Film #101: Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

film 101 cave of forgotten dreams

Rating: 4/5

“Are we today the crocodiles who look back into the abyss of time when we see the paintings of Chauvet cave?”

Finally, a Werner Herzog film (there are plenty more to come) – one of his most recent, and his only venture into 3D. Cave of Forgotten Dreams arrived on the big screen just as the arthouse cinemas were admitting defeat and installing 3D-ready projectors and screens, but I have to admit that, having watched it in both formats now, something is actually lost in the 2D version. Generally, I believe that 3D should only be used as a gimmick – at least when it’s used in films like Piranha 3D and A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas you know you’re going to get your money’s worth. 3D is, and always will be, a gimmick, so if there aren’t things flying out of the screen towards my face, generally I’m not interested. Herzog doesn’t throw anything at our faces here, but his subject matter – the spectacular cave paintings found, perfectly preserved, in 1994 at what are now called the Chauvet Caves in France – really benefits from that third dimension. In his narration, Herzog talks about how the painters used the undulations of the cave walls in their art; he attempts to recreate the flickering light of a fire to show how the pictures move and warp. In 2D it’s fairly easy to imagine, but in 3D – as loathe as I am to admit it – the effect is truly realised.

The Chauvet Cave paintings, the oldest known in the world, are somewhere in the region of 32 000 years old. Found in 1994 by three explorers, access is now severely limited – this is no tourist trap, but a carefully, meticulously examined and preserved site of huge importance. Protected by a landslide thousands of years ago, the cave is pristine – the floor is littered with the bones of long-extinct animals, now covered with a fine dusting of calcite, making everything sparkle. The paintings themselves – dozens of beautiful renditions of animals – are so fresh that, when they were found, they were suspected to be a hoax.

Herzog’s film offers people a rare opportunity to see such important works. With other cave paintings destroyed by mould that grew as a result of tourists’ breath, there’s no chance that us regular folk will ever be granted access. Herzog secured his visits by agreeing to take only one euro in payment, and his film was sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture. Using stringent methods, there’s a rawness to the resulting film – its guerilla-style filmmaking reminded me of one of Herzog’s early documentaries, the stunning La Soufriere, in which the director and a few friends travel to a small island about to be devastated by a volcanic eruption. The space inside the caves is often cramped and restricted so, as Herzog acknowledges, the tiny film crew (only four people for the interior shots) cannot avoid being captured on screen also. Their equipment is rudimentary, restricted so as to cause the least amount of damage to the paintings (it should be said that the sometimes shaky, hand-cam footage does not work in 3D at all).

Once in the caves, however, Herzog allows the paintings to be the star of his film. Long sequences pass by without comment, punctuated by the director’s trademark soundtrack, composed by long-standing collaborator Ernst Reijseger. The haunting orchestral score imbues the images, and the cave itself, with an solemnity – almost a spiritualism – and it becomes easy to imagine the space being once not only a special, but a sacred, place for the people who so carefully daubed the walls. These moments quietly ask for contemplation, and the absence of narration gave us time to discuss the implications of the images on screen. The paintings are stunning, perfectly capturing not just the physicality of these animals (bison, lions, bears, and horses, among others – there is one human on the walls, tantalisingly concealed behind a rock, but it’s the only painting that, to me, doesn’t immediately make obvious what its subject matter is. Is it really the lower half of a woman, with a bison head? The bison part is clear, but I remain sceptical of the rest – perhaps we’re just desperate to be represented) but their essence – they come to life on the walls. Yet there is so much more to them. Herzog doesn’t comment on the fact that the cave has now been sealed off from the world, perfectly, artificially preserved, but it seems particularly pertinent when he acknowledges that some of the paintings appear to have been done five thousand years apart. To put that into perspective – just over two hundred years ago, the Lewis and Clark Expedition set off to discover whether it was possible to reach the west coast of America. There wasn’t even a road, and now there’s LA – in the Chauvet Caves, five thousand years passed, and someone returned to add to the artwork. My brain cannot comprehend such vast swathes of time. Can you imagine someone going and touching up the Mona Lisa, or The Last Supper? Today, what is sacred is preserved, remaining untouched and hidden away from prying eyes or errant hands – it’s a curious aspect of humanity that, I guess, simply wasn’t a factor so many millennia ago.

