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Film: Shadow of the Vampire
F.W. Murnau: I will not allow you to destroy my picture!
Max Schreck: This is hardly your picture any longer.

Shadow of the Vampire is a 2000 film directed by E. Elias Merhige, starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.

Malkovich plays F.W. Murnau, the German director who sets out to make his most identifiable film, Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens. To make his somewhat lawyer-friendly take on Dracula, he hires the mysterious Max Shreck to play the vampire Count Orlock. Murnau knows that Schreck is a real-life vampire, and he's hired the actor to ensure a real-life performance. But, he's really bitten off more than he can chew this time...


This film provides examples of:

  • Age Without Youth: Schreck has lived centuries, and he looks it.
  • All Part of the Show: When Schreck grabs a bat and chomps down on it in front of two crewmembers, one of them says admiringly, "What an actor!"
  • Anachronism Stew: Sergei Eisenstein is cited as a great director. Nosferatu was filmed two years before Eisenstein directed his first movie.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Schreck is hyped up as an insanely dedicated method actor who toured with a prestigious company. However, his actual performance is stilted line readings, dialog screwups and looking at the camera. Of course, it makes sense because he isn't really an actor and was cast for the overwhelming creepiness and legitmacy he brought to the role.
  • Bald of Evil
  • Black Comedy
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: Played with. Schrek doesn't attack Greta in her room, it's a movie set, the bedroom from the climax of Nosferatu. Per the arrangement with Murnau, Schrek only receives his payment for playing "himself" in the movie in the scene were Orlok feeds on Ellen.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Murnau constantly yells at Schreck for killing his crew.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Murnau.
  • Continuity Nod: The famous scene of Orlock's projected hand's shadow is reproduced several times.
  • Control Freak: Murnau, full on. However, things eventually get way out of his control.
  • Deal with the Devil: Murnau promises Schreck a meal of the leading lady in return for his performance.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Everyone involved with filmmaking will recognize the film as one big metaphor for film production itself. Roger Ebert noticed this in his review:
    Roger Ebert: Schreck muses aloud, "I do not think we need . . . the writer . . ." Scenes like this work as inside comedy, but they also have a practical side: The star is hungry, and because he is the star, he can make demands. This would not be the first time a star has eaten a writer alive.
  • The Fog of Ages: Max Schreck, the vampire actor, suffers from this; most of the memories of his early life and his sire have faded, and throughout the film he claims to have forgotten killing members of the film crew less than a few hours after doing so. However, it's implied that Schreck isn't a "complete" vampire, given that he has continued aging despite being immortal, and that he was never capable of siring vampires of his own.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: "For this horror movie, I shall be playing a vampire."
  • Gratuitous German: Herr Doktor, Herr Doktor, Herr Doktor, Ja...
    • Also, Eddie Izzard as Gustav. He basically uses the same German accent he uses for his stand up routine about the Heimmlich Manoeuvre.
  • Large Ham: Murnau. "Death of centuries! Moonchaser! Blasphemer! Monkey! Vase of prehistory. Finally to Earth, and finally born."
  • Looks Like Orlok: Max actually plays Orlock.
  • Mad Artist: Murnau, Murnau, Murnau...
  • Making The Masterpiece: A rather fictional example of this type of story.
  • Meaningful Name: A rare Real Life example: Schreck is German for "fright". The real Max Schreck delighted in this coincidence.
  • Monster Sob Story: Schreck.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Greta.
    "Stupid cat!"
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They don't reflect in mirrors, but since they cast shadows, they can be caught on film.
    • Schreck comments that he cannot make other vampires (whether he is physically limited himself or just doesn't know how to is unclear), drinks alcohol in more than one occasion (and gets drunk by it), can feed on animals, and while he refuses to board a ship he manages to reach an island by plane (thus passing over moving water).
  • Pretty in Mink: Greta first shows up in a fur-trimmed coat.
  • The Prima Donna: Greta is introduced as one at first, but quickly gets surpassed by Murnau himself.
  • Schrödinger's Cat: If we are to count "real life" as the source material, then the deaths of several cast and crew members, including Schreck counts.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Let's just say this film plays very loosely with the facts.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Murnau, after Schreck kills cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, and producer Albin Grau. He expresses his cracked sanity as he orders Schreck to be killed via sunlight.
  • Warm Bloodbags Are Everywhere: Murnau has to keep his cast and crew from falling prey to Schreck's fangs.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Schreck reads the book Dracula in order to study for his role, and is saddened by the scene where Dracula leaves a meal for Jonathon Harker, and remembers when he used to have servants to do such tasks for him, which reminds him of when he had a wife, family, estates etc, whereas now he's just a scavenger living in a ruined castle.
  • Writers Suck: After Schreck kills the cinematographer, he quips "I don't think we need the writer..."

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alternative title(s): Shadow Of The Vampire
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