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SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE
USA: Lions Gate Releasing
Cast: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Eddie Izzard, Udo Kier, Catherine McCormack, Ronan Vibert, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Nicholas Elliott, Derek Kueter, Sophie Langevin, Tania Marzen, Myriam Muller, Orian Williams, John Aden Gillett
Director: E Elias Merhige
Countries: UK / USA / Luxembourg
Language: English / German
USA: 84 mins
UK: 91 mins
USA Rated: R for some sexuality, drug content, violence and langauge
UK Certificate: 15 for strong language, violence, horror and drugs references
USA Release Date: 26 January 2001
USA Release Date: 29 December 2000 (Limited Release - Los Angeles and New York)
UK Release Date: 2 February 2001
F W Murnau (John Malkovich) is struggling to create his silent classic NOSFERATU on location in Eastern Europe. The director is obsessed with making this the most authentic vampire movie ever. To that end, Murnau has employed a real vampire, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), explaining to the crew that he is the ultimate of that new breed, the "method actor" -- trained by Stanislavsky himself. Schreck will appear only in character and only at night. If Schreck delivers a great performance -- and keeps his more unseemly urges under control -- Murnau has promised him the delectable neck of the film's star, Greta (Catherine McCormack).
It soon becomes obvious that Schreck is unwilling or unable to control his bloodlust. During the very first night shoot, cinematographer Wolfgang Muller (Ronan Vibert) mysteriously takes ill and collapses. Murnau takes him to a hospital in Berlin and looks for a replacement. During the break, producer Albin Grau (Udo Kier) and scriptwriter Henrick Galeen (John Gillet) are sharing some schnapps when the strange Schreck joins them, answering their questions "in character." He tells them about his wife who died in childbirth but still returned to him at nights, and made him what he is now.
As the director returns with a new photographer, Fritz Wagner (Cary Elwes,) Schreck continues his silent assault on the crew. Galeen realizes the truth behind Schreck's "method acting," but too late. Having gone to such extraordinary lengths in the name of authenticity, Murnau must engage in a battle of wills with his monstrous male lead -- the ultimate in demanding movie stars. As Murnau finally admits the truth to the crew, they realize they are stranded on an island. Their only hope of survival is to finish the film and let Schreck take Greta...
Based on an original screenplay by Steven Katz, produced by Nicolas Cage and Jeff Levine, and directed by E Elias Merhige (BEGOTTEN), SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE stars John Malkovich as Murnau, a man so consumed by his art that he will stop at nothing -- not even death -- to get his vision on film. Willem Dafoe stars as the grotesque Max Schreck, the "actor" cast by Murnau for the all-important role of Count Orlock. (There is little known about the real Max Schreck other than that he was once described as "an actor of no distinction.") Rounding out the ensemble are Catherine McCormack as the divinely decadent object of Schreck's desire, Udo Kier as the film's harried producer, Cary Elwes as its dashing cinematographer, and Eddie Izzard, as the hapless leading man confronted with the most horrifying co-star ever.
SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE is a wildly original celebration of, and fresh addition to, one of the medium's most immortal genres, as well as an audacious meditation on creativity, obsession, and that most blood-sucking of all art forms -- the cinema.