- "I am the light of this city, and I am its mean, twisted soul. Does it matter who's mayor?"
- ―Max Shreck to Bruce Wayne.[src]
- 1 Biography
- 2 Gallery
- 3 Behind the Scenes
- 4 References
- 5 Links
Max Schreck worked with Fred Atkins in his store. One day, Max would kill Fred and put his hand in the toilet, hiding all the evidence. Later, he would tell the Penguin that Fred was fine, and that he was on a extended vacation (although Penguin didn't believe him).
Max Shreck became known as the ruthless and ambitious owner of the department store Shreck's. His only family was his son, Charles "Chip" Shreck, and it was implied by dialogue that he murdered his wife for her money.
Shreck's goal was to build a supposed "Power Plant" for Gotham City's future. Standing in Shreck's way, however, was Mayor Roscoe Jenkins, who believed such a Power Plant was unnecessary. Bruce Wayne was also unconvinced of the need for a new plant, and opposed Shreck's plans.
Deal with the Penguin
Later on, that same night, while Shreck gave the city a speech (he was viewed as "Gotham's Santa Claus"), he presented a public persona of being a philanthropist, stating in a speech that people may call him Santa Claus, but he is only "some poor schmoe who got lucky". While the speech was in progress, a giant novelty gift box lumbered towards the crowd, then the speech was cut short when, a group of clown-like criminals known as the Red Triangle Gang emerged from the box, attacking Gotham Plaza and demanded Shreck.
Chip valiantly defended his father long enough for Shreck to escape, although Shreck was caught in a trap and he fell into the sewer, where he saw the same gang and met their enigmatic leader: a mysterious Penguin-like creature, whose rumors were spreading. The Penguin demanded Shreck help him make his way to the surface in a positive light, and when Shreck at first refused, the Penguin blackmailed him with incriminating evidence of Shreck's past crimes (the Penguin had studied Shreck for a while in preparation for that). Shreck agreed to help the Penguin, but made it clear he wanted something in return, to which the Penguin agreed to such a deal.
The attempted Murder of Selina Kyle
Shreck then returned to his office, where he found his timid and shy secretary, Selina Kyle, doing a last-minute check-up for his meeting the next day with Bruce Wayne about the Power Plant. Kyle accidentally revealed that she found out the true nature about the Power Plant, that it would siphon off power from the Gotham electrical grid and give Schreck a hugely profitable energy monopoly. Shreck, out of fear that Kyle might let it slip, and his refusal to risk what he considered his legacy to Chip, pushed her through a window to her death. Unknown to him, however, Selina survived the defenestration, as multiple awnings cushioned the impact. She returned home seemingly unharmed, but when her answering machine played a robocall advertising a perfume, she became unhinged and began assuming the mantle of Catwoman.
The next day, during a speech, Mayor Jenkins' baby son was kidnapped by a Red Triangle Gang member, who fled into the sewer, where he was "attacked" by the Penguin, who then "rescued" Jenkins' son, brought him to the surface, and became a public hero. Shreck witnessed that, and demanded that the Penguin be granted access into the Hall of Records to search for his parents' names, and in the process, learned of his human name: Oswald Cobblepot.
The same day, Shreck met with Bruce Wayne at his office, who also opposed the idea of the Power Plant and accused Cobblepot of ordering the Red Triangle Circus gang to attack his speech. Shreck denied that, however, and they were then visited by a heavily plastered but "amnesia-suffering" Selina, who displayed a more confident attitude and even impressed Shreck, who vowed to kill her only if she tried to blackmail him. However, Shreck said to Chip that Selina's "change" didn't surprise him.
Sponsoring Penguin's Mayoral Bid
Shreck then revealed his plan: recall the elections by using the Red Triangle Gang's attacks to lower public opinion of Mayor Jenkins, then register Oswald Cobblepot in the election. Cobblepot thought this was a smart idea, and he promised to recompense Shreck by saying that the first action of Mayor Cobblepot would be to approve Shreck's power plant. Meanwhile, Selina, as Catwoman, started her own revenge crusade against Shreck and blew up an entire floor of his department store.
Shreck's plans to make Cobblepot the new Mayor were ruined, or more accurately, Cobblepot had sabotaged his own campaign. Earlier, Penguin attempted to murder Batman by crashing the Batmobile at high speed through remote control, which was thwarted by Batman. Penguin mocked Batman's impending doom by a video message played to the Batmobile, but his overconfidence was his undoing. Bruce Wayne preserved the message, part of which said how he had a low opinion of the citizenry of Gotham and how he will manipulate their sympathies to have him win the election. From the Batcave, Bruce Wayne jammed the radio frequency and caused the snippets from the Batmobile to play while Cobblepot was debating incumbent Mayor Jenkins. With Cobblepot's true personality and his schemes uncovered, he lost his popularity, and was forced to return to the sewer. Shreck took advantage of the jeering crowd to disassociate himself from Cobblepot's idiotic move.
