SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE. 2000. DIRECTED BY E. ELIAS MERHIGE. PRODUCED BY NICOLAS CAGE AND JEFF LEVINE. STARRING JOHN MALKOVICH, WILLEM DAFOE, CARY ELWES, EDDIE IZZARD AND CATHERINE MCCORMACK. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Every time I watch this multi-award-winning horror film, I’m always blown away anew (is that still a word?) by how utterly realistic and believable it is. And I always end up wishing exactly the same thing: ‘If only it were really true…!’ The fact that it’s not actually based on a true story is perhaps the only disappointing thing about this otherwise perfect little film. What’s it all about, anyway? Read on…
This is a film about a film. It concerns the making of possibly the most legendary horror film of all time, F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORRORS (1922). NOSFERATU was one of the earliest horror movies. It’s really a film version of Bram Stoker’s famous gothic novel DRACULA, which Murnau desperately wanted to make. When Florence Stoker wouldn’t give him permission to film her late hubby’s work, however, Murnau went ahead and made NOSFERATU, which is really DRACULA with a few names changed. Are you with me? Right. We’ll move on.
In SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE, the brilliant thing about the plot is that German character actor Max Schreck, who plays Nozzie, is meant to be a real vampire, right? Oh Lord, I’m getting excited all over again just writing about this. Imagine if it were only true…!
He’s a real vampire and Murnau is thrilled to have bagged him for the part, believing that it will add a delicious authenticity to his film. Murnau, intentionally or otherwise, creates a shroud of mystery and mystique around Schreck by telling the other actors that Schreck is such a dedicated actor that he will never break character while on the film set. Furthermore, he will only ever appear to them in full Nozzie regalia. And what does Max Shreck want in return for his participation in Murnau’s project? Oh, nothing much. Only the life-blood of Murnau’s leading lady, Greta Schroeder…
Willem Dafoe, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in this film, is absolutely superb as the creepy Schreck. The evil smile he produces when he and Murnau have gotten into a stand-off about his (Schreck’s) refusing to stop sucking the haemoglobin out of the movie-crew is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. It’s funny, I’ve never really liked Willem Dafoe in anything else I’ve ever seen him in but in this film, he’s unequivocally fantastic. You could really take him for the actual Schreck/Nosferatu, he’s that good.
His best scene is probably when he’s chatting late at night to the producer and the scriptwriter about the novel DRACULA and about his being a ‘vampire’ in general. He’s in full Nosferatu garb and make-up, or at least they think he is, and when he casually grabs hold of a passing bat and sucks the blood from it with gusto, they’re hugely impressed by what they see as his brilliant acting and his managing to stay in ‘character’ at all times. If only they knew…!
John Malkovich does a top-notch job as Murnau, playing him as the kind of driven, fanatical director who would happily sacrifice a young actress to a vampire if it meant he’d get a better picture out of it. Apparently, the real Murnau wasn’t like that at all, which is sooooo disappointing, haha. I told you earlier, remember, how good it would be if only all of this were true? I wasn’t kidding! In fact, when I first saw this film I thought it was the true story behind the making of NOSFERATU and I was so excited I nearly orgasmed on the spot, haha. When I found out it was only fictionalised, I was completely and utterly gutted. Gutted, I tells ya…!
Comedian Eddie Izzard is surprisingly good as the actor playing Thomas Hutter (Jonathan Harker). The look of fear and mistrust on his face when he encounters ‘Nosferatu’ on the set for the first time is just classic. The dashing and handsome Cary (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, SAW) Elwes brings a distinct touch of dashing handsomeness to the role of dashingly handsome cinematographer, Fritz Arno Wagner. Catherine McCormack as Greta Schroeder doesn’t have to do much besides screech and flash her tits but she does it with panache. Are tits a good enough thing to go out on…? I think so. As Murnau himself might have said, iris out…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY