Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
I don't have to go too far out on a limb to predict that NO ONE'S gonna make a movie about "Shadow Of A Vampire" or its director eighty years hence. "Ed Wood" was a touching tribute to a sweet guy who truly believed in and cared about his own cinematic visions. Tim Burton respected the effort that went into "Glen Or Glenda" and "Plan Nine From Outer Space" and he didn't sneer at Wood or the ragtag team that helped him make his movies, including Bela Lugosi. Martin Landau won an Oscar for playing Lugosi. Nicolas Cage won an Oscar, too, but NOT for playing a bloodsucker in "Vampire's Kiss". Cage decided to produce "Shadow Of A Vampire" as a tribute to director F.W. Murnau, who made "Nosferatu", "The Last Laugh", "The Haunted Castle", "Faust", "Sunrise", "City Girl" & "Tabu" before his early death at 42 on a California highway.
The conceit in "Shadow Of A Vampire" is that Max Schreck as Nosferatu was the genuine article, not just an actor with recorded birth and death dates of 1879 and 1936. We also have to forget that Murnau and Schreck worked together again later on in a film called "The Grand Duke's Finances", which is still revived at film archives. Nope, to make "Nosferatu" absolutely authentic, Murnau couldn't rely on his genius as a filmmaker, his powerful imagination, his exquisite taste and his brilliant pictorial sense, he had to be a pimp for a vampire and offer him the throat of leading lady Greta Schroeder. Never mind that Schroeder was still living 70 years after Nosferatu's release. Here, she is Schreck's snack and a dope fiend to boot. Geezus, what did Murnau and Schroeder ever do to deserve such a mean-spirited "tribute"?
Janet Gaynor always spoke well of the director who inspired her Oscar-winning performance in "Sunrise". The Murnau in "Shadow of a Vampire" even dopes a sweet little cat, the rat, and constantly endangers his crew, including cinematographer Fritz Wagner, with recorded birth and death dates of 1889 and 1958. Wagner, who went on to make "M" with Fritz Lang, was no more of a Schreck snack than Schroeder, but "Shadow Of A Vampire" wouldn't be the laughable mess that it is without Steven Katz' wacky script and E. Elias Merhige's numbskull direction. John Malkovich uses the same flat nasal voice for Murnau that he employed as Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in "Mary Reilly" and Willem Dafoe chews on everything in sight as Schreck. If young audiences remember Murnau this way, Cage has done his idol even more of a disservice than Kenneth Hanger-On in "Hollywood Babylon". Save the money you were going to spend on "Shadow Of A Vampire" and spend it on a Murnau marathon instead!
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 12/27/00
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