"Shadow of the Vampire"
Directed by E. Elias Merhige.
Written by Steven Katz.
Starring John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe and Cary Elwes.
Release Year: 2000
Review Date: 2/4/01
Yesterday afternoon, my mom and I dropped by
the Rio multiplex theaters in Gaithersburg to catch "Shadow of the
Vampire", since it was not showing at my regular theater in
Merrifield. And, I was going to write the review after I came home
last night...but, the XFL games were starting up!!
Let me be brief in my comments about the XFL,
for fear that I get too excited about its possibilities again. Did
you watch it Saturday night? First, a fired-up Vince
McMahon--Founder of the XFL and the guru of all things wrestling
right now--came to mid-field and screamed to crazed fans "WELCOME TO
THE X...F...L!!!!!!!!!!!!" Then, members of the hometown Las Vegas
Outlaws and the visiting New York/New Jersey Hitmen got to introduce
themselves to a national audience...and then, we got to see
porn-star-quality cheerleaders strutting their stuff in front of the
this-is-my-fourth-beer fan base. It looked pretty wild, I have to
admit...and, I hate the wrestling shows that come on during the
week, so don't take me for an out-and-out McMahon worshipper. But,
the best moment of the night for me? XFL producers filmed little
locker room scenes with players from various teams and cheerleaders,
and in one of them, an Outlaw cornerback is talking to the camera
with a *well*-endowed cheerleader who is looking at him fetchingly.
"You know what play I love the most?"
[gratuitously looks at cheerleader's bosom, then looks back at
camera] "The bump and run!"
You couldn't find cheesier, more hilarious
acting...unless you watched that awful NBC show "Titans." This
thing has promise.
Many of you went to see "Shadow of the
Vampire" last weekend and dropped me a line to go see it myself.
So, I did, and I am glad for the recommendation. I only saw one
preview of this film and after watching it (and, even that was this
past summer), I had NO idea what this film would be about. In that
respect, after watching the film yesterday, it is very hard to
categorize...it is part comedy, part horror, part psychodrama.
In 1921, a famous German filmmaker named
Murnau (John Malkovich) is attempting to make a vampire film called
"Nosferatu" that will catapult him into the film society
stratosphere, and so he takes an extreme measure to do it: he hires
a "Russian character actor" named Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe, not
"William") that, for some strange reason, is always dressed
in-character and looks strangely similar to, well, Dracula. The
film crew thinks it is very strange that they have never heard of
this actor and that Schreck is required to be called Count Orlok
during filming, both on screen and off of it. Of course, we the
audience figure out very early on that Schreck really IS a vampire,
and when people in the crew start, well, disappearing, the
filmmaking process becomes very interesting. The premise is based
on rumors formed around the explanation of the real "Nosferatu" and
its filming problems.
This is a weird movie. This is helped by
the fact that it stars two of Hollywood's weirdest actors in
Malkovich and Dafoe. Dafoe, as the vampire, is brilliant. Although
he has some very funny scenes as his Schreck is going through the
filmmaking motions as a first-time "actor" in Murnau's film, the
things he does with just his eyes while in costume might scare you
or amuse you at the same time. But, you get the impression there is
something deeper when he first sees a portrait of the "Nosferatu"
star, a woman named Greta Schroeder...a passion for a woman, a
longing for a person. One can understand, then, his secret deal
with Murnau which gets him to play a vampire in Murnau's film. And,
speaking of Max Schreck, this is also the name of Christopher
Walken's character in "Batman Returns," and Walken's Schreck looked
a lot like a vampire, too. Hmm...
At the heart of this film, though, is a
movie about moviemaking, and after attempting a no-budget version of
a film myself, I really get into watching films about directors
trying to get stars to act, film financiers to help out, and
production assistants to get them doughnuts. If you like this kind
of film, two that I really like are the recent Steve Martin/Eddie
Murphy comedy "Bowfinger", and a 1995 Steve Buscemi movie called
"Living in Oblivion." The latter is pretty strong and was an
independent release, meaning you are more likely to have not seen
that one in theaters.
I loved the way "Shadow of the Vampire" was
shot as well, with all of the black-and-white pieces of the film
interspersed with Murnau's direction of "Nosferatu." The support is
great, especially with the wry delivery of lines by Murnau's
producer Albin (Udo Kier, "Blade" and trillions of other supporting
characters) and a replacement cinematographer named Fritz (Cary
Elwes, "Glory" and "The Princess Bride", most famously). And, it
even zips by at a fast-paced clip...you are in and out of the movie
house in 100 minutes.
Not perfect, but still an entertaining
Rating: $8.25 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard