METROPOLIS. (1927) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

METROPOLIS. (1927) DIRECTED BY FRITZ LANG. SCREENPLAY BY FRITZ LANG AND THEA VON HARBOU. MUSIC BY GOTTFRIED HUPPERTZ. STARRING BRIGITTE HELM, GUSTAV FRŐHLICH, ALFRED ABEL AND RUDOLF KLEIN-ROGGE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(PENNED PRE-PANDEMIC…!)

‘The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.’

When you leave the cinema so awe-struck by the film you’ve just seen that you’re unable to even discuss it with the people who accompanied you there, that’s usually an indication that you’ve seen something extraordinarily special.

That’s what happened to me recently when I went to see a one-off special screening of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS at the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin. The film was being shown for two reasons.

Firstly, it was April 2016’s choice for the monthly Bigger Picture presentation, which argues for a film’s place within the canon. I think everyone there was of the opinion that this legendary silent film speaks for itself…!

Secondly, METROPOLIS formed part of the FUTURES PAST: HOW CINEMA OF THE PAST HAS IMAGINED OUR FUTURE season being held in the IFI this month. Other films being shown included THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE, STANLEY KUBRICK’S 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, SILENT RUNNING, SOYLENT GREEN, GATTACA and GEORGE LUCAS’S THX 1138. There’s enough material in there to satisfy even the hungriest fans of futuristic movies…!

Because of the scientific content of this dystopian film, it was introduced by Lynn Scarff, the Director of the Trinity Science Gallery here in Dublin. Mercifully, Ms. Scarff kept it brief! She acknowledged herself that we were all dying to see the film, a mostly fully restored version of which was being shown to us, complete with the English subtitles and German intertitles, as they’re called.

Do we all know that METROPOLIS is a film about a terrifying futuristic slave nation, in which miserable workers toil endlessly underground manning the machines which keep the city above-ground ticking over for the overlords who live there? Well, it is.

It sounds nightmarish, doesn’t it? It truly is a dystopian nightmare, at least for the poor drones who risk life and limb in the hellish steam pumping out of the monstrous machines around the clock.

Fritz Lang (1890-1976) apparently was inspired to make this epic German expressionist science-fiction movie after observing the skyscrapers of New York. His above-ground city certainly resembles this famous American city in its towering buildings of glass and steel and the endless flow of traffic back and forth across the intricate interlocking network of roads.

The choreography of the workers as they march to and from their horrible duties is superb. One shift clocks off as the next clocks on, with everyone so downtrodden and depressed you can just about tell which shift is which. The music accompanying their defeated trudge is out of this world. When it’s being blasted out at you full-blast from the big screen, it’s positively mind-blowing.

The machines and the gigantic geometric sets are both fantastic and terrifying. How Fritz Lang could make a film of this magnitude way back in 1926 is incredible. He co-wrote it with his wife, Thea Von Harbou, from whom he separated in 1933.

Thea had begun to sympathise with the Nazis in the early 1930’s whereas Lang, Jewish by birth, would have had much to fear from them as the war approached. He left Germany in 1934 and started up a career in Hollywood not long after.

The main character in METROPOLIS is Freder, the son of Joh Fredersen, the wealthy ruler of the above-ground city of light, comfort, leisure and pleasure. One fateful day (as they say!), Freder follows a beautiful young woman called Maria deep down into the underground world of the workers. What he finds there makes him sick to his stomach.

Finding out that his father is forcing thousands of workers to slave away in the bowels of the earth under appalling working conditions does not sit well with the foppish young womaniser.  Before our very eyes, Freder transforms from a slightly ridiculous playboy in splendid knickerbockers into a man of real courage and compassion.

He joins with the sweet and kind-hearted Maria to save the workers from the devious machinations of his father and Rotwang, a crazy inventor. Rotwang has created a Maschinenmensch or robot-human and has given it the physical appearance of Maria, whom the workers trust implicitly.

