A pianist’s hands are crushed in an accident but worry not, the fresh corpse of a murderer is on hand to donate brand new ones. I mean, it’s not like stitching on a murderer’s hands will make someone commit murder, right? Right?
Conrad Veidt slithers across the American silent screen one last time in this drama of jealousy, murder and illusionists. Veidt fans will find much to love (our beloved monster has never looked better) but the overall film is disappointing as it is saddled with a simplistic script and a so-so supporting cast.
So, you want a memorable wedding. That’s natural. Well, with these quick and easy tips from the silent classic Waxworks, you are going to have a wedding that no one will ever forget. (No matter how much therapy they attend.)
No one could do the Stare of Doom™ better than Conrad Veidt. I mean, look at him! Are those death rays I see emanating from his ocular cavities?
This is not what you want to see when you look out the window. Lon Chaney was the king of terrifying gazes. And, egad, it’s even worse when he smiles!
I have said if before and I will say it again: Chaney is justly praised for his makeup skills but it is his talent as an actor that really makes him frightening. He could be just as scary (or scarier) with no makeup at all.
(This GIF is from The Penalty, one of his best films. He plays a legless criminal mastermind determined to take over San Francisco. Straw hats are involved somehow. Just go with it. You can read my review here.)
The other fellow prone to sneaking in through windows was Conrad Veidt, called King of the Gooseflesh in Germany. Reportedly, his wife had an awful time hiring servants as they refused to work in a house owned by such a bloodthirsty monster. The great irony was that Veidt, for all his on-screen crimes, was supposed to be an absolute love in person.
(This GIF is, of course, from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. You can read my review/technical breakdown here.)
Availability: Both films are available on DVD and Blu-ray disc. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari just got an utterly gorgeous restoration and re-release. Seriously, the picture is so clear you can count the threads of Cesare’s sweater. Get it for yourself or the film buff who has everything. It also comes on DVD, if you have not made the high-def jump yet. The Penalty‘s new restoration only came out on Blu-ray but the older DVD edition is still pretty nice. (I should note, though, that the DVD does feature a rather controversial modern score. The Blu-ray switched it out for a more traditional orchestral arrangement.)
So, you’re trying to woo and win the girl of your dreams. What to do? What to do? Well, have you tried painting yourself gold and wearing a frosted glass light fixture as a hat? You haven’t? Well, don’t come whining to me then.
Conrad Veidt is the heart and soul of The Indian Tomb, an epic that is as nutty as it is intriguing. Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou wrote the thing, Joe May directs. Veidt plays a maharajah (!) with an unfaithful wife and a tiger pit, which is a dangerous combination for all concerned. At this point in the story, Veidt is looking for love and feels that painting himself gold is the best option.
And for some of us, it is. (Back! Back, I say! He’s mine!)
Availability: The Indian Tomb was released on DVD by Image. The disc is now out of print but is available used.
Joe May catches a lot of flak for this one. A lot of Fritz Lang fans have 20/20 hindsight and curse May for taking Lang off directing duties for this picture. First of all, I actually like May as a director. He’s very underrated, in my opinion. Second, Lang had been directing since 1919, less than two years of experience, and this film had quite a big budget. I can’t really blame May. After all, it was his money.
In any case, what other movie lets you ogle Conrad Veidt painted gold?
This film has the distinction of never quite succeeding. It was filmed three times, the last time by Lang himself, but the story never really seemed to catch on with audiences. Lang’s 1959 remake is mostly remembered today for Debra Paget dancing in extremely revealing costumes.
I am pretty excited about this new restoration, let me tell you. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an astonishing film, a revered classic that more than lives up to its reputation. Yet, let’s be honest, the home media releases for this film have not been exactly pristine.
Available on DVD & Blu-ray.
Battered prints, marred by dust, streaks and lines have been the rule for bargain and more expensive releases. Even the best prints released have been a bit shabby and they have long been the only available ways to see this movie. I don’t mean to be a complainer but I have always felt that Caligari deserved better.
Fortunately, I was not the only one wishing for a restored film.
Our friends in Europe have been hard at work restoring an original camera negative (with 35mm prints filling in the gaps) of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and it is finally getting a U.S. release on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber. (The restoration is also available on DVD but I will be focusing on the HD version in this review.)
I dare say that most film buffs have seen this film but never before in this quality.
Oh, and I am reviewing the new disc release, not the film itself. For my review of the film’s artistic merit (spoiler: I like it) please check out my movie review here.
Just take a gander at this trailer!
The introduction states that the first reel of the camera negative was missing and the lost material was restored using release prints. As no German distribution prints exist, the tinting was based on Latin American prints, believed to be the earliest surviving material. Here is what the first reel looks like:
Pretty darn good.
And here is the restored camera negative:
The release comes with your choice of two scores. There is the orchestral version performed by the Studio For Film Music at the University of Music, Freiburg. You can hear a taste in the preview clip. I loved the score. Caligari scores too often head in a discordant direction but this one manages to have a smart blend of melody and dissonance.
The other score is a trippy, almost perky, electronic affair from Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky. I tend to like non-traditional scores but I definitely prefer the main score in this release. However, I do appreciate being given a choice.
The biggest extra is the 52-minute documentary, Caligari: How Horror Came to Cinema. I also rather enjoyed the two sets of comparison clips included to show how the restored Caligari compared to original footage and previous restorations.
Yes, this is easily the best home media release for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I cannot recommend it enough. Buy it for yourself or the film buff who has everything. I am also pleased that Kino Lorber made this restoration available in both standard and HD formats, ensuring that almost everyone can enjoy this pristine experience.
People do not clap nearly enough today. Let me rephrase. They clap at concerts or at that stupid team-building retreat they have to go on or at a play but they do not clap to summon their minions or as a signal to begin a fiendish plan of murder and mayhem.
