Shadow Of The Vampire


Directed by: E. Elias Merhige
Written by:Steven Katz
Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack, Eddie Izzard
Released: January 25, 2001
Grade: A

When people talk about Dracula, many would remember seeing Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 version with Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Anthony Hopkins.  Hands up then who saw another adaptation titled Nosferatu?

In 1922, German director F. W. Murnau wanted to be one of the first to bring Bram Stoker's famous novel to a big screen but of course this is back in primitive days when movies didn't even have sound.  However, Bram Stoker's widow refused to grant the rights to Murnau.  Not to be deterred, he changed a few names and made the film anyway.  Shadow Of The Vampire is an interpretation of the events that led to the creation of Nosferatu.

In Berlin, Murnau assembled his cast and crew before travelling to Czechoslovakia for shooting.  Strangely missing from the introductions was Max Schreck, an unknown actor who was to play the lead role of Count Orlock (i.e. Dracula).  Murnau informed his crew that Schreck was already in Czechoslovakia preparing for his role.  To become more believable, he would be always be in character and would always wear his makeup.  Very strange indeed.

When production begins, things get even stranger.  The cinematographer is killed in unusual circumstances forcing Murnau to return to Germany to find another.  In his absence, another crew member is killed and questions are being asked.  Just what is going on?

Nosferatu is regarded by many as the greatest vampire film ever made despite its grainy quality and lack of sound.  Perhaps it was because people still believed in vampires back?  The Internet Movie Database has it listed in its top 250 films of all time as voted by the public - that says something.  Max Schreck's portrayal of Count Orlock is also considered the best of any screen vampire.  So good in fact, that it provided Shadow Of The Vampire screenwriter, Steven Katz, with the inspiration for this film.  Perhaps Max Schreck really was a vampire?

Shadow Of The Vampire is a hypnotic comedy/thriller that is difficult to describe.  It's bound to become a film seen by few but appreciated by all who had the chance - a cult film.  Willem Dafoe's performance as Schreck is the best by any supporting actor this year.  He is unrecognisable beneath his make-up and looks eerily similar to the real Max Schreck thanks to the help of artists Ann Buchanan and Katja Reinert.

It's one of the year’s finest and most inventive scripts and is given justice by director E. Elias Merhige.   Cinematic boundaries are being broken...