Archive for william dieterle

WAXWORKS (1924) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Germany, horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , on November 13, 2013 by goregirl

waxworks banner

Waxworks will round out my hattrick of German expressionistic silent horror films. My next review will be for an American made silent horror film. Waxworks is unique for being an early anthology. The film is comprised of three short films based on figures featured in a waxworks exhibit at a carnival. We get a glimpse of a character in a black hat when we first enter the waxworks exhibit. This character was originally the subject of a fourth story that Paul Leni eliminated. The film actually seemed in need of a fourth segment; it had the feeling of an unfinished work to me. Two of the segments are at the half hourish mark and the final piece is less than ten minutes! The final story was so ridiculously short it felt awkward. It is reassuring to know that even early anthologies had a weak link. I am not saying the perfect anthology doesn’t exist, I just have never seen it. Most anthologies have a film that just doesn’t cut it; or at least one you are less fond of than the others. The weak link for me was the first story based on Haroun-Al-Raschid; Caliph of Bagdad starring Emil Jannings as the Caliph. The tale is an adventure comedy type thing that just did not tickle me much; although I did chuckle a few times. It was unnecessarily long and the narrative began to feel redundant. The middle segment based on Ivan the Terrible “Czar of all the Russias” starred Conrad Veidt. The Czar’s story was my favourite by far. I do have a bit of a crush on Conrad Veidt and I won’t lie to you, it gained points for it. The man is extremely talented. The final spot featuring Spring-heeled Jack aka Jack the Ripper was interesting and trippy but as mentioned was far too short and the ending was very blunt. I liked the idea of the characters in the wraparound also having roles in the three main stories. A writer, his employer and the employer’s daughter, all three remain nameless throughout are featured in each story. In the wraparound a writer answers a want ad; “Wanted – An imaginative writer for publicity work in a waxworks exhibition.” The young writer is hired immediately and is watched over by the proprietors lovely daughter. The writer concocts three tales each of which feature a role for himself and his employers attractive offspring. Every single expressionistic German silent horror film I have watched the visuals are spectacular, the sets are gorgeous and the costumes are out of this world;Waxworks is certainly no exception. I will get into more detail for each story but I thought wax figures were a fun way to connect the three segments and as regular readers of this blog well know; I really do love my carnivals and circuses. Like Mr. Veidt, they do elevate a film in my mind. I was mad in love with the look of the first section despite not being mad about its story. What I enjoyed about the film I enjoyed excessively and it overcame the films lesser qualities. Waxworks as a whole package was definitely flawed but nonetheless very entertaining.

ww38

Below is a photo gallery and details about each story in Waxworks trilogy. But before you read on, check out this awesome live music performance from Mike Patton, Scott Amendola, William Winant and Matthias Bossi from May 17, 2013. You can play it and than read my review and it will be like a live music performance of my review! Mike Patton’s work has been featured on this blog several times this year. Thanks to my friend David at My Kind of Story who introduced me to both Patton’s solo and collaborative work with Fantômas. I have posted several pieces of music from Fantômas; The Director’s Cut and a solo piece from Mike Patton’s soundtrack for Crank: High Voltage.

ww7

Haroun-Al-Raschid “Caliph of Bagdad” played by Emil Jannings.

ww5

Ivan the Terrible “Czar of all the Russias” played by Conrad Veidt.

ww6

Spring-Heeled Jack aka Jack the Ripper played by Werner Krauss.

ww8

The writer and his employer’s daughter; the characters are nameless but play a role in each segment. The writer has been hired to write “startling” tales about the above wax figures; Haroun-Al-Raschid, Ivan the Terrible and Jack the Ripper.

**********

SEGMENT ONE – Haroun-Al-Raschid “Caliph of Bagdad”

The writer concocts a story for the Caliph whose wax figure likeness is missing an arm…

ww9

The Caliph blames smoke coming from the home of the local baker for his chess loss and orders his head on a platter.

ww10

The Baker (who is played by the nameless writer) feels obligated to prove to his beautiful wife that he is a man worthy of her attentions.

ww15

A very cool M. C. Escher-esque set. If you look carefully you can see the Baker using the stairs.

ww16

The Baker’s wife with Haroun-Al-Raschid. “My pond-lily, have you a hiding place for a fat man?”

ww18

A comedic adventure with a few chuckles and some really astounding visuals. Will the baker’s head be spared? Will the wife leave the baker for the Caliph? Will she find a hiding spot for a fat man? How did the Caliph lose his arm? All questions will be answered!

**********

SEGMENT TWO – Ivan the Terrible “Czar of all Russias”

ww20

Ivan the Terrible plays with his favourite toy; an hour-glass. Ivan is a nasty son of a bitch who rules with a bloodied iron fist and among his tortures enjoys poisoning folks. To his great amusement he uses the hour-glass to mark his dying victims last moments.

ww24

A nobleman arrives at the Kremlin to remind the Czar of his promise to attend his daughter’s wedding.

ww26

ww27

The happy couple and their guests.

ww28

Ivan the Terrible arrives.

ww31

He steals away the frightened bride.

ww33

It does not end the way Ivan the Terrible would like. A rewarding finale, beautiful imagery, a compelling tale and a great performance from Conrad Veidt made this segment bar none my favourite.