Of course Conrad Veidt has a fiendish plan of murder and mayhem. Could you ever doubt it? (This is from The Last Performance. Read my review here.)
I shall conclude matters by just saying more more thing: “Hubba!”
Availability: The Last Performance is available on DVD and Blu-ray, packaged as an extra with the part-talkie, Lonesome.
No one does the death stare better than Conrad Veidt. No one. I mean, behold it in all its glory! I certainly would not like to be on the receiving end, let me tell you. When Mr. Veidt looks like this, what follows usually involves stabbing, maiming and feeding grown men to tigers. He could really give lessons. Here is a sample syllabus:
Lesson 1: Glowering, Grimacing and General Menace
Lesson 2: Cover Girl for the Grumpy Boy
Lesson 3: Glow! Maybe he was born with it, maybe it’s radioactivity
(This is from The Last Performance, you can read my review here.)
Coincidentally, it is also the look I get on my face when people say that they do not like silent movies because they are silent movies.
Where is my tiger pit?
Availability: The Last Performance is available on DVD and Blu-ray, packaged as an extra with the part-talkie, Lonesome.
Conrad Veidt is an illusionist who is in love with his assistant. Unfortunately, she falls for another, leaving Veidt in the dust. Now what will he do about that? Did I mention that he has an act that involves stabbing a trunk (and the person inside) with twelve sharp swords? You know, I think this just might figure into the story at some point.
Continue reading “The Last Performance (1929) A Silent Film Review”
We’re heading back to Germany with something that often gets described as a carnival nightmare. I’m not sure if I would go so far but it is marvelously creepy and stylish. Paul Leni (The Cat and the Canary) designed and directed this beautiful film, which takes place in a wax museum. Future Hollywood director Wilhelm (William) Dieterle is the leading man, a writer who must come up with creepy tales for the exhibit. Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss and Emil Jannings play the wax men.
John Barrymore gnaws on the scenery in this zany medieval action-comedy. The Beloved Rogue was his first film for United Artists and it was also the American debut of Conrad Veidt. Veidt and Barrymore compete to see who can overact more shamelessly. I think it is too close to call.
A ton of fun, truly.
One of the most popular, discussed and examined silent films of all time, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is quite a rarity. It is an art film that also manages to be a crowd-pleaser. I take a look at the film’s history, meaning and the key to its ongoing success. Enjoy the weird and wonderful ride!
Poor Dr. Caligari. He goes to all the trouble of finding a sleepwalker, figures out how to control him, sends him out to kill people– But nooooooo, the somnambulist changes his mind at the last second. I mean, Cesare had one job. One!
This is just how it is done. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Caligari co-star Lil Dagover later said that Conrad Veidt did not break character during the shoot and lurked through the hallways of the studio startling people. He said he did it for a better performance. but you can’t tell me he wasn’t having just a bit of fun playing the ghoul and scaring his friends.
“Not much. Not much at all. Just… a sleepwalker who does my bidding, up to and including murder!”
An author takes a job writing tales for the figures in a wax museum. What could possibly go wrong? Other than being dragged into his own nightmare world, of course.
One of the most analyzed silent films. One of the most watched silent films. One of the most famous silent films. What else is there to be said about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? Well, I’m giving it a shot. We’re going to see if we can unravel the mystery of the film’s meaning. A daunting task? Only slightly.
John Barrymore romps through medieval Paris playing a character best described as Robin Hood + Hobo + Bugs Bunny. His pranks cause him to run afoul of the crown. Conrad Veidt (in his American debut!) plays the king as a superstitious, nose-picking goblin. Oh, this movie is fabulous! It’s a double ham dinner with all the trimmings. Takes a turn for the serious near the end (boo!) but is an utter delight until then. One of silent Hollywood’s stranger offerings. See it.
Maharajah Conrad Veidt hires a German architect to design a beautiful tomb for his wife. She isn’t actually dead yet. The Maharajah only has one tiger pit, you see, and they need time to digest her boyfriend. Do you think a maharajah is made of tiger pits? The pace is stately but the scenery is first rate. Veidt electrifies.
Conrad Veidt (1893-1943)
Country of birth: Germany
There is only one thing I love more than a good silent movie: A good Conrad Veidt movie. And if it is a Conrad Veidt silent movie…
A young author (Wilhelm Dieterle) is hired by the owner of a wax museum to write tales about his most popular figures, Haroun al Raschid, Ivan the Terrible and Jack the Ripper. Entranced by his new boss’s pretty daughter (Olga Belajeff) the author sets to work writing about the wax figures. With each new story, the author and his new friend find themselves pulled inside the progressively nightmarish worlds that he has invented.
Continue reading “Waxworks (1924) A Silent Film Review”
John Barrymore plays Francois Villon, the medieval French poet/thief who runs afoul of the eccentric King Louis XI (Conrad Veidt). But when the kingdom is threatened by the Duke of Burgundy, it is up to Villon to save the day. Oh, and there is naturally a lovely damsel. The most fun you can have in the Douglas Fairbanks manner without actually having Douglas Fairbanks participating.
Continue reading “The Beloved Rogue (1927) A Silent Film Review”
Douglas Fairbanks is the titular thief who uses his burglaring ways to win a princess, defeat the Mongols and generally save the day. Scenery, sets and costumes? Gorgeous. Pace? One may safely describe it as, er, stately. Pluses: An early appearance from Anna May Wong and much Fairbanksian leaping.
The Maharajah of Bengal wants his wife to have the most fabulous tomb in the world. He hires an English architect to design and constructs it. There’s just one little problem. His wife is not dead. Yet. This is a classy adventure yarn with a strong Teutonic flavor. Well worth obtaining.
Continue reading “The Indian Tomb (1921) A Silent Film Review”