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Characters / Dark City

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John Murdoch

Played By: Rufus Sewell

  • Amnesiac Lover: To Emma, who he doesn't remember being married to. Because he never was.
  • Badass Longcoat: He has one, and it's pretty nifty.
  • Becoming the Mask: In a sense. He ultimately chooses the final name given to him by the Strangers to be his own name.
  • The Chosen One: He is The Everyman, even compared to the other, quirkier city inhabitants. But for whatever reason, he also has the same ability to 'tune' as the Strangers do. There's no prophecy or anything like that, and Schreber seems to consider this just an unfortunate (from the Strangers' point of view) side effect from their constant experiments.
  • Clear My Name: He starts out trying to do this, then things get more complicated.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Despite his own panic, he takes the time to save a dying goldfish, making it pretty clear from the beginning that he's a good guy at heart.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Dr. Schreber taunts the Strangers with the fact that they may have inadvertently destroyed themselves with Murdoch.
    Schreber: Maybe you've finally found what you're looking for, and it's going to bite you on your-
  • Head Blast: In the climax, Murdoch discovers he has the Strangers' power of "tuning" (telekinesis), which manifests as a rippling, translucent beam from his forehead. When he finally gains conscious control over his tuning, John destroys the Strangers' underground lair with multiple mental blasts, and engages the Big Bad Mr. Book in a Beam-O-War.
  • Instant Expert: Though he has the ability to tune throughout the movie, he only becomes a true expert after Schreber gives him the memory serum.
  • Kubrick Stare: Just to make it a little more ambiguous, he throws out one of these every so often.
  • Meaningful Name: He is supposedly a john who murders prostitutes. A prostitute even notes that his first name is appropriate.
  • Naked on Arrival: Wakes up naked in a bathtub.
  • Parental Abandonment: He is given this history in his fake memories.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: He eventually becomes this once he gains his "tuning" powers (with some help from Schreber) and uses them to defeat The Strangers.
  • Reality Warper: Shares this ability with the Strangers.
  • Serial Killer: Is one, or at least is meant to be one this time around.
  • Took a Level in Badass: He starts off as confused, almost naive man trying to figure out his identity. By the end, he becomes God.


Inspector Frank Bumstead

Played By: William Hurt

  • Badass Longcoat: Due to the noir setting, and he is certainly no slouch when it comes to action.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Wears a dark overcoat like the Strangers but is a decent, reasonable man.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He has a very deadpan, stoical sense of humour.
  • Inspector Javert: He is on the trail of John, who he believes to be a Serial Killer. However, he does turn out to be a little more rational than the average Javert.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Takes his job seriously, but is concerned about finding the truth and protecting people, not merely catching suspects. It gets him killed.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: To John. He pursues him, but doesn't do so doggedly and is willing to let John tell his story.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: He breaks a wall into hardened space, and falls out before the Strangers repair it.


