||E. Elias Mehrige's SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE explores the fictional premise that the star of director F.W. Murnau's 1922 German expressionist horror film, NOSFERATU, was an actual vampire. When the dictatorial Murnau (John Malkovich) sets about filming his monster masterpiece, he makes a Faustian deal and enlists the grotesque, reclusive Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) to play the rodentlike Count Orlok. Schreck proceeds to both horrify and fascinate the unwitting cast and crew---including producer Albin Grau (Udo Kier), actor Gustav von Wangenheim (Eddie Izzard), and actress Greta Schroeder (Catherine McCormack)--who, at first, believe Schreck is merely an eccentric actor. As the production continues, however, mysterious accidents and deaths begin to reveal why Schreck never gets any makeup.^From its lavish opening sequence to Murnau's filming of the final scene, Mehrige's movie serves as a tribute not only to the original NOSFERATU but to the art of cinema itself. Because Murnau's project is a silent film, the overbearing director can coax and shout at his actors during the takes, making for some cleverly comical scenes. Although Malkovich, Izzard, and Kier are excellent in their roles, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE could simply not exist without Dafoe's hideous and hilarious performance, which ranks among the finest of the versatile actor's career.