Catherine Morris loves her husband Kurt so deeply that she subjects him to all kinds of humiliations every single day. Kurt Morris adores his wife so truly, he has planned for Catherine a romantic dinner...with her death as dessert.
Shadow of the Vampire is a film about the making of a German all time classic silent horror-movie from 1922 called Nosferatu-Eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu-a Symphony of Horror). The production of Nosferatu had to deal with a lot of strange things (some crew members disappeared, some died). This movie focuses on the difficult relationship between Murnau, the director, and Schreck, the lead actor. Written by
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The idea behind this film is one that was just waiting to be utilized. So great is this material for cinema, once the idea is actually executed, more is the shame if it's not done with a sure hand. I'm pleased to report that "Shadow" is one of 2000's finest. I still giggle at the genius of the its premise, that the mysterious star of the 1922 vampire classic "Nosferatu", Max Schreck, was a real vampire! True, after his debut, Schreck went on to make many more films. But "Shadow" offers a tasty 'what if' scenario that's irresistible.
F.W. Murnau, the obsessive director of "Nosferatu" doesn't feel he can make a realistic enough vampire movie with an actor in the title role. While traveling through Transylvania Murnau meets Count Orlock, an actual bloodsucker and makes a deal with him to star in his new film. Because the director has cast a genuine monster as his lead, his cast and crew start to disappear until finally...well, not exactly. Orlock isn't the kind of vampire we've come to imagine because of Hollywood, but a simple recluse living alone in a castle. That's the coup that director E. Elias Mehridge and writer Stephen Katz pull. There is no attempt to make this a horror film. It's as scary as the old black-and-white silent horror films are to us in our computer effects-driven era of movies. Most of the time these films are good for a laugh from a modern audience. But the directors of those old films were always after something dark, deep, and meaningful. The screams they produced were simply a side effect.
The problems that Murnau encounters arise out of Schreck's very real vampire needs. For starters, he's cast a man who is not an actor. "Shadow" is not a comedy, but it's funny seeing Murnau's idea of a vampire clash with Schreck's. Schreck can't possibly act like a vampire. He IS one. The first scenes they use him in (he'll only appear at night of course) are disastrous. He doesn't follow direction, doesn't follow the script, and just acts weird. Willem Dafoe, under tons of make-up, perfectly portrays a guy who obviously doesn't get out very much. Eventually the cast and crew change their opinion of Schreck from believing he's awful to seeing him as a very committed method actor (the producer and writer witness him catch a bat in mid-flight and eat it).
Mehridge goes out of his way to bring the audience something completely original and succeeds. Even though "shadow" is based on the making of another film, every image, every word of dialogue seems painstakingly crafted to give you something you've never seen before. Mehridge is definitely one to watch.
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