He might not specifically question this, but it is still a Herzog documentary and, naturally, his interests are varied and obscure. He spends time considering “humanness” – what makes us human, whether these cave paintings are the first physical indication of the discovery of a soul. His interviews with scientists and archaeologists tends to deviate from specifically relevant information – he asks about their dreams after first seeing the paintings, talks to an “experimental” archaeologist and a perfumer trying to locate new caves using his sense of smell. Perhaps because he is just incapable of not adding his touch of Herzog-weirdness (or perhaps because we all expect it now), the film’s post-script features mutant albino crocodiles (mentioned in pretty much every review of the film) now living in an artificial nuclear biosphere a few miles away from the caves. Yet really the film is not about this strangeness, but about the paintings, and he presents them with a reverence that indicates his respect for such important works. For Herzog, the paintings are a key moment in human development, bringing beauty and life to the world like the opera does today. They might be hidden away from the hazards of flash photography, grubby shoes, and pesky carbon dioxide, but Herzog brings them back into the light, allowing us all to bear witness to what is arguably one of the most important cultural discoveries ever.


Film #81: The Terror (1963)

film 81 the terror

Rating: 2.5/5

“The crypt! It must be destroyed, and with it the dead.”

Anyone familiar with Roger Corman will know he’s much more than “king of the Bs.” In fact, he hates that term, arguing that he wasn’t (just) a B-movie director, because he always made the accompanying A pictures too. Despite his extensive catalogue – as either director or producer – of mostly schlock, gore, exploitation and drive-in pictures, the low budget filmmaker is hugely important. He had two particular talents: one, his ability to tap into the trends of a predominantly youth market (from his monster movies to his counter-culture pictures, he always gave his audience what they wanted); and two, his willingness to give budding filmmakers a chance to practice their craft. While his movies can be dismissed (by those unwilling to look further) as generic, silly, low-budget, few can deny his influence on some of the most important people in the film industry today: this is the man who gave Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorcese, Joe Dante, and Ron Howard – among others – their big break.

I mention this because The Terror, a gothic ghost story, boasts the involvement of a number of these names. Having just filmed The Raven, starring legendary horror icon Boris Karloff and young newcomer Jack Nicholson, Corman saw an opportunity to make/save some money, and shot some scenes using the same sets. Sometimes mistaken as one of the director-producer’s shortest filming schedules (Karloff’s scenes took only four days), The Terror was eventually shot over a period of nine months, making it one of his longest productions. It’s a bit of a jumble: after Karloff’s scenes were filmed, with a script still non-existent, several directors came on board. Nicholson himself took the helm for a while; so too did Coppola, Monte Hellman, and Jack Hill. The result is, as one might expect, a messy film, yet I was surprised at just how coherent it actually was. By expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised.

Clearly influenced not only by the existing sets, but by Corman’s own interests at the time, The Terror is obviously rooted in gothic horror and the works of classic authors like Edgar Allen Poe and MR James. Nicholson is Lt. Andre Duvalier, a cavalier separated from his regiment in 18th Century France who encounters a mysterious, beautiful woman (an obviously pregnant Sandra Knight, Nicholson’s then-wife) on a desolate beach. Intrigued, Duvalier follows the silent woman into the turbulent seas, and is rescued by a haggard old lady who dabbles in witchcraft. Having returned to health, Duvalier is determined to help the strange woman on the beach, and learns of Baron Victor Von Leppe (Karloff), a reclusive old man living in a vast castle on the cliffs, who apparently is the key to solving the mystery. It’s all fairly straight forward – a tale of lost love, tragedy, and restless spirits – straight forward, that is, until a particularly jumbled, garbled conclusion. It’s such a shame, because until this point, it’s actually not that bad.

There are problems, however. Visually, the film is excessively dark and poorly exposed: with most of the action taking place at night or in the darkness of the candle-lit castle, characters are frequently reduced to pale faces and brief flashes of colour from clothing. While the narrative isn’t as confused as it could be, it lacks direction and, despite being effectively atmospheric is too long and starts to drag. At several points it appears as though scenes were shot without a sense of purpose – which, evidently, is precisely the case. Yet, despite these problems, it’s really not as much of a shambles as it could have been. While Karloff easily steals the film, it’s a great pleasure to see such a young Jack Nicholson; the role doesn’t exert him and it’s a rather understated performance (in contrast to his better known, later parts), but his presence is undeniable, and both he and Karloff bring both charisma and intensity to the meagre, frequently improvised story.

