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Gregor Samsa takes a look at SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE

Hey folks, Harry here with that wiley cockroach of a man, Gregor Samsa and his transmissions from the Roach Motel. He seems to be a transformed man about SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE. He loves it. However, It would be wrong of me to say that everyone is going nuts for this thing. There are some... that the film just isn't warming over. Smiling Jack Ruby has written the one negative that I've seen online. Personally, I can't imagine not loving the film, but then I'm a geek that way. Here's Samsa...

Hi Harry, Here is my review of Shadow of The Vampire (formerly Burned To Light).

So as you all might know, Moriarty, John Robie and I recently made a cloak and dagger mission into the vaults of Lions Gate. Whilst pillaging, we came across a copy of Shadow of The Vampire. Needless to say, we quickly found the closest viewing station, I think the name on the door said Tom Ortenberg. Anyway, we summarily gathered round the screen in true geek style. This is a true account of what we saw…

…So we sat, waiting for the opening credits to roll, mouths watering and feet nervously tapping the floor….and then our thirst was quenched. So now we are in the clear, the credits are rolling, opening music is playing and we have nothing to worry about. No security guards to watch for and no dogs to be wary of. Five minutes later I began to worry just a bit. The credit sequence is still rolling. Had we been duped? Had we taken the bait in some sort of trap? Was this abnormally long credit sequence simply a ruse to get us to sit there while Lions Gate security surrounded us? No. It’s just an abnormally long credit sequence. Fheuw! Ok, now we really are in the clear. On with the review…

First, let me tell you history buffs out there that this film in no way claims to be fact or even an historical account of the filming of Nosferatu. This film is a fairy tale. It’s a fun, albeit dark, fictional account of the production of a film that has been shrouded in mystery for quite some time now. There are many historical faults with the film and there should be! The opening slate that tells of F.W. Murnau’s request for rights to Stoker’s Dracula, and as I understand, this never actually took place. Apparently, Murnau did not care if he had the rights at all, he was making his picture. One other big mistake, or artistic license (however you view it), is the inclusion of a wooden stake in final scene. I recently attended a viewing of Nosferatu here in Los Angeles at the silent movie theatre, and as far I can remember, there was no wooden stake involved. So there, I know there are probably twenty more uses of license in this film, but I think if you dwell on these historical flaws, you are missing the point completely.

So now that I have that out the way… Let me applaud E. Elias Merhige for going out on a big limb with this film. Every so often a director taps into a magic. He grabs hold of the viewer’s heart and caresses it. Makes you just want jump into the movie and be a part of it. This is where this film took me. Merhige seems to have hit a nerve with this one. The preview that was attached to Dogma really doesn’t capture the essence of this film at ALL. It makes it look schlocky and goofy. It plays this movie like it’s a big joke. It infers that Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Max Schreck is supposed to be really funny and the whole idea of the actor actually being a REAL vampire is so ridiculous that it has to be played for laughs. This is not the case. He does get a few laughs for certain…but that is not the essence of his Count Orlock.

Dafoe’s Count Orlock is a sad creature, which has made a deal with Murnau to appear as his vampire in exchange for the chance to feed on the leading lady, Greta Schroeder. This downtrodden old vampire is so inept that he actually deals with mortals in order get the type of food he would have taken for himself in his prime. Dafoe does not play it up as a joke and Lions Gate shouldn’t either. That’s the whole premise of the story, and if the previews for this film continue on to portray the centerpiece of the film as a joke, the audience who will really appreciate this idea will be turned off before they even sit down in the theatre. Ok ok….enough about the preview.

I have heard complaints that John Malkovich as Murnau is just trudging through this role and he really isn’t given anything to work with. As usual, Malkovich is dead on in his portrayal. Murnau as a deranged junkie. He is mad about his movie and will do anything to get it finished. I can’t remember a role where Malkovich missed his mark. And to say he isn’t given enough to work with I think falls short of analysis and lands on nitpicking. This film is a dream. It’s an idea. It’s a bunch of thoughts and feelings thrown on the screen to foster excitement and intrigue. The use of Murnau fit well within scope of what this film is attempting to do. He wasn’t given any grandiose overtures or pointless monologues. His character had a mission, which consumed his life for the duration of the shoot, and was explained well and performed as you would hope.

Eddie Izzard gives his best performance yet as the lead actor in Nosferatu, Gustav von Wangenheim. It is really great to see him used properly and to his full potential. He plays the part perfectly. At some moments when the film irises in to show the old camera view I really felt like Izzard had tapped into von Wangenheim. It’s truly uncanny. Again, the magic is there…you feel this wave of excitement when the camera fades to sepia then to black and white and you see Izzard acting as von Wangenheim acting his role and your hear Malkovich giving direction. It’s all a brilliant fantasy, to be able to go back and watch Murnau as he directs his actors in the most absurd of situations. Wow.

Cary Elwes also adds a bit of hilarity when he is introduced midway though the film. He plays Fritz Wagner, a replacement photographer and he is very very funny. I won’t spoil any of his moments in the film. Although I really really want to. He has a couple of the funniest lines in the movie.

Also giving an outstanding performance is Udo Kier. If you don’t know his name, you for sure know his face. He’s probably one of the most prolific character actors of the late 20th century to the present. His supporting role here really plays well off of Murnau, kind of following him around and worrying the whole time, just like any self respecting producer should.

