Shadow Of The Vampire

A creepy, clever, film buff's delight of a fantasy on the theme of NOSFERATU, E. Elias Merhige's film is thoroughly unafraid of its intense film geekness. The year is 1921, and flamboyant German filmmaker F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) is making a vampire movie, an unauthorized version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. He's already shot interiors...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A creepy, clever, film buff's delight of a fantasy on the theme of NOSFERATU,

E. Elias Merhige's film is thoroughly unafraid of its intense film geekness.

The year is 1921, and flamboyant German filmmaker F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich)

is making a vampire movie, an unauthorized version of Bram Stoker's

Dracula. He's already shot interiors in a Berlin studio, but now plans

to take his cast and crew to a distant island location, a radical departure

from silent filmmaking practice. Producer Albin Grau (Udo Kier) and scripter

Henrick Galeen (Aden Gillett) think it's a waste of resources, but location

shooting is the least of Murnau's startling innovations. He's cast a real

vampire, teasingly named Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), in the film's title role,

though he assures everyone his gaunt, spooky star has merely been studying

with some fellow named Stanislavsky, who encourages actors to immerse

themselves in their roles. Hammy leading man Gustav Von Wangenheim (Eddie

Izzard) thinks that's ridiculous, but the cast and crew accept that Herr

Murnau is a visionary and indulge his eccentricities. Unfortunately, "Schreck" is having trouble repressing his bloodthirsty impulses in check, and begins

preying on the crew as he awaits the arrival of haughty star Greta (Catherine

McCormack) arrives. She's the one the bloodsucker really wants, and once he

has her, Murnau's tenuous control over the monster will be broken. Classic

horror buffs will delight in Steven Katz's knowing screenplay, which Merhige

brings to the screen with equal parts solemnity and mordant humor (something

absent from his only other film, the utterly bizarre BEGOTTEN). The

performances are perfectly pitched, overwrought without being camp, and the

story steeped in the drugs and sexual excess of the era. Dafoe's

interpretation of the real Max Schreck's vampire is hypnotic, and the

transitions between clips from the real NOSFERATU and Merhige's recreation of

the shooting of those same scenes is simply magical.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A creepy, clever, film buff's delight of a fantasy on the theme of NOSFERATU, E. Elias Merhige's film is thoroughly unafraid of its intense film geekness. The year is 1921, and flamboyant German filmmaker F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) is making a vamp… (more)

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