Putting some of the strange narrative quirks to one side, The Terror is hardly the mess it could have been. It’s a testament to Corman that he managed to salvage the film; with so many people at the helm, the most basic of scripts, and recycled sets, it is a good example of why the director-producer has not only endured, but is finally now being recognised as more than just a B-movie maker – in recent years Corman has not only been the focus of a special retrospective at Edinburgh Film Festival and several books, but has finally received an Oscar for his achievements and his influence on some of the finest filmmakers in the business. The Terror is hardly his best work (as much as I love his monster movies, The Intruder remains his most powerful, important film in my eyes), but in the hands of someone less resourceful, it could have been a lot worse.

Films #77 & 78: A Trip to the Moon (1902) & The Extraordinary Voyage (2011)

film 77 78 a trip to the moon the extraordinary voyage

Ratings: A Trip to the Moon, 5/5; The Extraordinary Voyage, 4/5

It was impossible to give Georges Méliès’ short film anything other than five stars – it’s a mini masterpiece, with its images remaining some of the most iconic in cinema history. Over a hundred and ten years after it was made, A Trip to the Moon , perhaps the first true narrative film, is still breathtaking; Méliès’ unique vision is an example of pure fantasy, and it’s utterly bonkers. There are several versions of the film available, varying in length, colour, and quality. The version I watched is the best available; painstakingly restored, it is as crisp and clear as it ever was, the original hand-painted colours are gloriously psychedelic, the story finally told in its entirety. It comes with new accompanying music by French electronica band Air, whose specially written score is a perfect addition, adding tension and excitement at times, bringing (unintelligible) voices to the silent performances on screen, and adding another layer of whimsy and magic to the highly stylised, timeless images.

Film buffs will no doubt know just how important Méliès and his films were, but for those who don’t, a brief history lesson. While moving images had been around for several decades during the 1800s, the early pioneers of cinema were the Lumière Brothers and George Méliès. While the Lumière Brothers concentrated on providing spectacle through presenting general activities – leaving a factory, knocking down a wall, a train arriving at a station – in as realistic a form as possible, Méliès, a magician by trade, quickly saw film’s potential for trickery and fantasy. Having allegedly discovering such possibilities through a mistake – while filming an innocuous street scene, Méliès’ camera jammed, and it took him several seconds to get it running again, with the result being that, when he watched the footage later, a carriage suddenly transformed into a hearse – the filmmaker took full advantage of the new technology, and his early films are filled with trick shots and creative deceptions.

Rooted in fairground attractions and the sideshow, Méliès’ films generally consist of one or a series of staged tableaux; the camera doesn’t move during scenes and there is minimal editing, resulting in a distinctively theatrical style of presentation. Méliès was not concerned with realism, and his films in particular are obviously created, with painted sets and backdrops offering an instantly recognisable, entirely unrealistic aesthetic. A Trip to the Moon, featuring a group of academics who build a rocket and are shot through a cannon into the moon, where they discover a race of strange lobster-men, is overtly inspired by the written works of Jules Verne, and was later (illegally) remade by Pathé in 1908. The most iconic shot of the ambitious fifteen minute film, which became one of the earliest box office hits, is the rocket’s moon landing – splatting unceremoniously into the moon’s eye, it has inspired everything from music videos (The Smashing Pumpkin’s Tonight Tonight) to Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge). Yet none of the subsequent homages and rip-offs come close to matching the unfettered imagination of Méliès, whose vision is both childlike in its innocence, and absolutely mad in its showiness.

This restored version reveals the true beauty of this strange and unusual voyage, and each scene is a sight to behold – the troupe of scantily clad showgirls pushing the rocket into its launching position, the explorers first encountering the fantastical jungle on the moon, the fights between the lobster-men and the humans, the way in which the moon’s inhabitants are unceremoniously turned into multi-coloured puffs of smoke when hit with umbrellas. It’s one of the most important films in cinema history, and the fact that it still survives is a miracle.

