F.W. Murnau – Der Gang in die Nacht aka Walking into the Night (1921)

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In the earliest surviving film by Murnau, a famed doctor strays from his wife and is seduced by a dancing girl. The dancer and her new conquest move to live in a village where their love is tested by the appearance of a mysterious blind painter (Veidt in a Caligari-esque reprise). Working from Carl Mayer’s poetic adaptation of the original Danish script The Conqueror, Murnau explores the spirituality of his main characters. Temptation, desire and isolation among lovers continued to be favorite subjects for Murnau, culminating in his 1927 masterpiece, Sunrise. Continue reading

Robert Wiene – I.N.R.I. AKA Crown of Thorns (1923)

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By the director of Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, this is the Passion embedded in a contemporary story. An anarchist jailed for an attempted assassination is told the Passion story by the prison chaplain, who seeks to convince him that it is better to sacrifice ones own life than take the life of ones enemy. The framing story, taken from a novel, is believed to have been intended to give the Biblical story an anti-Bolshevist propaganda function. In any case, it was added without the knowledge of the actors in the Passion story, who included some of the major stars of the period Asta Nielsen as Mary Magdalene, Henny Porten as Mary, Grigori Chmara as Jesus, and Werner Krauss as Pontius Pilate -bampfa.berkeley.edu Continue reading

Robert Wiene – Panik in Chicago (1931)

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Beyond Caligari: The Films of Robert Wiene (Uli Jung, Walter Schatzberg), pp 166 ff.
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Panik in Chicago was an enormous success in all major cities in Germany, as reported in the press. “The D.L.S. branches in Düsseldorf and Frankfurt a.M. had such record bookings for the film Panik in Chicago during the following two weeks that several new copies had to be distributed in these districts because the available subsidiary copies could not fulfill the demand for screenings. Other reports refer to the unusual popular acclaim the film enjoyed in Leipzig, Halle, Munich, and Stuttgart. Continue reading

Ernst Lubitsch – Madame DuBarry aka Passion (1919)

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In 1919, before Ernst Lubitsch was known for his famous “touch,” the master director made something like nine films–a perfect opportunity for an artist to really practice his craft. Even he had to start somewhere.

Madame du Barry was retitled Passion to avoid the anti-German sentiment after World War I. Even though it was a French title and a French story, in Europe the movie was connected to the German director Ernst Lubitsch. Lubitsch’s name appeared nowhere in the American posters or movie titles so the movie wouldn’t bomb in America.

The great German actress Pola Negri plays the title character, a poor seamstress who becomes the courtesan of King Louis XV (Emil Jannings), and forces him to promote her secret lover to lieutenant in the royal guard so that he will be close to her. The story ends in tragedy for the lovers, but also a Bastille Day triumph. Continue reading

Carl Boese & Paul Wegener – Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam aka The Golem: How He Came Into the World [+Extras] (1920)

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Classic Horror Review :

Emanating from Jewish folklore, the legend of the “golem” has transfixed audiences for centuries. Although when used pejoratively the word “golem” describes a moronic person easily manipulated, the word often refers to any mythical creature animated from inanimate materials such as clay, sand, or stone.

One of the most popular “golems” appears in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Spelled “Gollum,” Tolkien’s character shares similarities with creatures that haunted Jewish legends, particularly the golem featured in director Paul Wegener’s 1920 silent classic, The Golem. Both suffer from split personalities and possess hybrid traits: Gollum is part human, part frog, fish, etc.; many Jewish golems, including Wegener’s, are monsters made of inanimate objects that carry human traits. Both have been damned or punished, and in both instances, the creatures start well intentioned but transform into evil beings, usually due to gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, or pride. Thus, they are morally “gray,” and like Wegener’s monster, Tolkien’s has often been depicted as gray in color to symbolize this amorality, most notably in Peter Jackson’s recent films. Continue reading

Joe May – Das Indische Grabmal: Die Sendung des Yoghi AKA Mysteries of India, Part I: Truth (1921)

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A jealous & vindictive Rajah sends a powerful Yogi to entice a famous English architect into constructing a marvelous mausoleum in which to inter the prince’s faithless wife.

THE Indian TOMB: THE MISSION OF THE YOGI is a perfect example of the grand German cinema epics created during the silent era. Berlin film mogul Joe May turned the full resources of his modern Maytown studio over to the production, using 300 workmen to create the lavish sets necessary to tell such an exotic tale. Continue reading