This Maschinenmensch has been described, incidentally, as ‘a brilliant eroticisation and fetishisation of modern technology.’ I couldn’t have put it better myself. If a robot can be sexy, then this robot-human is as sexy as Marilyn Monroe mashed together with a young Diana Dors, if you can imagine such a magnificently-bosomed, doe-eyed sex-bomb. Or you can use your own ideals of feminine beauty to create an equally apt analogy, if you prefer. But whatever way you slice this tomato, boys, she is hot, hot, hot…!

Joh Fredersen wants the Fake Maria to be used to incite the workers to an ill-advised revolution, which will give him the excuse he needs to use force against them in turn. Can Freder and the Real Maria, with whom he has fallen truly, madly, deeply in love, avert a disaster for the whole city?

Is Freder really the Mediator (der Mittler) for whom the workers have been waiting for so long? Can Maria help him to be the Heart that unites the Head (his father) and the Hands (the workers)? Maybe, but the clock has already started ticking…

The underground caverns are wonderfully scary. Check out the Seven Deadly Sins. They’re positively chilling, and doesn’t Death have a lovely big scythe…? The scenes of luxury and decadence when the Fake Maria is performing her (virtually!) topless dance are so very ‘Twenties, although of course the film is meant to be set somewhere around the year 2027. We laughed our heads off at the gurning, drooling, lustful faces of the watching males. Men sure don’t change much over the centuries, do they…? Snigger snigger.

Speaking of Maria, she’s far and away the most interesting and animated character, especially when she’s being the Evil Maria. Those delightfully hammy expressions she puts on when she’s being Evil! She’s great fun when she’s Evil, but as the Real Maria she displays almost superhuman strength and courage when she’s trying to save the poor little kiddies from the flooding of the underground city.

What a gal! It’s weird to think that she (Brigitte Helm) lived all the way to 1996, especially when she’s the very epitome of that gorgeous ‘Twenties dame with the big eyes and the Cupid’s Bow lips. Fritz Lang himself made it to the mid-‘Seventies. That feels weird too, doesn’t it?

It’s just about conceivable too that some of the children in the film might be alive today, though of course they’d have to be in their nineties and older. Imagine having that on your CV. ‘I was in Fritz Lang’s ‘METROPOLIS…!’ It’s a bit like being able to say that you were in F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU. That’s really something to brag about.

I’ll leave you with a thought. It’s what makes this film a horror movie for me, as well as a superb sci-fi epic. There’s a scene early on in it when the autocratic Joh Fredersen dismisses his man, Josaphat, from his service. To be dismissed means to be sent underground forever without hope of reprieve.  

The very thought of this exile-slash-virtual death sentence sends Josaphat reaching for his gun with the intention of blowing his own brains out. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll understand perfectly why he would prefer death to a life below ground-level. And if you haven’t seen the film, you need to rectify such a grievous error post-haste. Whaddya mean, what do I mean? Go and see the film, that’s what I mean…! 

      AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

DIE NIBELUNGEN: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE. (1924) A FRITZ LANG CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DIE NIBELUNGEN PART TWO: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE OR KRIEMHILDS RACHE. (1924) BASED ON THE EPIC POEM ‘NIBELUNGLIED,’ BY ANONYMOUS.

DIRECTED BY FRITZ LANG. SCREENPLAY BY FRITZ LANG AND THEA VON HARBOU.

STARRING MARGARETE SCHŐN, THEODOR LOOS, RUDOLF KLEIN-ROGGE, RUDOLF RITTNER AND HANS ADALBERT SCHLETTOW.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This magnificent movie, the sequel in Fritz Lang’s two-film epic drama, DIE NIBELUNGEN, based on an equally epic poem penned in about the year 1200 in the language known as Middle High German, will take your breath away. I like it even more than Part One, SIEGFRIED.

In Part Two, and it’s called KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE for an excellent reason, Queen Kriemhild of the Burgundian royal family is still devastated by the murder of her beloved husband, Siegfried, by Hagen Tronje, the fearsome one-eyed, bearded warrior of the Burgundian kingdom.

