Long before “meta” became 21st-century digital filmmaking de rigueur, there was this film-within-a-film account of German filmmaker F.W. Murnau’s unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stroker’s Dracula.
While the vampire Count Orlok of Murnau’s 1922 silent masterpiece, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, was portrayed by German actor Max Schreck, the film plays up Schreck’s unorthodox Method Acting techniques. (By the way, Nicolas Cage produced this: and we all know about his unorthodox methods to get into character.) Schreck would only appear amongst the cast and crew in makeup, would only be filmed at night, and would never break character on set. All of which lead the crew and actors under Murnau’s (John Malkovich) direction to believe Schreck is a real vampire.
No surprise: Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Schreck as Orlok was nominated for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar. (And he also astounds in the recently-released My Hindu Friend.)
And the meta on this gets even freakier—if you watch this alongside Werner Herzog’s Klaus Kinski-starring remake of Murnau’s film, 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. Then Kinski took it one step further: he played the character one more time in the 1988 Italian-made Nosferatu in Venice, which co-stars Donald Pleasence and Christopher Plummer.
I’ve binged all four of these “Nosferatu” films back-to-back several times over the years—and it does screw with your mind. And it’s a chick repellent. And all four films come highly recommended, chicks be damned. (One day, I’ll meet a woman who can embrace silent film and Double K.)
You can stream Shadow of the Vampire on Shudder.
Don’t forget! There’s more movies about movies to be had with our “Drive-In Friday: Movies About Movies” featurette, where we also review Shadow, The Disaster Artist, Adaptation, and Dolemite Is My Name.