Sight and Sound - 11/01/2003
"...Handsomely presented. Much of the film's fascination lies in the way it anticipates later horror movies..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Widely recognized as the source of the Frankenstein myth, the ancient Hebrew legend of the Golem provided actor/director Paul Wegener with the substance for one of the most adventurous films of the German silent cinema.
Suffering under the tyrannical rule of Rudolf II in 16th century Prague, a Talmudic rabbi (Albert Steinruck) creates a giant warrior (Paul Wegener) to protect the safety of his people. Sculpted of clay and animated by the mysterious secrets of the Cabala, the Golem is a seemingly indestructible juggernaut, performing acts of great heroism, yet equally capable of dreadful violence. When the rabbi's assistant (Ernst Deutsch) takes control of the Golem and attempts to use him for selfish gain, the lumbering monster runs rampant, abducting the rabbi's daughter (Lyda Salmonova) and setting fire to the ghetto.
With its remarkable creation sequence (a dazzling blend of religion, sorcery and special effects) and the grand scale destruction of its climax, The Golem was one of the greatest achievements of the legendary UFA Studios, and remains and undeniable landmark in the evolution of horror film.
With his third version of THE GOLEM, director, writer, and actor Paul Wegener is credited with creating the first horror movie series, and historians consider THE GOLEM AND THE DANCER (his 1917 follow-up to the 1914 original) to be the first sequel in cinema history. Based on a legend in Jewish mysticism, in 16th-century Prague community leader and astrologer Rabbi Loew (Albert Steinrück) foresees doom for the Jews. When the emperor decrees a pogrom of the Jewish ghetto, Loew molds a forbidding clay golem (Wegener) to save his people. Loew invokes a demon spirit to retrieve a magic word that he places in an amulet on the creature's chest. Once the word is positioned, the giant wedge-haired automaton lives. Danger ensues, however, when Loew's assistant, Famulus (Ernst Deutsch), uses the golem to settle a score with Florian (Lothar Müthel), a knight who has stolen his sweetheart, Miriam (Lyda Salmonova). THE GOLEM's influence on future horror films was significant, particularly James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN. Wegener's distorted sets and chiaroscuro lighting, complemented by Karl Freund's expert photography, make the film an excellent example of German Expressionism and an important contribution by German mega studio UFA to the golden age of Weimar cinema.
Director of photography Karl Freund is closely associated with creating the look of German Expressionist films--in addition to Wegener's THE GOLEM, Freund shot F.W. Murnau's THE LAST LAUGH and Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS. After immigrating to the U.S., Freund made a stunning directorial debut with the horror classic THE MUMMY. Coscreenwriter Henrik Galeen also cowrote, codirected, and acted in the first version of THE GOLEM with Wegener. In addition, Galeen directed and cowrote the 1926 remake of Wegener's THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE.
Director Edgar G. Ulmer's (THE BLACK CAT, DETOUR) first job in film was as a silhouette cutter and set builder for THE GOLEM.
In the original New York Times review of the film (June 20, 1921), the writer praises the "pantomimic quality" of the actors, none of whom are "simply a silenced chatter-box, as are so many supposed screen actors in this country."
Don't Bother. Get Alpha Video Version Instead
Movie Lover: RevRev from
New York, NY US -- May, 11, 2008
I a glad to see that the price on this dvd has dropped; it used to cost a lot more. But it is not worth it. Get the $5.95 Alpha Video version instead (see my review there). This is tinted in the most garish colors. If you turn the color off, the print is not better than the less expensive disc. IMO, this is one of the most beautiful films ever made. The sets are astounding and the acting superior with very few intertitles needed. But again, order the Alpha Video version instead. You will save money and get a better print.
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