Hailed as ‘an engrossing hybrid of romantic decadence and spiritual austerity’, this 1924 German silent is considered an important early cinematic work as it contains Dreyer’s first clear use of Expressionism to reveal emotion, and this is much aided by the luminous photography of Karl Freund and Rudolph Maté, and the sumptuous production design of architect Hugo Häring.
Based on Herman Bang’s 1902 novel Mikaël, and scripted by Thea von Harbou (best known for Metropolis and Woman in the Moon), the bittersweet love story centres on an elderly artist, Claude Zoret, who is driven to despair by his relationship with his young protégé, Michael.
Conceived as a screen version of Kammerspiel (an intimate ‘chamber’ piece for theatre), it also had a profound influence on several directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, who drew on the film’s motif’s for his script for 1925’s The Blackguard. It is also a landmark in gay cinema with regards to its frank portrayal of homosexual relations and desire – with the character of Zoret supposedly based on the real life painter Auguste Rodin.
The remarkable cast includes Benjamin Christensen (best known for being the director of the 1922 docu-drama Häxan) as ‘decadent’ artist Zoret; Walter Slezak (who would forge a career playing heavies and villains, including the Clock King in TV’s Batman) as his young protege, Michael; and Nora Gregor (from Jean Renoir’s La Règle du Jeu) as the bankrupt Countess who swindles and seduces the Master and his muse.
And, in his only ever appearance as an actor, the film’s cinematographer, Karl Freund plays a sycophantic art dealer who saves the tobacco ashes dropped by a famous painter. Best known for photographing Lang’s Metropolis, Freund later emigrated to the US, where he directed 10 films, including the Universal horror classics, The Mummy and Mad Love, before helming TV’s I Love Lucy.
Available to order from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2AEcJ3r
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation from a new 2K restoration
• Score by Pierre Oser (piano, clarinet, cello) presented in uncompressed LPCM stereo
• Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
• Full-length audio commentary by Dreyer scholar, Casper Tybjerg
• Exclusive video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns
• Illustrated audio interview with Dreyer from 1965
• A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp; a reprint of Tom Milne’s The World Inside Me from 1971; Jean Renoir’s 1968 tribute, Dreyer’s Sin; a translation of the original 1924 Danish programme; a reprint of Nick Wrigley’s essay from the film’s 80th anniversary DVD release; and a selection of archival imagery
M (1931) | Fritz Lang’s influential masterpiece remains the greatest psychological thriller of all time
For many cinephiles, the name Fritz Lang is synonymous with the futuristic 1927 silent classic Metropolis. For the director himself, however, his finest work can be seen in the 1931 German thriller, M (Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder). Written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou (who also wrote Metropolis, the superb Dr Mabuse series, and the sci-fi epic Woman in the Moon), M was a landmark in cinema. Not only was it Lang’s first sound picture (he started back in 1919), it was the sophisticated way he used the camera, the lighting, and the editing that proved film was more than just a new entertainment medium – it was an art form.
A spate of child killings has the citizens of Berlin terrified. Peter Lorre (long before he became a parody of himself in Roger Corman’s Vincent Price-led Poe vehicles) gives a powerhouse performance as the murderous Hans Beckert, who is chased by the authorities and a vigilante mob before the city’s criminals capture him and put on trial in their own court of law.
Whilst not the first film to deal with the hunt for a serial killer (Alfred Hitchcock did that in 1927’s The Lodger), Lang’s film is so multi-layered, the result is more than just a thriller. Part horror (Lorre’s Beckert whistling ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King‘ whilst luring an innocent into his web still chills); part procedural crime drama (the police use the new technique of fingerprinting in their investigation); part social drama (the city’s tenement dwellers turn vigilante mob); and part Brechtian (the guild of beggars judge one of their own), M remains one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time and, 80-plus years on, is still a refreshing sight to behold today.
The original German version of Lang’s M was released in 2010 in the UK as part of Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema Series in a special dual format release. The bounty of special features are superb, and includes the original 1932 British release, featuring alternate takes and Lorre’s first performance in English. Fritz Lang + Peter Lorre + A masterclass in the art of film = A must-have.
From tomorrow, 5 September 2014, Fritz Lang’s M also gets a limited run at the BFIn Southbank in London as part of the Peter Lorre season.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIj3Bk0bhL8%5D
Woman in the Moon (1929) | Fritz Lang’s final silent epic is a cautionary tale and cinema’s first real space exploration film
‘Never’ does not exist for the human mind… only ‘Not yet’
In the hope of plundering the moon’s vast, untapped gold reserves, a cartel of industrialists covertly finance a manned space mission headed up by a visionary scientist (Klaus Pohl). Joining him is student astronomer Friede (Gerda Maurus) and two young men courting her (Willy Fritsch and Gustav von Wangenheim), an unscrupulous American (Fritz Rasp) and a young stowaway (Gustl Stark-Gstenttenbauer). But when the rocket finally reaches the far side of the Moon, the team find themselves stranded in a lunar labyrinth, where emotions run scattershot, and the new goal becomes survival.
THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS…
Two years after lensing his science-fiction masterpiece, Metropolis, Fritz Lang returned to the genre for his final silent epic Woman in the Moon, based on his wife Thea von Harbou’s 1928 novel Die Frau Im Mond.
Lang’s film adaptation, which links the opening of the Moon as a territory with a gold rush, was as accurate as the technology of the day would allow, and is considered the first serious space exploration film. It’s also here that the countdown was invented – strictly for dramatic effect. The pioneering director takes great care to make the details of his story as real and as state of the art as possible. And he does so with documentary precision, even anticipating how a lunar rocket would have to be moved to its launch pad. While some of its scientific notions are flawed (von Harbou gives the moon atmosphere for one), the film has great technical skill and inventive direction. The script however is another matter. Boasting a heady fusion of espionage tale, serial melodrama, and comic-book sci-fi, it should be great fun, but its actually a bit leaden, overly sentimental and confusing in parts (and some of the scenes do go on a bit).
While the sci-fi’s serious themes (like man’s hubris) don’t have the same dazzling and disturbing impact as the social and political concerns underlying Metropolis, Lang’s film spookily foretold Germany’s wartime push into rocket-science and was inventive enough to force the Nazi’s to withdraw the film from distribution and destroy the film’s spaceship model in order to keep their development of the V1 and V2 rockets a secret. Assisting with the special effects is acclaimed abstract artist, Oskar Fischinger, who created one of the sequences in Disney’s Fantasia (1939), while the film’s scientific advisor was German physicist Hermann Oberth, who is regarded as the founding father of rocket science. Another advisor Willy Ley later wrote Conquest of Space, which was filmed in 1955.
THE DUAL FORMAT RELEASE
Restored to its near-original length, Frau im Mond is released (from 25 August 2014) in a dual format special edition in the UK as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series.
• 1080p transfer on the Blu-ray of the 2000 FW Murnau-Stiftung restoration
• Original German inter-titles with newly translated optional English subtitles
• The First Scientific Science-Fiction Film German documentary about Frau im Mond (15min)
• Booklet featuring an edited analysis of the film by Michael E Grost, and on Fritz Lang’s body of work