gustav does look a little genuinely scared of Schreck in the film doesn't he..." NOTE: Thank you to lookaroundcafe2 for recommending this film following my review of Nosferatu on DVD, I'm glad I noticed it on BBC1 last night.
Murnau: "Why him you monster, why not the...script girl?" Orlock: "Oh yes, the script girl. I'll eat her later." You'll notice that 99% of what they're serving up at the cinema right now is tripe. It's that time of year, it's always pants just after Christmas. Apparently now I'm supposed to be looking forward to watching the cream of the current crop Dare Devil in a few days time...erm yeah, that's why I'll be watching DVDs instead for at least another month. Mostly tripe I tell you. Still, there's always video, not quite the same thrill of course but cheaper and there's plenty of stonkingly good films lurking around out there. I'm on a Hitchcock splurge at the moment but I figure other people can and have reviewed and analysed all of those pretty much to death over the last umpteen years so I'll save my breath and review something arthouse instead. Oh joy you say, but trust me, this is a good 'un... "Nosferatu" he says, hoping at least some reading this will have watched it and possibly know what he's on about, is one of the most influentual movies of all time. Originally supposed to be the first complete cinematic retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula its production ran into difficulty when Bram Stoker's widow refused German director F. W. Murnau access to the copyright. Consequently the film was still made but names and places were changed...slighly. Count Dracula became Count Orlock for starters but the story is still very obviously hugely inspired by the novel and remains the first true rendition of the Dracula story. It also remains the creepiest despite being a silent black and white movie filmed over 80 years ago. Much of this comes down to Max Schreck's magnificently creepy and very believable portrayal of the Count and Murnau's superlative directing. The ficticious story of the production of this movie is what Shadow Of The Vampire is a
ll about. "Yawn" you say? "NO!" I say, far from it. Shadow Of The Vampire takes the absolutely ingenious, but entirely ficticious idea that the vampire at the centre of Nosferatu was actually played by a real life ancient vampire who Murnau found living in an old ruin whilst researching his movie. He gives the vampire the name Max Schreck, telling his crew he is a Russian method actor who will remain in character and costume the whole time they see him. Naturally they are unnerved by the mystery, more so when they finally meet this shambling, hunched decrepid figure as he comes shuffling out of a foreboding hole in an old ruinous castle and even more when crew members start becoming mysteriously sick and disappearing. Murnau has a deal with the vampire, what it is you'll just have to wait and see, but part of that deal is that he'll not ruin his picture during the production by eating his cast and crew although controlling the appetites of the creature is never going to be an easy task... Part of the joy of watching Shadow Of The Vampire is in the performances of the two lead actors. Willem Dafoe is completely unrecognisable under swathes of superb make-up effects and his broken, aged Russian accent and the way he has captured the mannerisms of Schreck's Orlock of 80 years previous is perfection indeed. His reaction to the world of movie-making is classic, totally not understanding what he is meant to be doing or why and really only wanting to sink his fangs into the neck of his co-stars who really have no difficulty feigning horror and revulsion at being in his presence! It is obvious that this isn't a horror movie as such but a homage to one of the greatest and the producers of it are certainly not afraid to have some fun with the idea. The Count and his perfectly timed reactions are the centre of much of that fun but he and the movie can also switch in an instant to being down right sinister, Dafoe has the a
bility to pull it all off with great aplomb and it's little wonder he was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role here. John Malkovich as Murnau is equally superb to watch. Initially fully in control you watch how this director is determined to get his movie made despite rapidly losing control of his precocious vampire lead and will sink lower and lower into murky moral waters as he tries to retain that hold. Some of the conversations between these two are just so surreal you don't know whether to be horrified or to laugh at loud but never once does it feel like parody which is to be commended. Also along for the ride comes Eddie Izzard as the actor playing Jonathan Harker who does a rather excellent job of looking rather camp and freaked out throughout as indeed he might and Catherine McCormack who doesn't appear much until the end but is suitably bitchy and erm, 'Hollywood' for want of a better term! I loved the authentic 1920's style costume and all the contemporary film equipment and techniques which are very cool to watch. I've no idea about the accuracy of this but then, who cares? It's entertainment and how many are experts on either to care. In terms of the story, many elements which I do know about from the original production of Nosferatu have been retained which lends it an amusing air of credibility and any fan of that movie or vampire movies in general will be more than happy to be swept along with the idea of Orlock indeed being a real vampire Count. The sets are delightfully gothic and the tone, whilst often quite dark, swings to-and-fro from tongue-in-cheek homage to a study of darkest obsession and by the end you'll be undoubtedly comparing Murnau to his star and seeing little difference. The script too is fantastic with some great set pieces from both leads, see particularly Orlock's take on Stoker's Dracula and Murnau throughout uttering some deliciously over-cooked dir
ections and rants during takes. This really isn't a title which is going to leap off of the shelves at you to be honest but Shadow Of The Vampire grabbed and held my attention with the greatest of ease simply by weaving an intruiging and very original tale around a real landmark in movie history. It could have been so 'wrong' but it does everything right and I have to say I enjoyed every second of it. It's usually the way, the hyped up big budget blockbusters are relatively entertaining whilst those which lurk amongst the undergrowth easily blow them away. I think perhaps it helps to have an understanding of the original movie to appreciate just what on Earth this is all about so perhaps it cuts down its audience somewhat there. Without that knowledge I can see a few being completely lost! Still, there's no excuse, I believe Blockbuster usually hold a copy of Nosferatu and it's rather short so rent both and watch them back to back! Shadow Of The Vampire is hugely entertaining, a little disturbing at times, very funny at others and certainly not what you'd expect from a vampire-oriented movie, easily gaining 5 stars from me.
This is a tale of what really happened behind the scenes whilst making the now reknown horror Nosferatu. John Malkovich plays the director F.W. Murnau, who will go to absolutley any lengths to get a realstic vampire flick, even employ are vampire to play the vampire. William Dafoe plays the vampire Count Orlock who is parading as actor Max Schrek. Murnau agrees to let Schrek have the blood of lead actress Greta Schroeder after the film is filmed. However he underestimated how hard it is to make a vampire do as you say and Schrek starts to feed of the cast, who are getting rather suspicious of Schrek. This film didn't really work for me. I was expecting more and didn't really get it. It is a good and interesting story and at times does entertain and the end is good but I found it dragged on. The film is well acted and Dafoe is hilarious as Orlock. However I think the story doesn't have enough to strech the hour and 40 minutes it does. If it was shortened and had more of Orlock in it I would have enjoyed it more.
In the early 1900's, when movie making was very young, and silent, German master director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Malkovich) wants to make a film about Dracula, but Bram Stoker's widow won't let him. So, he changes the name to Nosferatu (the unclean), and hires Max Schreck (Dafoe), a reclusive strange actor who won't let anyone see him without makeup, to play the part of Count Orlock. As the story unfolds, we find that Murnau has made a pact with Schreck, who is extremely attracted to the heroine in the story played by a German actress (McCormack), to not bother the actors before the end of the filming. One by one, the actors become ill with strange maladies, and then everybody realizes that Max is much more than just an intense method actor (an actor who lives the role he is playing). The film received two Academy Award nominations, but be forewarned, it is psychotic in its presentation. This is one the kids should not see, even if they are accompanied by an adult.
