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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

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