While Méliès’ vision, and his influence on film history, is the initial focus of Serge Bromberg and Éric Lange’s accompanying documentary The Extraordinary Voyage, they also show the painstaking process of restoring the film. The colour version was believed lost until 1993, when a single print, in terrible condition, was discovered in Spain. With great care and optimism, the film was carefully unreeled, piece by brittle piece and, in a process lasting over ten years, eventually it was brought back to life. The documentary, including talking head interviews with Tom Hanks, Michel Gondry (The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), reveals the restoration as a true labour of love – an impossible journey made possible, ironically, because of extraordinary technical advances. While perhaps not providing any new information for those with a basic knowledge of early cinema history, it does nonetheless offer an excellent overview, while also including a substantial number of Méliès’ other films, including The One Man Band and The Man With Four Heads, demonstrating the magician’s penchant for trickery and his undeniable achievements. What is so wonderful is that, while modern film effects can so easily be dismissed as CGI – without the viewer necessarily understanding any of the complexities involved in that process – the early trick films remain magical somehow. We know they are an illusion, but explanations remain beyond our grasp, and all the more impressive precisely because of this. Like a real magic trick, the solution is often infuriatingly simple, but it’s a cynical person who really wants to know it. Instead, we can lose ourselves in the illusion, and embrace our childish, often forgotten, sense of wonder and awe.

Films #75 & 76: The Mighty Gorga (1969) & One Million AC/DC (1969)

film 75 76 the mighty gorga one million acdc

Ratings: The Mighty Gorga, 1/5; One Million AC/DC, 1/5

“We’re still just a couple of outsiders in a green hell.”
“I’m off to see the lizard.”

A prehistoric double bill, both are utterly terrible films – The Mighty Gorga has, at least, an actual story. One Million AC/DC (which has nothing whatsoever to do with the rock band), written by Ed Wood using the pseudonym Akdon Telmig, which is one letter away from being Vodka Gimlet in reverse, is basically just a soft-core caveman porno. Both, however, feature quite possibly the greatest dinosaurs ever – and I say both, because it’s the same T-Rex in both movies. I had read about the special effects (ha!), but I can honestly say, no one had really convinced me that they would be as bad as they were. The fact that not one, but two filmmakers had the sheer audacity to include them in their movies is mind-boggling – trust me when I say that a four year old could have created the exact same scenes using their sandbox and some plastic toys.

First up, The Mighty Gorga. A fairly straight-forward, no budget exotic location/ giant ape movie, it stars Anthony Eisley (Dracula Vs Frankenstein) as Mark, a circus owner desperately trying to increase revenue. There’s a brief subplot introduced at the beginning of the movie, in which his brother (or someone) is sabotaging the business, but as soon as Mark arrives in the Congo (which looks suspiciously like a national park in California) any problems “back home” are quickly forgotten. He befriends a feisty female wild animal breeder whose father went missing trying to find a giant ape and, with native “Indian” George in tow, head into the wilderness to find either or both the monkey and the dad.

The film’s low budget is all too obvious, from the frequent day-night issues (just look at the sequence in which the bison’s pen is burned down) to the uninspiring, visibly un-exotic location, to the gorilla itself. Gorga, who apparently protects a local tribe’s village on an isolated plateau, is a man in a gorilla suit – not one of the many gorilla actors working at the time, but the director himself, David L Hewitt. The suit is truly dreadful; the ape’s eyes bulge with a permanently surprised expression (this comes in handy later on, when the beast is apparently completely dumbfounded by a bandage on his giant pinky). Even more bizarre, we never see below the gorilla’s torso – not even when he’s fighting the dinosaurs or leering over the village’s huts. Despite Gorga supposedly being a giant gorilla, somehow Hewitt succeeds in not even making it seem human sized – particularly when it fights the tiny plastic dinosaur, with its snapping mouth and bobbing movements, it is hard to accept that Gorga is anything other than an equally inanimate toy.

Much of the film is dedicated to Eisley and his female companion attempting to convince the audience that they are in peril. Their exploration, which, thanks to the terrible editing, seems like it takes about five minutes, is supposed to last for days. Their ascent of the cliff-face to the plateau above involves them walking slowly along a gentle path. Their beige jungle clothes never get even the slightest hint of dirt on them. Up on the plateau, they discover giant roses and a prehistoric nest with some peach-coloured eggs – Mark says they’re purple. They quickly find the missing father, and plan to escape from the tribe by fleeing down a secret volcanic tunnel that contains, as legend dictates, King Solomon’s treasure. Poor Solomon must have been a truly rubbish king, because the riches consist of a single chest with some Mardi Gras beads scattered around. Eventually the group leave the plateau, arriving out of Ro-Man’s cave in Bronson Canyon and staring upwards at the destruction they’ve left behind – we’re supposed to believe that stock footage lava has somehow destroyed everything, though no one seems even the slightest bit concerned by the whole situation.

There’s little to praise about The Mighty Gorga. Oddly, for a jungle movie, the only animals to feature are all clearly in captivity – the circus/zoo at the beginning provides the most animal spectacle, with the subsequent jungle visibly devoid of any animal life whatsoever. There are a few reasonably clever moments (or one, anyway) in the script, largely revolving around the assumptions of the “outsider” – Mark’s pained attempts to communicate with the black slave-native George (Lee Parrish), only to discover that the local only speaks English, is actually quite funny. I am struggling to think of any other genuinely “good” moments; luckily the bad ones provide more than enough entertainment for the right audience. I stared, open-mouthed at the “epic” fight between the dinosaur and Gorga – it truly is a thing to behold.

While I was certain that One Million AC/DC couldn’t possibly match The Mighty Gorga in terms of shoddy effects, it turned out I was wrong. The same, snapping-mouthed, bobbing dinosaur reappears here to eat a barbie doll! It fights another dinosaur! It peers over an embankment! It’s not in this movie enough. Poor Ed Wood, who was by this time not even on the fringes of Hollywood, had succumbed to alcohol, domestic violence, poverty and pornography – the later years of his life were dominated by shoddy sex stories. There’s little of his distinctive screenwriting style here, although there are hints – the fat man first seen at the beginning of the movie takes on a strange narrator-role, commenting on the events going on around him. Primarily, however, One Million AC/DC has little dialogue – maybe ten minutes in total, and all rather inane. The “plot” revolves around a cave full of orgy-loving, furry-bikini-clad neanderthals. Outside, a dinosaur tries to eat them if they leave. A gorilla kidnaps one of the cave girls, who spends the whole movie trying to escape his clutches (at the end they appear to be a happy couple). And that is it. Like Orgy of the Dead, also written by Ed Wood, the main aim of the movie is titillation. This is more hardcore than Orgy; luckily the virgin’s sacrifice at the beginning of the film remains the most explicit scene. The girls, all stick-thin with protruding rib cages, are pretty enough, but it’s all rather seedy and unpleasant, with rape implications frequent throughout. The actual sex consists of a lot of frenzied writhing and groaning, mainly from the women (although some of the men emit freakishly guttural, animalistic grunts to ensure the viewer cannot possibly find any of it even remotely erotic).

The constant sex is interspersed with shots bad movie fans will find suspiciously familiar. At least some of the footage is taken from One Million Years BC, and at least two different sequences reappear (again!) in Horror of the Blood Monsters. Not to mention the footage ripped from The Mighty Gorga, and the generic volcanic stock footage beneath the opening credits. As this is filmed in colour, the recycled shots have been tinted (like in Horror of the Blood Monsters) – here it’s so badly done that it’s difficult to even see what they’re trying to show.

About ten minutes into One Million AC/DC I was certain that, finally, Children of the Living Dead would no longer be the sole worst-reviewed movie of our collection. At least that movie was supremely entertaining: this is virtually unwatchable. Michael Adams described Ed Wood’s porno as “the tar pit of cinema,” and I was equally ready to dismiss it. Then, out of the blue, came the scene that elevated this dire caveman sexploitation picture to a glorious 1/5: a sing-along. Yes, as the tribe plan to destroy the dinosaur using a newfangled bow and arrow designed by a pervy cave painter, the chief and his woman pause in their sexcapades to sing a song straight to camera. It goes like this: (to the tune of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow) “The spear goes into the monster (x3), And the monster loses his mind.” Finally, something other than that darn dinosaur to stare open-mouthed at. It was a moment of sheer surrealism, completely unexpected, entirely out of place, and reassuringly bizarre, making up for the seventy-five minutes of dire copulation that went before it – but only barely.

Film #72: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

film 72 shadow of the vampire

Rating: 3.5/5

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Max Schreck, who will be portraying our vampire, Count Orlock. As you no doubt have heard, Max’s methods are somewhat… unconventional, but… I am sure you will come to respect his artistry in this matter.”