Dr. Daniel P. Schreber

  • The Chew Toy: Undergoes regular, although largely off-screen, injuries at the hands of the Strangers.
  • Creepy Good: He is a paranoid, unsettling German scientist with a deformed eye and a limp, but he's actually working to stop the Strangers, while he himself is essentially their prisoner.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When he gives John the memories he needs to defeat the Strangers, thus ending their entire race.
  • Evil Genius: For the Strangers, although very reluctantly so.
  • Genius Cripple: He may suffer from a bad heart, a lazy eye and a limp but he's very good at what he does for The Strangers.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Schreber absolutely hates working for the Strangers and is tormented by his role in betraying his own race, but lacks the strength or courage to do much more than covertly sabotage them. Until the trip to Shell Beach.
  • Herr Doktor: Subverted in that rather than being just a stereotypical mad scientist, he's actually trying to help John.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: As the Strangers have no emotions, they didn't even know where to start dissecting human consciousness. Thus, they permitted Schreber to retain his scientific skills and artistic talents, but forced him to erase everything else. As in they forced him to create a false past consisting of nothing save serving them, and didn't even perform the procedure themselves - they forced him to jam the syringe into his own head, meaning the man he was symbolically committed suicide. Or at least that's what he remembers.
  • Mr. Exposition: Throughout the movie, most notably during the Opening Narration and John’s Instant Expert Dream Sequence.
  • Nervous Wreck: He is living in constant fear and wracked by guilt. Given what The Strangers do to him on a daily basis, it's more than justified with him.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: In-universe, his breathy German accent vanishes in the memories he gives Murdoch. Presumably, Shreber isn't leaving anything to chance, and is trying to avoid an accidental mondegreen — he uses a healthy version of himself for the memories, one without the injuries he suffered at the hands of the Strangers when they forced him to delete his own memories. He even lacks the scar tissue around his eye.
  • The Quisling: Has pretended to fill this role for the Strangers by helping them run their experiments, but he's actually La Résistance, working toward their destruction.
  • Red Right Hand: Subverted. He has a drooping eyelid and speaks as if his lungs are damaged. He initially seems like a villain, given that he's The Quisling, but turns out to be La Résistance.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Schreber despises working for the Strangers, but fears them too much to actively resist until John comes along.
  • Servile Snarker: To the Strangers.
  • The Svengali: A rare sympathetic take on this, but he still ultimately manipulates Murdoch into danger for his own gains.
  • Verbal Tic: Normally, he speaks in short, clipped sentences, carefully emphasizing every word. This is because he has a weak heart and is in a constant state of exhaustion; whenever he is stressed, his speech degrades into a stattaco of gasps - unable to speak more than one or two words at a time without taking a deep breath.

    Emma Murdoch 

Emma Murdoch / Anna

    Eddie Walenski 

Det. Eddie Walenski

Played By: Colin Friels

  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Walenski keeps saying that there is no case, his wife is not his wife, that things keep changing on a nightly basis, that everyone's past has been erased, and the only way out of the trap they're all in is to kill oneself. He is, of course, utterly and completely correct.
  • Driven to Suicide: When he realizes there's no way to leave the Dark City, he chooses to kill himself in a manner that leaves them nothing to play around with - jumping on a subway track just in front of a speeding car.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: You'd go crazy too if you found out that your entire life is a lie manufactured by a dying alien race that messes with your head on an hourly basis.
  • Hero of Another Story: Someone, he figured out everything that was happening in the city, and apparently spent a while trying to tell people and/or escape.
  • Room Full of Crazy: He has one with chalk writing on the floor.



Played By: Melissa George



    In General 

In General

  • Alien Blood: They melt into goo or turn red and dissolve into flakes when they die; the dead human bodies they use as vessels have black blood.
  • Bad Boss: It's strongly implied that the Strangers beat Dr. Schreber within an inch of his life before forcing him to erase his own memories, leading to things like his bad heart, lazy eye, and limp. They also do things like dangle him off of very high balconies when he gets snarky with them.
  • Bald of Evil: All of them.
  • Captain Ersatz: Word of God said they were inspired by Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, even before Richard O'Brien was cast as Mr. Hand.
  • Dying Race: They are studying humans because their Hive Mind society is dying out and they need the secret to individuality.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Squid-like beings that use corpses as hosts.
  • A God Am I: They have this kind of mentality in regards of what they can do. They ain't bluffing.
  • Hive Mind: They're all a bunch of alien worms living in human shells and all share the same thoughts of what to do.
    • Played with. Despite the above, each has their own quirks. Mr. Wall mourns their dead. Mr. Book leads. Mr. Hand has his own opinions.
  • Kill It with Water: One of their key weaknesses.
  • Knife Nut: Their weapon of choice are sinister knives.
  • Kubrick Stare: They are pretty good at these.
  • Lamprey Mouth: The aliens' real bodies have one amidst a ring of tentacles.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Intentionally so since the movie is a visual homage to German Expressionism and Film Noir, with lots of Schizo Tech.
  • Mister Descriptor: All the Strangers use the naming convention "Mr. [noun]".
  • Psychic Powers: "Tuning", represented as a wave effect from the user's forehead which either works as a directed burst of force or warps the City to their whim.
  • Reality Warper: They are able to change aspects of the City as they please.
  • Starfish Aliens: They may look like Human Aliens, but they are actually translucent squid-like creatures who use human corpses as vessels.
  • The Stoic: A race of stoics, right off the assembly line with creepy monotones. Mr. Hand is arguably the only Stranger in the film who subverts this trope, and as a result comes off as creepier and scarier than his fellow abominations.
  • Tragic Monster: Commit horrific acts with little to no remorse, but are a Dying Race desperately trying to find a way to save themselves.
  • Verbal Tic: Their odd predilection for making clicking noises and ending sentences with the word "yes". They also always pronounce John's name (and address him as) as "Mis-ter Mur-Doch."
  • Uncertain Doom: The remaining members, after the climax, given how John kills or scatters them and their a Dying Race anyway.

