And although we can argue the merits of various film and literary adaptations and derivative works, Murnau’s Nosferatu—and in particular, the work of Max Schreck—remains the closest film version of Stoker’s monster. I love Bela Lugosi’s suave and sophisticated count, but he is not Stoker’s chillingly bestial gothic nightmare.
Max Schreck’s interpretation of Dracula is so sticky that a facetious question by Greek critic Adonis Kyrou (to whit: Shreck’s performance is so good, could he actually be a vampire) inspired the recent film Shadow of the Vampire—which tries to wrap a story of artistic obsession around the whole thing. It’s a better concept than a final film.
In fact, the truth about Shreck is engaging enough: according to biographer Stefan Eickhoff, friends of Schreck described him as living in “a remote and strange world”—preferring his own company and often taking long solitary walks in dark woods. So, despite Eickhoff’s insistence that Schreck wasn’t a vampire, he remains somewhat enigmatic.
This is of course the way we want it. Schreck’s performance is so haunting; we would all be disappointed if he wasn’t a little weird.