At Shreck's annual "Maxquerade Ball", the Penguin crashed through and informed the party that his henchmen were targeting their first-born sons to murder in the sewer (in a twisted act of revenge for what his parents did to him). Penguin's intention was to take Chip and kill him, but Shreck, in his first and only noble act, begged that he be taken instead, on the basis that it was he, and not Chip, who manipulated and betrayed him. The Penguin accepted (as he would like to see him die a horrible death), took Shreck prisoner, and held him in a cage above a deadly vat of toxic waste, into which he planned to dump Shreck along with the firstborn sons of Gotham.
Escape from Capture
When the plan to murder children failed, Shreck observed radio-controlled, rocket armed Penguin Army sent to destroy Gotham Plaza. This plan was also foiled by Batman. When Penguin, the Poodle Lady and the Thin Clown retreated, Shreck tricked the circus monkey into giving him the key. After unlocking himself, Catwoman caught up with him, using a bullwhip to drag him through the water. While submerged, Max managed to procure a revolver laying near the corpse of the Fat Clown. Rather than simply shooting the strange assailant, Shreck attempted to bargain with her.
Selina Reveals Herself to Max
- "Selina - Selina Kyle, you're fired! And Bruce Wayne...why are you dressed up like Batman?"
- ―Shreck to Batman[src]
- "Because he is Batman, you moron!"
- ―Catwoman to Shreck[src]
- ―Shreck to Catwoman before he shot Batman[src]
When Batman tricked the Penguin into firing missiles at the surface of the Old Zoo, Shreck and Catwoman looked up at the skylight where the Dark Knight ziplined toward them from the explosion. When Batman intervened, Shreck began to grandstand in a display of entitlement toward Batman, assuming he was there to rescue him. Shreck failed to finish declaring himself to be the soul of the city before Batman to shove his face backward, having discovered his involvement with the Red Triangle Gang's attacks on the city. Shreck observed as Batman tried to talk her out of murdering him, claiming that Shreck deserved to stand trial and go to prison rather than be killed. During this Max realized her true identity, declaring that she was now "fired." When Batman, however, removed his mask and revealed himself as Bruce Wayne, Max failed understand why he would be dressed like Batman. Shreck used the procured revolver to shoot him in the chest. Batman doubled over, but was unharmed as he was wearing body armor. Shreck then fired four shots into Selina's shoulder, bicep and thigh, while the fourth missed her completely. This prompted Shreck to examine the revolver in disbelief before finding it to be empty when the barrel touched her lower abdomen. All the way she ranted as she continued to stumble toward him, claiming she had nine lives - with one remaining.
Catwoman placed a stungun under Shreck's chin, kissing him him goodbye with his mouth agape as she pulled one of the generator cables at the same time, which engulfed both herself and Shreck in a massive explosion. After digging out the rubble, this was revealed to have killed Shreck, which fried him horribly and reduced him to nothing but a scorched and skeletal corpse, leaving Bruce in disgust.
Behind the Scenes
Shreck is an original character created for the movie by Daniel Waters as a foil for Catwoman and business rival to Bruce Wayne. The design of the character seems to draw inspiration from Sterling Silversmith, though Shreck lacks his obsession with silver and cane swords.
In Waters' earliest drafts of Max Shreck was originally written to be Harvey Dent. The explosion at the end of the film was only supposed to scar Dent, which would then lead to him becoming Two-Face and set up the in the franchise. In another one of Waters' drafts, Shreck was discovered to be the Penguin's older brother, the "Golden Boy" of the Cobblepot Family, whereas the Penguin was the deformed outsider. Shreck was supposedly ashamed of his father, after he threw his baby brother into the sewer, and he emancipated himself from the Cobblepot Family as soon as he came of age. Shreck's name was a reference to the German actor, Max Schreck.
Originally Tim Burton approached David Bowie for the part, but turned it down in favor of a chance to appear in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Casting director Marion Dougherty suggested Walken, which Burton initially vetoed, deeming Walken as 'too scary." Dougherty convinced him that Shreck should have an unsetting presence.
Shreck is featured in more deleted scenes than any other character in the movie.
- After pushing Selina through the window he turns to realize Chip has witnessed the crime and the two agree what the best cover story would be. This scene is depicted in the comic adaptation.
- When Bruce Wayne approaches the board room he notices the shattered window. Shreck claims that a clown threw a brick through the window but Bruce points out there is no glass on the ground.
- A capeless version of Shreck's Hall of Records wardrobe ensemble was shown in a scene where Shreck calls Cobblepot from his board room. A photo from this scene was used on a Topps trading card.