Hagen Tronje is endlessly loyal (even unto death) to the King of Burgundy, Kriemhild’s rather wimpy brother Gunther. Gunther refuses to have Hagen Tronje killed for Siegfried’s murder, and, in fact, the whole family of royal Burgundian brothers close ranks around Hagen Tronje to protect him.

Kriemhild is so disgusted that, when Margrave Rűdiger of Bechlarn comes to Burgundy to tell her that his King, Attila of the Huns, wants to marry her, she accepts. Especially when Rűdiger assures her of Attila’s warlike nature and the fact that he would avenge a hundredfold any wrongs done to Kriemhild by any man…

Her little feminine brain starts working overtime. Could Attila possibly be the one to avenge her poor fallen Siegfried? She tells Rűdiger she’ll marry his king, and they set out immediately for the kingdom of the Huns, a warlike, nomadic people who were ruled in real life by Attila the Hun for the relatively short time of 434-453.

The Huns are portrayed as proper savages in the film, compared to the relative sophistication of the Burgundians, who sleep in proper beds and have nice fancy chainmail armour and huge stone castles and stuff.

The Huns crouch in trees like monkeys and whoop, shriek and chatter like monkeys too, they wear animal skins to (just about) clothe their nakedness and they sleep on animal skins, on the mud floors of their straw huts. They have dark skin, wild hair and wild staring eyes, and this includes the women, of whom we see very little.

I don’t think that women featured very prominently in real life Hun households of the time. They probably stayed home, cooked the food, submitted to animalistic sex and the odd thump and died in childbirth, judging by the look of the place and its primitive peoples.

The men were the important ones, the warriors, the providers, the hunter-gatherers, the ones who got the biggest chunks of meat and the most comfortable spot on the dirt floor for sleeping.

The Huns’ eyes are out on stalks when they see Kriemhild. Tall, blonde, statuesque, with a beautiful cold face, huge expressive eyes and two plaits of hair that reach nearly to her ankles, she’s the polar opposite of their crouching, swarthy, simian-like semi-savagery.

(You’ll remember me mentioning when we reviewed DIE NIBELUNGEN PART ONE: SIEGFRIED that Hitler and Goebbels both loved this film. Can you see what I’m getting at here?)

King Attila, a fascinating character, is head-over-heels in love with her from the moment he first sets eyes on her. With his grotesquely large, mis-shapen head atop a short, wiry body and his ferocious-looking face deeply scored with battle scars that even criss-cross through his cruel mouth, he’d be enough to give any young virgin the heebie-jeebies at the thought of having to go to bed with him.

Attila’s men later complain that the fearsome war king, who went to war at the drop of a hat and was never happier than when he was breaking in an unruly horse, has been made soft and ineffectual by his infatuation for ‘the white woman.’ ‘Her tresses bind up the horseman…’ Well, if they think he’s dotty for Kriemhild now and besotted with her, just wait till she presents him with a beautiful, curly-haired son…!

The ferocious war king is reduced to the level of a blob of ecstatically happy jelly to see his new baby boy. He’s pathetically grateful to Kriemhild on this joyous occasion, even though she’s been nothing but cold and distant towards him. She may have been obliged to give him her body, but her heart, which she keeps under lock and key, is frozen in ice and belongs only to the dead Siegfried.

I’ll happily grant you one wish as a thank you for this wonderful son, he tells Kriemhild, who replies, sweetly and innocently, with: Oh, I’d give anything to see my beloved brothers again. No problemo, says Attila, before swiftly despatching his own brother to Worms on the Rhine to ask Gunther, Giselher and Gerenot of Burgund to pop along to the kingdom of the Huns to visit their dear sister Kriemhild.

Kriemhild, of course, knows that her brothers never travel without their devoted bodyguard, Hagen Tronje, her hatred for whom has not abated one iota since she’s lived in the land of the Huns. Her desire for revenge is so strong that she’s prepared to see everyone she loves perish horribly before she eventually realises that she’s gone too far.

The dénouement is magnificent to look at, but sad, chilling and tragic in the extreme, with an eerie foreshadowing of the Holocaust in the hellish inferno of Kriemhild’s making.

