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Shadow Of A Vampire

The making of 1922's ''Nosferatu,'' cinema's first vampire film, is chronicled in this finely detailed and highly amusing homage.


Great German film director F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) embarks on a journey to adapt Bram Stoker's ''Dracula'' to the screen on location in Eastern Europe. With an eccentric cast and crew under his wing, the consumed Murnau will stop at nothing to achieve his vision. He hires an unknown actor, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), to portray the title role. The ultimate method actor, Schreck will only work at night and arrive on set in complete make-up. As strange occurrences begin to plague the production, Murnau realizes he's bitten off more than he can chew when his crew dwindles and his vampire actor threatens to dishonor his end of their ''special'' arrangement to complete the picture.


Comprised of a rich cast who are clearly having loads of fun with their roles, the cherry on top of ''Vampire'' is Dafoe's devilishly creepy portrayal of Schreck. Clicking his fingernails and stiffly sniffing the human flesh around him, his dead-on recreation is the pinnacle reason to see this film. Malkovich's embodiment of the diva director who will sacrifice anything to get his picture made is delightful, and Cary Elwes as Fritz Wagner, Murnau's over-confident seasoned cinematographer, provides smart comic timing. Other players, including Morrissey staple Udo Kier (the sweating producer), ''Braveheart's'' Catherine McCormack (the morphine-addicted leading lady), and stand up comic Eddie Izzard (the straight man who can't act), round out the cast nicely.


Nicely replicating the exciting early days of cinema when cameras were cranked by hand, director E. Elias Merhige (''Begotten'') truly sinks his teeth into his source material. Employing a variety of techniques, from shrinking iris lenses to black and white flutter celluloid, Merhige effectively transports the viewer to another time period. Though not a very deep-thinking piece, he sucks as much blood as possible from screenwriter Steven Katz' (writer of an early draft of ''Interview with the Vampire'') clever premise.

Bottom line

Craftily entertaining and highly original, this razor-sharp ''Vampire'' is an instant classic. es: Brockovich is a torrent of profanity.

'Erin Brockovich'

Julia Roberts: Erin Brockovich

Albert Finney: Ed Masry

Aaron Eckhart: George

Marg Helgenberger: Donna Jensen

Cherry Jones: Pamela Duncan

Peter Coyote: Kurt Potter

Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures present a Jersey Films production. Director Steven Soderbergh. Producers Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher. Written by Susannah Grant. Executive producers John Hardy, Carla Santos Shamberg. Cinematographer Ed Lachman. Editor Anne V. Coates. Production design Philip Messina. Music Thomas Newman. Costumes Jeffrey Kurland. Art director Christa Munro. Set decorator Kristen Toscano Messina. Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes.