That's the question posed by German writer Stefan Eickhoff, whose book Max Schreck: Gespenstertheater (Ghost Theatre) is set to be published in English later this year. Despite delivering many fascinating details about Schreck's public body of work, Eickhoff freely admits he was unable to satisfactorally answer the question, since information on Schreck's private life was extremely difficult to come by.
The mystery surrounding the man who played the screen's first Count Dracula in F.W. Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu is one of the things that led to the long-running urban legend of Schreck's real-life vampirism--a legend Eickhoff reports was first jokingly popularized in a French book on surrealism in cinema published in 1953. But myths aside, the real man provides more than enough fodder for a
biographer, of which Eickhoff--who first published his book in German last December--is the first.
"Whoever hopes to discover a vampire will be disappointed, but they will find an actor of real skill and versatility," said Eickhoff in a Reuters interview yesterday.
Eickhoff's book focuses mainly on Schreck's films, making the case that Nosferatu has unjustly overshadowed the rest of what was an impressive body of work consisting of more than 800 stage and screen roles. As for personal anecdotes and recollections from colleagues, Eickhoff eerily found almost none. One rare and fascinating remembrance describes him as living in "a remote and strange world," and being fond of long walks in deep, dark forests.
This book is sure to be snatched up by many an old-school horror fan looking to learn more about one of the genre's most enigmatic actors of all time. If you spreken ze deutch, you can buy the book right now in its original form at Amazon.com's German site.