24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Excellent early FW Murnau double bill,
This review is from: Phantom/Die Finanzen Des Grossherzogs [Masters of Cinema] [DVD]  (DVD)
This is an excellent restoration set from The Masters of Cinema Series and comprises two early F.W. Murnau films made between the greater works of Nosferatu and The last Man.
Of the two I think the better film is Phantom. It's presented here in a beautiful looking tinted restoration and stars Alfred Abel. Yes, he's a bit of a plank, as you will know if you've seen him in Metropolis, but he fairs a little better here, although he looks way too old to play the character of a young man.
Taken from a novel, the film scenario is written by Thea Von Harbou, obviously having a day off from Fritz Lang, the story concerns a kind of doppelganger love affair. Lorenz, played by Abel, a budding poet falls for a lovely girl who knocks him down with her carriage. The family is very grand and his advances are rebuffed with extreme prejudice. In a delirium of love sick depression he is further reduced by a scam involving a double of the object of his desire. Both girls are played by Lya De Putti. His whole life descends into madness and criminality with final redemptive love coming in the form of the gorgeous Lil Dagover, who's been waiting for him all this time.
It's a beautifully designed and executed film, as one would expect from Murnau, with some good performances, I particularly like Frieda Richard as the mother, but also evident is his overly saccharine portrayal of heterosexual love. Although the super-impositions look rather antiquated these days, there are some excellent expressionist influenced visual effects, particularly when Lorenz becomes deranged.
So, while Phantom is not in the top order of Murnau's work there's still much to admire and enjoy. On the other-hand the package comes with 'The Finances of The Grand Duke'; an entertaining comedy which comes as something of a surprise to those only familiar with the more sombre, more familiar later works. The quality of the restored material seems more variable than with Phantom, but the extensive exterior locations are interesting to see, given that in future films like Faust and Sunrise he would create landscapes and cities in the studio. Again, this stars Alfred Abel and the great revelation is that he's really good and gives a lively comic performance. Also, Max Schreck, Nosferatu himself, plays a small role as a crazy little character.
All in all, if you're a devotee of Murnau, then these films need to be seen, and here are versions that are the best you're going to see.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jul 2010 14:56:19 BDT
Peter Desmond says:
Thank you for bringing to my attention, films (that goes for your other reviews too) I would otherwise never have been made aware of.
In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jul 2010 12:03:35 BDT
Cheers. I'm glad for the films!
In reply to an earlier post on 25 Aug 2011 10:02:05 BDT
John Harding says:
I echo what the previous comment said. Your reviews are wonderfully informative and very well written - and I say that as a professional reviewer (of books, not films, sadly!)
In reply to an earlier post on 25 Aug 2011 11:06:32 BDT
Very generous of you to say so. Thanks.
Posted on 25 Jun 2013 23:15:32 BDT
I read your profile and have some dvd recommendations for you based on that: sunrise/aurora - murnau, j'accuse - ganz and the Saragossa manuscript - has. I all loved them.
In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jun 2013 18:38:32 BDT
Thanks for your comment. I'm very familiar with the Murnau, know Gance's work but not J'accuse and I'm aware of Has. There's never enough time to see everything.
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