**********

SEGMENT THREE – Spring-Heeled Jack aka Jack the Ripper

ww36

Spring-Heeled Jack appears everywhere! Multiple versions of himself…stalking…slashing.

ww35

In pursuit of our writer and his lady-love.

ww37

Will they escape? This segment was a psychedelic trip of superb imagery but irritatingly short. I would have liked to have seen more!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Leo Birinsky & Paul Leni

Starring: Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, William Dieterle, Olga Belajeff, John Gottowt

Fun with GIFs: WAXWORKS (1924)

Posted in Fun with GIFs, Germany, horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2013 by goregirl

Gifs for two carnival scenes from Leo Birinsky and Paul Leni’s 1924 film Waxworks (1924). You KNOW I am a sucker for a carnival! Tomorrow…my review for Waxworks!

output_ubvUvV

output_d7rz8k

FAUST – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Germany, horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2009 by goregirl

Nosferatu was one of my favourite rentals this year, so it was just a matter of time before I checked out F.W. Murnau’s ‘Faust’. I suppose most people are familiar with this story. I personally have never read Goethe’s ‘Faust’ and this is actually my first viewing of a film version. There are a few spoilers in this review, but it shouldn’t really compromise your enjoyment of the film. Proceed at your own risk.

God and the Devil make a wager on Faust’s soul. The Devil will rule over all of humanity if he manages to corrupt Faust. During a terrible plague that has swept the town, in which many people have died or are suffering. Faust, frustrated, unable to help, burns several books as well as his copy of the bible. While the book burns in the fire he catches some writing intended to invoke the devil. In his desperation he calls the dark lord. The devil comes in the form of Mephisto, a pot-bellied middle-aged man. Faust naturally is uneasy about making a pact with the devil. But he also wants to help the people dying on the streets. He knows that even one day could make a difference. Mephisto offers him the 24-hour trial “pact” and Faust agrees to the terms. His attempt to help a local woman is thwarted, as he cannot bring himself to touch her due to the crucifix she holds in her hand. The town people call him out as being in league with the devil. The devil then offers him youth. As he is about to get lucky with the most beautiful woman in Italy, Mephisto informs him that his day trial has run out. Faust folds like a cheap suit and makes a permanent pact with the devil.

It may appear that I have told you the entire story, but this is actually somewhat early in the film. Most of ‘Faust’ takes place after he has made his pact with Satan. I had problems with some of the story, but ‘Faust’ is really more about human nature than anything else. Faust’s personal journey is a fascinating one. He is an older man with white hair and a long white beard. He is an alchemist living amongst piles of stacked books in a cramped and cluttered apartment. He is a man of science but is also a good Christian. After calling on Satan, it’s amazing how easily Faust is tempted. It is not long before he is practically barking orders at Mephisto. But once you have it all, then what? This is when he meets the beautiful Gretchen. A woman of simple means, who he instantly falls in love with. Faust with his bad Mephisto mojo manages to corrupt her world from which she never recovers. The love conquers all message I was left with at the end was not very gratifying. I didn’t think there should be any positive adjudication for Faust, and frankly, the devil should have won that bet and ruled over all humanity.

Equally intriguing is Mephisto. He is rather vaudevillian in appearance and character. He could have made himself look like anyone but he chose to take the form of a middle-aged Buddha-bellied man with one wicked widows peak. He is constantly undermining Faust and is most pleased with himself when things turn out badly. He is the embodiment of the perfect “little devil”. The expression on Mephisto’s face when he triumphantly raises the hourglass to show Faust his time is up is priceless. He’s like a kid at Christmas! His expression turns to sly, and that naughty smirk he sports, lights up his face as he pulls the curtains closed on the lovers bed. Emil Jannings plays the character with such evil flair that Satan himself would be proud!

‘Faust’ is filled with unique and amazing images. Mephisto wrapping his massive black wings around an entire town, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, Gretchen’s snowstorm walk, and Mephisto and Faust flying over stunning scenery, are just a few examples. Visually the film is without flaws. Filmed in beautiful black and white, with the perfect amount of shadows in all the right places. Even in the films darker scenes, there wasn’t a single moment I had difficulty seeing. The Mood Murnau captures is beyond impressive. People burned at the stake, angry lynch mobs, pestilence and death; create an appropriately bleak backdrop to the story. There is a hearty helping of expressionism throughout that contributes not only to the mood, but also to the striking beauty of the film. The Score by Timothy Brock and performed by The Olympia Chamber Orchestra for the Kino Dvd release of ‘Faust’ is superb. It is the ultimate compliment to this silent era extravaganza.

Although there were aspects of the story I thought were less than perfect, it seemed pretty minor in this astounding achievement! Faust is a breath taking, visual odyssey that is an absolute pleasure to behold. Horror fans and film buffs in general should find much to enjoy. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5

Directed By: F.W. Murnau

Starring: Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard, William Dieterle, Yvette Guilbert, Eric Barclay, Hanna Ralph, Werner Fuetterer