The first vampire movie, Nosferatu (1922) remains to this day one of the most eerie, haunting, and iconic films of all time – Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is arguably the least human representation of a vampire. There’s little hint as to the romanticism now overwhelming the horror aspects of these creatures; Orlok is entirely inhuman in both his physical appearance and his actions. It’s no wonder, then, that legend suggests Schreck was truly a vampire. He wasn’t (probably), but Shadow of the Vampire plays fast and loose with the myths and tales surrounding F R Murnau’s silent masterpiece (aptly subheaded A Symphony of Horror), presenting Schreck as the ultimate in difficult leading actors, and Murnau (John Malkovich) himself as a director obsessed with realising his vision.

If Schreck’s performance in Nosferatu is central to the film’s inate creepiness, Willem Dafoe’s performance as Schreck in Shadow of the Vampire is equally crucial, and he was (deservedly) Oscar-nominated for the role that was written specifically for him. The role of Orlok demands a strong performance from an unconventional actor, and has been played by three very different men – Schreck, Klaus Kinski (in Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake), and Dafoe. Technically Dafoe plays Schreck-playing-Orlok, but the distinction is particularly blurry, as it soon transpires Schreck is simply a character created to disguise the fact that the vampire is real. Schreck-the-character and Orlok are one and the same, with Murnau so determined to create a piece of documentary-art that he’s willing to sacrifice several members of his cast and crew in the process. In this way, the film is not only about a myth, but about cinema – this extreme example of method acting demonstrates the problems it causes for other members of the cast and crew as well as the success of a truly authentic performance. Meanwhile, Murnau’s obsession cleverly alludes to a conflict within the film industry – the director as auteur, forced to work with others who may somehow taint or damage his unique vision. It’s particularly telling that Murnau is so derisive towards his writer, practically willing Orlok to devour him first.

Such is the success of both director E Elias Merhige’s attention to period detail, and Dafoe’s performance, that when scenes from Murnau’s original film feature, it’s almost impossible to see the distinction. Following the film’s troubled production, Merhige allows his audience to watch the silent movie come into being – the camera rolls, the iris is in, and the colours drain from the image as Gustav (Eddie Izzard) attempts to act – in that delightfully overwrought, overly emphatic style prevalent in the silent era – opposite Orlok. Accompanying these scenes are the unobtrusive yet evocative orchestral score (taken from John William’s score of the 1979 version of Dracula) and the soothing, distinctive tone of Malkovich’s voice as Murnau tells his actors the story of their shot. It’s highly effective, not only in providing a rather romantic representation of the film industry at the time, but also in bringing a literary feel to the film – after all, Nosferatu is famously not an adaptation of Dracula, but the story is undeniably, blatantly rooted in Bram Stoker’s gothic novel.

This is not just a period piece, however, and while at least a basic knowledge of Murnau’s Nosferatu is preferable, it’s not essential. Due to the overtly fictional reimagining of a genuine historic moment, it’s easiest to just accept the supernatural elements, and to enjoy the wonderful performances and, in particular, the brilliantly strained relationship between Murnau and his most difficult actor. Malkovich brings a natural, tightly-wound lunacy to Murnau that frequently threatens to explode. Dafoe is clearly in his element, hamming up the inhuman aspects of Schreck/Orlok – while the real Schreck brought a kind of naïve alienness to Orlok, Dafoe’s creation is indulgent in his strangeness, and often very funny as a result; both he and Izzard in particular encapsulate the black humour permeating the script.

It’s a shame then that Shadow of the Vampire becomes rather cluttered at the end, the script getting messy and seemingly struggling to find an ending that will satisfy all the various elements established to that point. The result, which brings both the supernatural elements and Murnau’s doggedly obsessive vision to a climax, feels far more rushed than the earlier scenes, which gradually built up the sense of on-set unease in much the same way as Nosferatu, with long, shadowy fingers creeping into the frame and ominous shadows in dark corners. Merhige’s version of this well-worn story remains more a well-made curio than a true classic; if it inspires more people to seek out the film on which it is based, then that can only be a good thing. As to whether it will convince audiences that Schreck really was a vampire, well, his performance is still strong enough for that myth to endure without any help.