Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Haunted Castle Schloß Vogeloed 1921

Directed by F.W. Murnau

Produced by Erich Pommer

Screenplay by Carl Mayer

From the book by Rudolf Stratz

Photographed by László Schäffer and Fritz Arno Wagner

Starring Arnold Korff, Lulu Kyser-Korff, Lothar Mehnert, Paul Bildt, Olga Tschechowa, Paul Hartmann, Hermann Vallentin, Julius Falkenstein, Georg Zawatzky, Robert Leffler, Victor Bluetner, Walter Kurt Kuhle and Loni Nest

Released 7th April 1921 (Germany)

Prior to plumbing the depths of revulsion and desperation with such movies as Faust and The Last Laugh, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau tried out the waters with this dark play of a storm-bound manor house and the grisly secret that lingers inside. A hunting party is disturbed by the arrival of a infamous Count (Lothar Mehnert), who's thought to have killed his brother. The unwanted invitee launches a complicated plan to revive the spectres of past times and bring to light the gloomy enigma that dwells at the middle of his brother’s demise.

The fateful ambiance and psychological complexity urged Murnau to dig deeper into the horror genre, which he did the next year, with the godly vampire story Nosferatu made in 1922.

German Silent Films

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Golem 1920

The Golem (1920)

Director: Paul Wegener and Carl Boese

Actors: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinrück, Lyda Salmonova, Ernst Deutsch, Hans Stürm, Max Kronert, Otto Gebühr, Dore Paetzold, Lothar Müthel, Greta Schröder, Loni Nest, Carl Ebert and Fritz Feld.

Writers: Henrik Galeen, Gustav Meyrink and Paul Wegener

Release date: 29th October 1920 (Germany)

Widely accepted as the beginning of the Frankenstein myth, the ancient Israelite fable of the Golem allowed thespian/director Paul Wegener with the content for among the most adventurous movies of the German silent film.

Hurting under the oppressive reign of Rudolf II in 16th-century Prague, a Talmudic rabbi (Albert Seinrück) produces a colossus warrior (Paul Wegener) to protect the safety of his folks. Sculpted of mud and livened by the mystical enigmas of the Kabbalah, the Golem is a apparently undestroyable steamroller, doing acts of eminent gallantry, yet evenly able of awful fury. As the rabbi's helper (Ernst Deutsch) takes hold of the Golem and endeavours to utilize him for selfish gain, the ponderous demon runs rampant, kidnapping the rabbi's girl (Lyda Salmonova) and setting fire to the ghetto.

With its noteworthy conception episode (a blazing fuse of religious belief, black magic and exceptional effects) and the grand-scale demolition of its climax, The Golem was among the largest accomplishments of the fabled UFA Studios, and continues an undeniable turning point in the development of the horror movie.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Love of Jeanne Ney 1927

The Love of Jeanne Ney (Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney) (1927)

Director: G.W. Pabst

Actors: Édith Jéhanne, Uno Henning, Fritz Rasp, Brigitte Helm, Adolf E. Licho, Eugen Jensen, Hans Jaray, Sig Arno (as Siegfried Arno), Hertha von Walther, Vladimir Sokoloff, Jack Trevor, Mammey Terja-Basa, Josefine Dora, Heinrich Gotho, Margarete Kupfer (as Küpfer), Robert Scholz and Milly Mathis

Writers: Ilja Ehrenburg (novel), Rudolf Leonhardt and Ladislaus Vajda

Release date: 6th December 1927 (Germany)

The Love of Jeanne Ney (Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney) chronicles the times of a woman who is looking for love and happiness around the terrible times of Europe following the First World War. The young woman from France witnesses her own father being murdered by Jeanne's lover, who is a Bolshevik.

Her lover, Andreas, then instructs Jeanne to move to Paris where her family live. He later hopes to be with her. In the meantime, another man Khalibiev, who eventually finds her and murders Jeanne’s uncle and asks for her cousin’s hand in marriage, chases Jeanne to France.

In a tangled web, when Andreas finally reunites with Jeanne in Paris, he is accused of her uncle’s murder. His fate is with the guillotine.

All Jeanne can do is convince Khalibiev to go to the police and give the vital information that Andreas is not the murderer. Khalibiev saw the couple the night of the murder miles from the scene.

Jeanne now discovers the truth and that Khalibiev did in fact murder her uncle.

Pabst directed the film in an American style for the majority of time. This was to calm the producers of the film studio UFA, who now had a big American stake in their company. This was to continue from the late 1920's onwards and German cinema suffered as a result I feel.

However, Pabst still delivers a great film and further cements his place as one of the most revered German directors of his era.

Here is a clip from The Love of Jeanne Ney (Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney) (1927).

Monday, 24 November 2008

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens 1922

Nosferatu (1922)

Director: F.W. Murnau

Actors: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder, Alexander Granach, Georg H. Schnell, Ruth Landshoff, John Gottowt, Gustav Botz, Max Nemetz, Wolfgang Heinz, Albert Venohr, Eric Van Viele, Karl Etlinger, Guido Herzfeld, Fanny Schreck, Hardy von Francois, Heinrich Witte and Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Writers: Henrik Galeen, Bram Stoker (not credited)

Release date: 4th March 1922 (Germany)

A truly wondrous film of German expressionist cinema, Nosferatu still haunts and scares modern film goers with the unwavering power of its imagery. Using a horde of occult atmospherics out of decaying set pieces and harmless real-world locations, the film director, the incomparable F.W. Murnau, captures on film a waking nightmare, which would alter film history forever.

Without doubt, one of the most famous silent films ever made. Nosferatu was the first German silent film I ever watched and still to this day I find awe-inspiring and is my favourite German Silent Film. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens or Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror in English, is set in 1837. Based on Bram Stokers Dracula, the story centres on Hutter and his wife Ellen. The story begins when Hutter is sent by his employer, Knock, to a mysterious castle. He is sent to finalise a deal with Count Orlok, who wishes to buy a house in Hutter’s village. Hutter travels across continents and meets with Count Orlok in a distant land to sign a real estate contract. This will eventually lead the Count back to Hutter town where he reveals his true intentions towards Ellen, Hutter’s wife. Here begins Hutter’s troubles...

Watch Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens 1922 below...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Deerslayer and Chingachgook 1920

The Deerslayer and Chingachgook (1920)

Director: Arthur Wellin

Actors: Emil Mamelok, Herta Heden, Bela Lugosi, Gottfried Kraus, Edward Eyseneck and Margot Sokolowska

Writers: James Fenimore Cooper (novel) and Robert Heymann

Release date: 14 September 1920 (Germany)

Deerslayer, a woodsman and his friend, Chingachgook, try valiantly at keeping peace between the native Indian tribes and settlers. The woodsman and his friends get caught up in the fighting between guns and arrows. Chingachgook's love is taken hostage by a brave, so he and Deerslayer embark on a dangerous rescue to bring his love back to the tribe.

Very early Bela Lugosi movie. He later went on to become Dracula in 1931.

Way too many intertitles in this film. Although the length is just under 1 hour, a good half of that are intertitles. This really does take you out of the film.

The film buff will probably be only interested in this to see Bela Lugosi.

Highlights are the action sequences between the Indians and the settlers.

Out of the many German silent films I have seen, sadly this is one of the poorest. In fact, I've only seen it the one time and found it boring. I would rate this film 3 out of 10.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Eyes of the Mummy 1918

The Eyes of the Mummy (1918)

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Actors: Emil Jannings, Pola Negri, Max Laurence, Harry Liedkte and Margarete Kupfer

Writers: Hanns Kraly and Emil Rameau

Release date: 3rd October 1918 (Germany)

An artist who has gone to Egypt discovers that a prince intends to discover the tomb of Queen Ma. Albert Wendland, the painter, is fascinated when he discovers a legend that any person who enters the crypt of Queen Ma, tragedy would ensue. Soon, Albert's intrigue takes hold and searches for the tomb of Queen Ma. Venturing into the tomb, he instead finds a beautiful woman. Her name is Mara, and she is held prisoner by Radu. Soon after, Albert rescues Mara. He falls in love and takes her back to his European home and is married. Radu her captor seeks revenge on Mara. From this, the curse of the mummy is with her forever.

The movie stars celebrated German silent actor Emil Jannings, who went on to the groundbreaking The Last Laugh. He also became the highest paid actor in Germany throughout the 1920's.

German Silent Films

After World War 1, the German silent film industry flourished, which was aided by rampant inflation throughout the 1920’s.

After the horrors of the war, the German silent film industry tended to be aimed at horror and crime films. This culminated in the German silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, which was made in 1919. This film is credited as the beginning of expressionism within German film. There was no location shooting, but relied on sets that were painted to represent the mental state of a madman.

Other landmark films from this period in German silent film are Nosferatu 1922 and The Golem 1920.

Films from this period concentrated on imagery and symbolism to tell the narrative. The expressionist movement within German silent cinema ended during the mid 1920’s.