And lastly, Dafoe as Nosferatu. Amazing. Truly his best performance. He does so much with so little. His character is given hardly any lines so he is forced to act through body language and facial expression through the majority of his scenes. And when he is given lines, whoa. Awesome awesome awesome. There is a particular scene when he is in being filmed for the shoot and he ad-libs a line. It’s so cool. It takes the entire crew by surprise, and got the same reaction from me. I can’t stress enough…please go see this film. Even if you don’t give a damn about silent movies. Even if you hate the idea of a distortion of history for entertainment. It’s worth your 8 bucks and your 90 minutes.

Email me at My Roach Motel

Readers Talkback
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  • June 7, 2000, 5:12 a.m. CST

    Regarding David Fincher's Next Project

    by scenestealer

    Hey Harry, I'm not sure if this information was already posted or part of Elston Gunn's Weekly Recap or Moriarty's Rumblings from the Lab but this had previously been mentioned on Coming Attractions but it appears that Fincher will not immediately do either Panic Room or The Black Daliah. But will proceed immediately with Rendezvous with Rama. Here is more info from Coming Attractions. Later, Powers "Thanks for the comprehensive & informative site. I was trawling the net looking for information on the novel Rendezvous with Rama and I stumbled across the site for Revelation Films, Morgan Freeman's production company. They have a page on the Rama film at: www.revenet.com/film/rama.html "According to this page Freeman is set to star and Fincher to direct as you've already reported on your RWR page. However, the writer listed is not Andrew Kevin Walker but Scott Brick, who I've never heard of and doesn't appear to have an IMDB entry. Note the page's blurb about the film speaks almost like the film has already been made! "There's also a interesting morsel of info over in their interactive media section: www.revenet.com/interactive/rama.html 'Having aquired the rights to Arthur C. Clarke's sci-fi classic, we will be creating the feature film, a T.V. program and on line products over the next three years. We will be putting together On-Line symposiums with panels of futurists and sci-fi experts to chat on-line over the next six months.' "Cool. They also have a tantalizingly named 'screening room' but there's nothing there yet." [Uncovered by the resourceful 'Shmee'.] " [Morgan] Freeman will star, internationally renowned [French] illustrator, Moebius, will design and acclaimed director, David Fincher (Seven, The Game, Fight Club), will take the helm." Cool, huh? [Detective services provided by Phil Jones.] Powers-"This looks to place Fincher on an even higher pedestal as a modern day auteur."

  • June 7, 2000, 5:36 a.m. CST

    I'm hardly a goth, but...

    by X-Mole

    ...dammit vampires are the coolest things out there. Your frankensteins, your wolfmen... in modern times, your cronenbergian Fly... all cool. But vamps, done right.... not that Interview with the Vampire nonsense, but really romantic... "ah, the children of the night, what sweet music they maaaaake....". 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' was on TV last night, and appart from Keanu and (too a lesser extent) Winona, if you can just block them from your mind for a moment, it's wonderful. "I have crossed... oceans of time... to be with you...." that film is glorious! Anyway, what I really want to say is: the plot of this film seems very similar to Irma Vep: check it out. A Hong Kong babe actress takes on the part of Irma Vep, a female vamp from old B&W serials, for a french director, by running around in a leather catsuit. The film follows the making of the updated version, following her as she starts to identify too closely with the role, and slinks along the paris rooftops at night in her costume... is she becoming what she is portraying? and just who is the french film director? you see how this is very similar to the plot of Shadow...plus it is filmed in b&w. X-Mole: movies, now more than ever.

  • June 7, 2000, 7:13 a.m. CST

    GS, you need to work for Lion's Gate...

    by Seashore

    because you sure sold me. The movie sounds beautiful. I'm there. (oh and by the way, is anyone else really annoyed by that American Pie thing that keeps popping up uninvited?)

  • June 7, 2000, 10:09 a.m. CST

    I vant to suck your blood

    by Smapdi

    X-Mole, I saw Irma Vep. It was a great movie. Though I think that it was meant to be a bit campier than SOTV. As for this movie, I must see it. Vampires are some of the most interesting creatures out there. In college I actually got to take a class on vampire literature, though most of it was focused on the Freudal readings of great short stories. I'm also really happy to hear that Eddie Izzard is getting a chance to redeem himself on film. His stand up is so brilliant and heads above most of the shit out there now. It's about time that he attaches himself to a quality production instead of such drivel as "The Avengers". May I say again how much I can't wait for this movie to come out?

  • June 7, 2000, 12:58 p.m. CST

    Halloween Please, Thunder.

    by David Lopan

    Please tell me that this will be a Halloween release! One of these guys should be able to get back into Lion's Gate and set up late Oct. as the release date. Even limited release would be great. Finally, a movie that shows why he spells his name Willem. The e is for evil.

  • June 7, 2000, 3:29 p.m. CST

    Go Eddie!

    by mephisto666

    Je suis le President de Burundi!

  • June 7, 2000, 7:43 p.m. CST

    of course it's a must-see

    by thewilyfilipino

    Man, the very fact that it's directed by the same warped mind who dreamed up "Begotten" should be enough reason to see it. Pretentious, yes, but it blew my mind way open when I first saw it. (I assume there's no grainy chiaroscuro-type cinematography in this vampire flick?)

  • Sept. 9, 2000, 10 a.m. CST

    Shadow of the Vampire did some whomping.

    by WalterSobchak

    I just caught this at the Boston Film Festival and I have to saw it did some serious ass kicking, definatly one of my favorites for the year. I agree with the entire trailer issue, I didn't want to see the movie after the trailer, I thought it was going to be a terrible one plot point with the regular vampire schtick. And this is probably the first vampire movie where is myth isn't dispelled from me completely. There's a scene in almost *every* vampire movie (Blade, Buffy, From Dusk til Dawn) where they spell out what exactly hurts the vampires. In this you're left too guess. If you are able to see it, GO NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!