Just look at her standing there with arms folded tightly, or one arm extended, or the closed fist beating on the breast, with her closed-off, unyielding face and ice-cold eyes unchanging in expression, and see who she reminds you of.

Poor, poor King Attila. He’ll rue the day he ever heard the lady’s name, all tied up in death and destruction as it is. What a narrative. What a musical score, what a visual experience, what a film! Book yourself some time off and watch it. End of transmission.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. (1928) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

berlin mieze franz

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. (1928) A NOVEL BY ALFRED DŐBLIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘There is a mower death yclept.’

This book is considered to be the magnum opus-slash-masterpiece of Alfred Dőblin’s. Dőblin was a German writer and doctor who, having come from Jewish stock and with, understandably, plenty of reasons to be apprehensive, fled Germany in 1933 when the Nazis came to power, only returning in 1945 when the war was over.

His great work BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ was made into a fifteen-hour movie by iconic director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was a huge fan of the book. This epic piece of cinema originally aired as a German miniseries on German television in 1980. I bet it absolutely smashed all the TV ratings for that year.

Clocking in at a spectacular nine-hundred minutes, it watches like a mini-series, divided up into digestible blocks of one hour approximately, with credits coming at the start and finish. So you needn’t fret that you don’t have the time to watch a fifteen-hour movie. If you prefer, of course, you could just read the book…!

I won’t deny that it’s a tough read. I found it rough going at times and I really had to push myself to keep at it. Dőblin’s style of writing in it, with long passages of what feels like stream-of-consciousness and the way you frequently can’t tell who’s saying what as he doesn’t differentiate between the quotations, has been compared to James Joyce’s in ULYSSES. I’m so glad I persevered with it though. Perseverance brings its own rewards.

It’s the story of Franz Biberkopf, a working-class man who, when we meet him first, is just being released from Tegel prison after a four-year stretch for manslaughter. He has battered his live-in girlfriend to death with a kitchen implement (that’s not as humorous as it sounds…!), thinking that she was about to leave him.

Now he’s done his time and you’d think he’d be glad to be free, but poor Franz is disorientated, discombobulated and generally all of a flutter to be at liberty once more to come and go as he pleases.

I say ‘poor Franz’ because he’s such a likeable character from the start. He’s an Everyman, as it were, an ordinary working stiff who’s had a bit of bad luck, you might say. I’d say it was very bad luck for the woman he killed, but how-and-ever…!

His first experiences as a free man are worthy of note. A ginger-haired and ginger-bearded Jewish man who helps him up when he falls down in the street tries to tell him a story, some sort of parable maybe, and Franz later refers to this man and his Jewish companions as friends of his.

In only a very few years time, of course, Hitler will have come to power and Jewish people such as this man will find their rights to walk freely on the public streets severely curtailed. For now, however, the bewildered Franz is probably just grateful for the human contact, for the chance to ‘ground’ himself once more on the Jewish guys’ sitting-room floor.

Shortly after getting out of Tegel, Franz goes to visit a middle-aged but still attractive blonde woman called Minna whom he knows from before. Once he’s established that she’s alone in her apartment, he rapes her and gives her a black eye and some finger-marks around her throat as well, for good measure. This is how Franz likes his sex, by the way, rough and ready.

We see that Franz later compensates her for the rape by bringing her some aprons to replace the one he apparently messed up. We also discover that this woman, Minna, is the- probably older- sister of the poor unfortunate Ida. The women of that family have surely been sorely wronged by Franz Biberkopf.

So much, anyway, for his fervent promises to only ‘go straight’ from now on. Of course, in his mind, that probably just means going straight in a business sense. It clearly doesn’t include sexual battery, which Franz may not even consider to be a crime at all.

Franz seems to find it ridiculously easy to pick up women. He’s not described as being particularly good-looking, but he’s big and burly, confident and obviously an alpha male type, to whom any broken or damaged women will flock like z-list ‘celebrities’ to the opening of an envelope.

Speaking of which, Franz quickly finds himself a live-in girlfriend in Lina, a nervous Polish woman who almost certainly has a troubled past and some kind of inner sadness. She regards herself as being in the Last Chance Saloon when it comes to bagging a man, and is pathetically grateful for Franz’s attentions. The relationship doesn’t last, however.