    Mr. Book 

Mr. Book

Played By: Ian Richardson

  • Big Bad: As the leader of the Strangers, he's the antagonist of the entire film.
  • Duel to the Death: Book is killed by John during the final battle, dying when he's thrown into a collapsing water tower.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Gets stabbed in the throat with a knife.

    Mr. Hand 

Mr. Hand

Played By: Richard O'Brien

  • Affably Evil: Mr. Hand, like the other Strangers, is polite and soft-spoken but unlike the others he seems a little more genuine. This becomes especially more apparent after he melds with John's intended memories.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: He is rather pathetic — almost pitiable — in his final moments with John, wherein he fails completely to understand the true nature of humanity, or the truly evil nature of his actions. It's rather sad when he admits to John that he's dying, especially assuming that when he's gone, there will be none left.
  • Cold Ham: While all the Strangers have elements of this, everything Mr. Hand does is quietly menacing without him ever raising his voice.
  • The Dragon: For Mr. Book, technically.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Although it was already forewarned there would be side effects to his taking on the human memories, Hand still survives the deaths of the other Strangers including Mr. Book to have one final conversation with Murdoch before dying.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: After taking Murdoch's memories, it's implied he's got personal motives for finding Murdoch beyond the wellbeing of the other Strangers.
  • Graceful Loser: He knows he's dying from rejecting Murdoch's imprint, so with all other Strangers dead, his race is finished. So when he meets John, they have a rather civil conversation in which he explains his motivations.
  • The Heavy: While Mr. Book is the leader of the Strangers and the Big Bad, he stays underground and is never seen in the city itself. Mr. Hand is the one who pursues John, comes up with new plans and is the most immediate danger.
  • It's Personal: Melding with John's intended memories makes his pursuit of him much more personal.
  • Knife Nut: After melding with John's intended memories, he becomes this.
  • Serial Killer: Mr. Hand quickly becomes very bloodthirsty after melding with John's intended memories, the memories of a Serial Killer. He murders May and the police chief.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: He has a very soft, gentle voice that becomes even creepier after he gets John's memories.
  • Uncanny Valley: Intentionally used. Upon gaining John's memories, he becomes more human in manner. This only serves to make him more terrifying to the audience.

    Mr. Sleep 

Mr. Sleep

Played By: Satya Gumbert

  • Creepy Child: Just how creepy is he? You know the massive spirals that the Strangers carve into the prostitutes' skin? Turns out that's Mr. Sleep who does the job.
  • Crosscast Role: A child with the male honorific "Mr.", however he is played in closeups by a girl, and in the long shots by her fraternal twin brother. Of course, the character doesn't have to be male - the strangers may not have paid any attention to gender.
  • Undead Child: Technically. Once again, the parasites inhabiting the corpses of those who once lived.

    Mr. Wall 

Mr. Wall

Played By: Bruce Spence

  • The Brute: He's the largest and most physically powerful of the Strangers.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Like the other Strangers, he's coldly but unfailingly polite.
  • Only Sane Man: Possibly. When the Strangers are preparing to inject Mr. Hand with John's memories, Mr. Wall is the only one to object, asking them if they remember what happened "last time."
  • Sacrificial Lion: He's killed along with Bumstead when they breach the wall.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Along with Bumstead.