Big bouncing boobs, indulgence in opiates, bottles of booze being passed around and a kinky cabaret. Who would have connected all these things with the making of the 1921 movie Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror? Well, it was the start of the roaring 20s after all. It was perverse, creepy and downright nasty in some places. After recently seeing the original I thought it would be a good time to also check out Shadow of the Vampire while Nosferatu was still fresh in my mind. I didn't have great expectations because I thought I had seen it years ago and wasn't that impressed, although I had a hard time really losing myself in movies during the time that I was married to a chatterbox who couldn't keep his mouth shut for 10 minutes if you held a gun to his head. Anyway, even though Shadow of a Vampire was a fictional account of the making of Nosferatu, scenes from the original were beautifully spliced into the more recent film. It was a really cool movie, seeming as though they were filming in the same places and time as the original filming in 1921. Willem Defoe as the vampire portraying Max Shreck as Nosferatu was actually scarier and more shocking, lustful and revolting than Max Schreck's spooky portrayal of the vampire and I thought he was pretty darn creepy. John Malkovich as director F. W. Mernau was just as ravenous to finish the film as the vampire's desire for blood, especially that of the actress Greta Schroder.
I think the comparison of the vampire and Mernau were really cool how Mernau’s drive and lust to realize his vision of the film drove him to utter madness while the vampire’s obsession with consuming Greta, and anyone else he could get his teeth into, no stalking involved, drove him to be Mernau’s vampire for the film. The two characters’ obsessions and lustful needs portray how human beings can be reduced to ravenous animals when motivated purely by selfish greed and achieving their personal desires regardless of the cost.
From a feminine point of view Mernau’s blatant sacrifice of Greta Shroder as payment to the vampire for starring in the film reminded me of ancient cultures’ sacrificing virgins to the gods, only Greta was definitely no virgin as she complained of the lack of cabarets near the set and flirted with cameraman Fritz Wagner played by Carey Elwes who had to remind her of their past tryst. Obviously, she was such a playgirl she didn’t even remember having partied with him. Who could forget an affair with a man played by the perpetually adorable Carey Elwes? In one scene her naked boobs are flopping all over the place as she writhes, fully clothed, on her bed in a drug induced sexual fantasy. However, nasty old vampire didn’t care anything about her past, her life, or her mind. He only wanted to sink his teeth into her soft flesh and feast on her blood.
In the final scene when the vampire and Greta are finally in the same room together preparing for their scene, Defoe so completely captured the vampire’s overpowering lust for her blood it reminded me of men I’ve been unfortunately acquainted with and dated in the past. He had no idea nor cared one bit how creepy he was being because, to him, her feelings and even her existence as a living being were inconsequential. She was just a blood-filled body, a piece of material existing only for his pleasure. He crept around her, ready to attack and consume, while Mernau frantically tried to restrain him in order to fulfill his own unbridled passion of finished the movie. Having his crew restrain and drug Greta who was beginning to resist the whole situation was sick, but it only got sicker as he finally gave the vampire the cue to molest and murder Greta in her drug-induced stupor as she lay helpless while the crew excitedly filmed her murder. They deserved to die. I did appreciate, however, how they re-enacted the scene where the vampire approaches Greta and the shadow of his nasty gnarled hand travels up her body toward her throat.
I found the movie to be absolutely mesmerizing, oftentimes losing all sense of time and place even though I pretty much knew the story! The ending was shocking and gruesome as Mernau lost his grasp on reality and the vampire went on a killing rampage as he continued to keep the camera rolling and direct his crew of corpses. It was a really good movie with a great cast.