This is an odd film! Directed by E. Elias Merhige it is based on the making of the silent horror classic 'Nosferatu'. The original film made in 1921 was directed by F W Murnau and starred the German actor Max Schreck. It was basically the Dracula story transposed in Germany. There was a more recent remake Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979) directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinsky and Isabelle Adjani. THE CAST John Malkovich - F.W. Murnau Willem Dafoe - Max Schreck/"Count Orlock" Cary Elwes - Fritz Arno Wagner Aden Gillett - Henrick Galeen Eddie Izzard - Gustav von Wangenheim/"Thomas Hutter" Udo Kier - Albin Grau Catherine McCormack - Greta Schroeder/"Ellen Hutter" Ronan Vibert - Wolfgang Müller The premise of Shadow Of the Vampire is…what if the actor Max Schrek was really a vampire… I have always thought that Murnau's 'Nosferatu' was a masterpiece. The use of lighting, the wonderful makeup and the innovative camera angles produced a truly scary film that begins to affect you as you get engrossed in the story, the fact it is a silent film if anything intensifies the atmosphere it manages to produce. Merhige obviously loved the original and asked the question, was there a reason that the original film worked so well?, was it purely the ability of the filmmakers and Schreck terrific performance? Or was there something else. In brilliant leap of creative imagination he explains the films powerful effect on the presence of a real vampire. THE STORY Berlin 1921 F W Murnau (John Malkovich) a leading figure in German art cinema decides to make a version of the Dracula story. He can't get permission from Bram Stoker's estate to film the original so decides to adapt the story in his own way. He calls it 'Nosferatu' and sets it in Czechoslovakia and Bremen instead of Transylvani
a and Whitby. The count is now called 'Orlock' instead of Dracula. Murnau has a reputation has a realist filmmaker and so he decides to assemble a crew and film in an old ruined castle in Czechoslovakia. He tell the crew that the lead actor Max Schreck, need to immerse himself in the role (a sort of method actor of his day) and so has been living in the castle for a while. They will meet them there. He also tells the crew that they will never see Schreck without full make up and that to further fit in to the role he will only film at night. What the crew doesn't know but slowly begin to suspect is that Schreck is really count Orlock and a real vampire. Murnau has secretly made a pact with Schreck, in return for the vampire giving a truly realist and chilling performance in the film he will be allow to have the leading lady 'for supper' at the end of the film. She is obviously unaware of this. The vampire however can't resist taking a few bites out of the crew while filming and the increasingly crazed Murnau becomes more and more frantic about finishing his masterpiece. Willem Defoe brilliantly plays the Vampire as a pathetic figure, a vampire past his prime who now relies on drinking the blood from animals to feed. In one scene he tell the producer and writer of his loneliness and sadness, when they drunkenly suggest that he should go out and make more vampires he replies that he is too old, then proceeds to catch a bat out of the air bite its head off and suck its blood. The film is not played straight, it couldn't get away with that but is instead a very very dark (comedy?) drama, making a statement about the thin distinction that can exist between films and reality. It is also a study of obsession, which can overtake people as they try and achieve their goals. There are definitely Faustian elements here. As the film develops you begin to wonder who the real monster is the director Murnau or the Vampire. He is
willing to sacrifice the lives of his crew, his leading actress and the ultimately the vampire just to satisfy his own desires. The attention to detail is superb down to the equipment that the filmmakers are using. You really do believe that you are watching that original 'Nosferatu' being made. Merhige manages to infuse the film with is a sinister, dark, creepy atmosphere. There is a sense of decay all around. The performances are of the highest quality. Eddy Izzard is fantastic as the baffled co-star Gustav von Wangenheim and all the support cast are first rate. But of course it's Willem Defoe as the vampire and Malkovich as Murnau that make the film special. Defoe was nominated for an Oscar and deservedly so. Malkovich might consider himself unlucky not to have been.. As I said before it is an odd film but well worth watching.
I'd been wanting to see this film for a long time after the images and trailers peaked my interest. Also good word about the performance of Willem Dafoe as well as a good cast aided things. Thankfully it was worth the wait. Shadow of the Vampire is a chronicle on the filming of Nosferatu but with a difference. We see German director F.W Murnau (John Malkovich) filming his classic, giving subtle direction off camera to his flamboyant and sometimes egotistical actors. But when it comes to portraying the vampire none of the crew know who will play him except Murnau. Enter a fearsome looking Max Shreck (Willen Dafoe) who certainly looks the part and takes the notion of method acting to a new level. Soon after Shreck's arrival crew members start dropping like flies and it turns out Murnau has hired Shreck because he is a real vampire. This is a very original idea and thankfully the makers have seen fit to give the story a dark comic undertone. At one point Murnau berates Shreck for killing his photographer when he could have bitten someone less important like the script girl! The performances are very good. Malkovich is a very diverse actor and really embodies the part of Murnau with a slightly egotistical swagger and no morals except when it comes to his own work. There's also a great turn from Eddie Izzard as the actor who really get's into it on film but is struck with horror at Shreck off camera. However the film belongs to Dafoe as Shreck. Under heavy make-up he really brings the character to life with a snarling almost sympathetic portrayal of the vampire. At times he's also very funny as he has utter contempt for the crew that surrounds him. The Oscar nomination recieved for his work here was well deserved. Directing the film is E. Elias Merhige. His last film was some years ago and his origins are in theatre but this is a very theatrical film so his style suits it. Working under another name he also photogra
phs the film and creates some wonderful images that echo the haunting visuals of Nosferatu. It is all played out and shot like an old movie with grainy film stock and a mix of colour, plays on black and white and a great use of shadow. At 90 minutes long this is a film that moves along quite well and sucks you in without getting boring in the slightest. The story is interesting from many standpoints and should really appeal to those who love the classic images of cinema such as Nosferatu's creepy shadow. It's also original, has a subtle but wonderful score and could be seen as a work of art as well as a film. The mainstream audience may not grasp it with both hands and it's their loss. To finish, I noticed this is the first film to come from Nicholas Cage's production company. If his company are supportive of interesting projects like this then I hope to see what they do next.
Shadow Of The Vampire is a film about the making of Nosfertatu; the brilliant silent movie based on Dracula. It's a fictitious account of the filming and has a very nice little twist, what if they used a real vampire? John Malkovich stars as the director of the film (F.W. Murnau) and gives a great performance as the control freak in charge. Murnau decides that the best way to get a true feel to his film is to get a real-life (dead?) vampire to play the part and so he does just that. Willem Dafoe plays the part of Max Schreck, the "actor" playing the vampire. Schreck never appears out of costume or character and looks simply horrible. Dafoe is truly outstanding in his role. The make up makes him look perfect and his mannerisms are very creepy and extremely funny too! The film basically follows the making of Nosferatu from start to finish with great moments of comedy thrown in when the cast starts to disappear and things begin to fall apart. The actors involved (especially Eddie Izzard) are all very good and produce the silent movie era well. The script is pretty thin really as the main point is the real vampire and how the others interact with him, though it does give for a lot of fun and holds the film together well. The only let down with the film is the ending which seems to have been rushed as it just doesn't fit together too well. It's all a bit confusing and as if they didn't really know the best way to end the film. All in all it's a great fun film that has some brilliant performances and a nice unusual idea. Well worth a look at the cinema or on DVD. You won’t be disappointed.
Starring – John Malkovich, William Dafoe, Eddie Izzard, Catherine McCormack, Udo Kier. An hilarious exploration of the making of the 1922 German silent movie classic Nosferatu, with Malkovich as the ruthless Teutonic director FW Murnau and Dafoe as Max Schreck, the actor who plays Nosferatu’s villain and who, in this version, really is a vampire. It’s an act Murnau neglects to mention his co-workers, and which soon presents problems when Schreck begins to get a little peckish. Dafoe, virtually unrecognisable in bald cap and vampire make0-up, is brilliant as the bored bloodsucker casually tucking into cast and crew, while Malkovich is equally impressive as the borderline lunatic director struggling to keep his film together, and his cast alive long enough to finish it.
Though they are both exceptional screen actors, the presence of both John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe in one movie takes the genuine risk of creating some sort of critical mass of quirks and tics and mannerisms. If you can remember a film in which either man played an ordinary Joe, a normal chap, your memory is better than mine, and in general, you find both men playing freaks and oddballs. Added to that, the plot of ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ threatens to be too post-modern, too clever-clever. During the making of F.W. Murnau’s classic Dracula rip-off ‘Nosferatu’, it transpires that the unhinged Murnau (Malkovich) has employed a genuine vampire (Dafoe) to create an atmosphere of realism. So what you’re looking at sounds very much like a recipe for cinematic navel-gazing, all smart ideas about the nature of cinema and jokes about German Expressionist Cinema. And that’s what you get. ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ is a very clever, but very cold film – there is no-one to empathise with, just a conflict of a mad human and a psychotic vampire, played out like some operatic tension between director and star. The only difference between this and the usual creative conflict is that Murnau is a man convinced he has found the way to capture and preserve history, and Orlock the vampire is less worried about his motivation than whether or not Murnau will keep his part of the bargain and feed him the leading lady (Catherine McCormack) at the end of the shoot. The average audience member is wilfully left behind – for one thing, you really do need to have seen ‘Nosferatu’ (and hands up if you’ve watched any silent movies in the last year), and you’ll probably benefit from having seen a few other German horror movies and know a bit about early cinema history. Now as a smarty-pants ‘Sight and Sound’ reader who watches everything, I’m fine, but ̵
6;Shadow of the Vampire’ is deliberately cutting out a lot of possible viewers – it’s a satire for sophisticates. As such, it works well; Eddie Izzard gives an outstanding performance, perfectly capturing the almost comic-strip style of silent cinema acting, while the attention to detail over cameras and techniques is exemplary. It is funny to see Murnau and Co striding around the set as if they are scientists, wearing white lab coats and goggles. Director E. Elias Mehrige has a lot of fun with the images of shadows and mist, making great use of Dafoe's mannered but very funny performance as the rapacious immortal rapidly degenerating into a prissy prima-donna. However, having come up with an extraordinary idea, the film-makers clearly don't have a clue how to end everything, and the climax goes careering off the rails into stupid melodrama. Moreover, some of the developments (like Murnau's addiction to laudanum, which turns up conveniently towards the end) are rather inexpertly integrated. Murnau would sue for libel, and in one way, the film rather denigrates the genuinely astonishing power of Max Shreck's performance in the real movie, but nevertheless, 'Shadow of the Vampire is a reasonably smart and entertaining diversion from the horror norms.