- At the costume ball Shreck makes an announcement at a microphone about how the city will quickly bounce back, pointing out the how the department store interior was refurbished in a matter of days. A photo from this scene was used on a trading card.
- Shreck and Catwoman's death was reshot after poor test screenings, the studio wanted it to be clear that Selina had survived before the credits rolled. Originally the explosion at Penguin's generator caused power outages across the city, a scene between Michael Murphy and Pat Hingle confirming the the city had forgiven Batman was shot. The film ended with Batsignal flickering on and off, a callback to Walken's opening lines at the start of the movie.
- Despite being a scheming and selfish man, Shreck showed a few vague signs of virtue in the film. Near the climax after the Penguin tried to take and kill Chip, Shreck convinced Penguin to take him instead; but it previously established that all he really cares for is his corporate legacy. While locked in a cage in the Penguin’s lair and learning of Penguin’s plot to kidnap and kill all of the first-born sons of Gotham, Shreck showed signs of disgust and discomfort (thus showing that he had standards, and that there were crimes he didn’t like and lines he didn’t want to cross).
- At the finale of the film, Batman is still determined to put Shreck behind bars, but there is no physical evidence to prove that he attempted to kill Selina. Throughout the film Bruce had been investigating Shreck's aiding and abetting of Penguin and the Red Triangle Gang to attack Gotham so that Penguin would become Mayor, green-lighting his proposed power plant to drain Gotham of its energy. Shreck did sponsor Cobblepot, unknowingly providing him the financing to construct the Penguin Army rockets and access to the Hall of Records to murder children. However, Batman's primary motive to prevent his death was to stop Selina from going down a path he once chose, imploring her to come and live with him in Wayne Manor. It could also be interpreted as example of Batman's hypocrisy, showing more empathy to a member of Gotham's high society rather than how street thugs are treated. The sudden murder of a citizen of Shreck's stature would be investigated throughly.
- Like Carl Grissom, Shreck was not adapted from on any particular character from the comic books, but shared many similarities with him, such as playing a role in the rise of the film's primary villain and then becoming the villain's target. Tim Burton was also legitimately terrified of both Jack Palance and Walken, unlike the rest of the cast.
- Warner Brothers initially insisted that Shreck appear in Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in the fall of 1992 to synergize with the home video release of the film. It decided to create a new character instead, despite numerous other references to the film in the show. He became Roland Daggett, who took a part in making actor Matt Hagen a Clayface, but more for Ferris Boyle, creator of Mr. Freeze. Both of them were "humanitarians" in public, but were really greedy, ruthless, and coldhearted, and in both cases their "creations" seeking vengeance for their "deaths". The only notable difference was that Shreck's plan was to seize power in Gotham while using the Penguin as a figurehead, while the Penguin was already born deformed and had already created his own agenda for Gotham's firstborn sons and sought to use Shreck for it, something Shreck was unaware of, as the Penguin had claimed that he only wanted to return to society and discover his true origins. Shreck did, however, play a pivotal role in Selina Kyle's descent into insanity and transformation into Catwoman, something that came back to haunt him and resulted in his demise. While the parallels between the characters are evident, the writers disclaimed this as a myth originating from early Wikipedia and that at the time they hated Batman Returns.
- Shreck may also be a reference to Max Zorin, Bond villain played by Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill. Like Shreck, Zorin sought to make colossal wealth through a monopoly, in that case the destruction of Silicon Valley, which gave his electronics firm a monopoly on the world market for a long time. Also, like Shreck, Zorin resorted to defenestration after someone refused to go along with his plans; an investor was thrown out of a blimp after he refused to endorse Zorin's plans to destroy Silicon Valley (unlike Selina, who considered it unethical, the investor said the investment amount was too expensive). Much like for this role, David Bowie was also considered for the role of Max Zorin.
- In Shreck's office, there are several framed photographs of Shreck with numerous celebrities, one of whom is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would later go on to play Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin and make a cameo in 2003's Welcome to the Jungle, which also featured Christopher Walken. It is currently unknown if Schwarzenegger's appearance as Freeze retconned his character as an acquaintance/friend of Shreck's prior to his accident, given that Fries is depicted as having once been an Olympic decathlete and celebrity, who Shreck may have met before the events of Batman Returns.
- Some historians and pop-culture theologians have drawn parallels from Shreck's goals to the premise of the 1990 The Simpsons Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish, in which Mr. Burns runs for Governor to keep his nuclear power plant from closing. In 1998 Walken was set to play Brainiac in Tim Burton's Superman, who's master plan to black out the sun is speculated to have drawn inspiration directly from Mr. Burns' Sun Blocker device. Both screenplays were written by Wesley Strick.