First things first. I missed this at the cinema so this review comes after a 'lights off' huddled on the sofa, video viewing. Basically, this film is about a filmaker making the real-life 1922 classic silent horror film, Nosferatu'. Only, what we learn is that in order to make the film as real as possible, the director has enlisted a real, live, ageing vampire to play the role. The vampire has been promised the neck of the leading lady in return for 'behaving' during the rest of the shoot. Of course, he can't behave can he? People disappear. People die. Which should have made for something either funny, scary or thrilling. But failed to manage any of the above. The tape box described the film thus: 'Compelling, Clever, Jet-Black Comedy. A Lot of Fun' and had a 'horror' category sticker applied by the video shop. So, someone had to be wrong. As it happens, they both were. The best thing about the film is the superb acting. Dafoe, as the Vampire is extraordinary, and Malcovich is as open-mouthed and frightening as ever as the driven director searching for perfection. Eddie Izzard is superb as the leading man, but anyone who has seen his live stand up shows will recognise too much from there to believe him in this! But, as always, he's funny and good value for money. But the problem stems from the fact that film didn't know what it wanted to be. Dafoe is both grusome and funny. The cast seem to play some bits for laughs, other bits are dead straight. In the end the film has decided to be a comment on the lengths the film industry will go to in order to make movies. Which, after everything that was promised from the start, is a fairly lame theme to be left with. Just for the record, it's maybe worth mentioning that it's a short film too. 91 minutes. It will achieve cult status, almost certainly, and could well be a more enjoyable ride second time around
, when you won't be disappointed because you now know what to expect. It promised a lot and didn't deliver.
‘Shadow Of The Vampire’ is the totally fictional account of the making of the classic 1922 silent film ‘Nosfertatu’. John Malkovich stars as the films director F. W. Murnau who makes a film based upon the Bram Stoker novel ‘Dracula’, however Murnau had to make changes to the name after not getting permission from Stoker’s family to use the authors work.. Prior to filming the cast are told that the films vampire Count Orlock will be played by Max Schreck, a method actor who will only appear in full make up and remain in character at all times. Unknown to everyone Schreck is a real vampire who has made a deal with Murnau to appear as long as he is given the leading actress Greta Schroeder on completion of the film. However can the vampire control his urges until the film is finished?. This is an extremely interesting film with a wonderful ‘what if?’ storyline and one I’ve been meaning to see for a while. However it wasn’t quite what I expected. Be warned anyone looking for a horror flick with some action will be bitterly disappointed. Malkovich is very good in the role of the director Murnau and we see a man who is totally obsessed with making the ultimate vampire film. Max Shreck / Count Orlock is played by Willem Dafoe who is unrecognisable underneath the make up. His performance is truly outstanding and he was quite rightfully nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor but in the end he lost out to Benicio Del Toro (Traffic). ‘Nosferatu’s’ leading actress Greta Shroeder and the object of Orlock’s desire is played by Catherine McCormack.and while she is ok I didn’t feel her part was that good. Her character wasn’t one that the viewing could like, let alone care about. Meanwhile cross dressing comedian Eddie Izzard stars as the ‘Nosferatu’ actor Gustav Von Wangenheim and turns in a reasonable performance despite
my earlier reservations about him being cast in that role.. On the whole the film works well with the exception of a couple of scenes. The first is a short scene set in a cabaret which is rather pointless adding nothing to the story and looking out of place with rest of the film. The second involving McCormack and featuring some nudity again didn’t really work and it could have been better. Having spoken to many people who have seen ‘Shadow Of The Vampire’ their opinions are divided, it is a black comedy of sorts but this may well be lost on many. A lot are of the opinion that it’s all rather dull and boring. To a certain extent I can why many would feel like this especially if you’re looking for a true horror film. Directed by E. Elias Merhige the film features some nice use of black and white during the scenes where the film is being shot and if you’re a fan of the original ‘Nosfertau’ then this will be a very interesting film to watch. The film only runs for 91 minutes but it seemed to be much shorter than that, always a sign of a good film. This is one that I will watch again if only to see the scenes involving Dafoe and his brilliant performance of Count Orlock. I liked ‘Shadow Of The Vampire’ very much but would be wary of recommending it to others.
The first feature from Nicolas Cage's Saturn production company, Shadow Of The Vampire poses the question, what if Max Schreck, the star of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, was really a vampire? The result is an offbeat, often surreal arthouse horror which manages to keep its audience off balance throughout. At the film's beginning, it soon becomes clear that director E. Elias Merhige is entirely comfortable with his mise-en-scene, swapping back and forth between Shadow and Nosferatu with ease and highlighting just how different screen acting was back in the silent era. It's a testament to his skill as a director that the mannered performances required of Eddie Izzard and Catherine McCormack are humourous without being risible. As Murnau, John Malkovich displays an almost psychotic devotion to his film, and a pleasing sense of the (often terrible)depths of Murnau's passion. The revelation here, though, is Willem Dafoe as Schreck. While his resemblance to the star of Nosferatu is often startling, it's the restless, prowling energy he gives him which registers most. Having to keep himself in check for most of the film, Dafoe's Schreck is a study in repressed physical craving, allied to a feral intelligence blessed with flashes of insight - witness the scene with Nosferatu's producer and writer, where Schreck volunteers that the novel Dracula's saddest moment (for him) was the realisation that this once great prince among men had no servants. The photography is generally dark and brooding, often claustrophobic, and the lighting matches the mood effectively. If I have one complaint about the film it would be the ending, which descends into a form of comic mania which is not entirely successful. Still, Shadow Of The Vampire is a well-crafted, very well-acted, intelligent film, well worth seeing, and plays well with notions of identity and survival. If you only see one vampire movie this year, then make it this one.
Shadow of the vampire is an obviously fictional account of the making of the classic horror film 'Nosferatu'. I say 'obviously fictional', as this film follows the odd premise that Max Schreck, the actor playing the film's Count Orlock, was in fact a real life vampire. The plot follows the director F.W. Murnau's (Played brilliantly by John Malkowich) attempts to keep the vampire under control as he fights to complete his picture. This film is really quite fascinating, and should really appeal to fans of cinema, as well as horror film fans. Its main string points are the excellent acting, the script, which quite comfortably switches between homour and horror, and the highly evocative scenes which replay the balck and white original. These scenes are really quite magical, and when played against the colourful modern footage have an almost fairy tale like atmosphere. In many ways, for fans of the cinematic medium, these scenes are quite touching, and sad, reliving an era long since dead. As many have reported, the acting of Dafoe as the vampire is excellent, and well worthy of an oscar nod. His count Orlock is at times grotesque, terrifying, sad, and yet always believeable. Wittness the strangely moving scene where he shares a bottle of gin with two of the film makers, and bemoans the idignities of the literary incarnation of Count Dracula. The one criticism of this film is that it is qiute slow moving, and that it may not offer the full blooded approach that some horror fans may demand. Overall this is a beautifuly crafted and often moving tale, that film fans would do well to look out for.
Starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe the film explores the possibility that the star of director F.W. Murnau's 1922 German expressionist horror film, 'Nosferatu', was an actual vampire.