Before Lina exits stage left forever, though, she introduces Franz to a family friend called Otto Luders. Franz and Luders go into the business of selling shoelaces together door-to-door in the big old blocks of apartments near the titular Alexanderplatz.

It’s not a great job, obviously, that of door-to-door shoelace salesman, but good honest work in Germany at that time was hard to come by. The country was by then in the grip of a massive depression. The words ‘unemployment’ and ‘inflation’ are synonymous with the Germany of the day.

That’s one of the reasons Hitler and the Nazi party were able to grab power in 1933. They saw what was happening in the country and they promised the voters ‘Arbeit Und Brot,’ or work and bread, which was all that men like Franz were asking for.

By this stage, Hitler had already written his notorious book MEIN KAMPF and been released from Landsburg Prison for his part in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Both the SA (Sturm Abteilung) and the SS (Schutz Staffeinel) had been formed by this stage and Joseph Goebbels already had responsibility for Propaganda within the growing Nazi Party. Within five short years, Hitler would be Chancellor of Germany and the rest, as they say, would be history.

Luders and Franz have a major falling-out, anyway, which leaves Franz shaken and down one business partnership. Then, out of the blue, the despondent Franz is offered a job by a man in a pub. Isn’t that the way it so often happens? The man in the pub is satisfied, for his part, that Franz is a ‘true German.’ ‘Germany for the Germans,’ after all, and none of your Commie Reds or Jews or any of that. Hmmm.

So, what exactly is this new job? Franz is now the latest street vendor, if you please, of the VOLKISCHE BEOBACHTER, a real-life anti-Semitic newspaper. It was the official newspaper of the NSDAP or Nazi party from 1920 until 1945. On his first day of work, Franz is presented with the armband he’s meant to wear while he’s working. On the armband is a swastika…

This job doesn’t last long. Franz is once more on the unemployment line with about half the men of Germany for company. He devotes his time to boozing and engaging in complicated affairs with women, who are irresistibly drawn to Franz’s big, strong rough-and-ready maleness. His ex-girlfriend Eva, with whom he still remains ‘friends with benefits’ and for whom he used to pimp, offers Franz sexual, financial and emotional support whenever it’s needed. It’s well for some.

When Franz finally comes out of the drunken stupor into which he falls after the Luders fiasco, he meets an ugly poisonous man in the pub (where else?) called Reinhold. Reinhold is a cowardly shit who persuades Franz to take first one, then another, of his own mistresses off his hands because he’s tired of them and doesn’t want the hassle of breaking up with them himself, if you can believe that.

Franz is happy to oblige and has many a happy hour getting the most out of the two comely enough exes, Franze and Cilly, before Cilly (Cilly by name and silly by nature, huh?) ends up back with the odious Reinhold. Well, she’s a grown woman. She can make her own decisions. And her own mistakes…

Another consequence of Franz’s ill-fated association with Reinhold costs him dearly. Reinhold is a gangster whose boss, Pums, takes a liking to Franz and involves him in a ‘job’ they’re pulling off. Franz isn’t much cop at being the gang’s ‘lookout’ and he loses his right arm when he’s pushed out of a moving car by Reinhold during the burglary they’re carrying out.

Franz, the big cheery ‘hail fellow well met’ character who always tries to bounce back when he’s down, makes jokes about his amputated arm but we get the impression he’s not as okay about the loss of it as he makes out. Well, how could he be?

He probably feels like half a man now, working at shit jobs like being a carousel barker (he’d be the guy who shouts ‘roll up, roll up!’ and gets people into/onto the attraction) that don’t require a man to have two arms. He spends a lot of time moping around his apartment with only his faithful prostitute-lover Eva and her boyfriend/john/ pimp Herbert for company.

And there’s always the booze. Franz and the booze go back a long way. Now he’s talking to it like it’s an old friend which, in a way, it is. Franz, no longer a young man and now he’s physically disabled to boot, is clearly lacking direction. 

He meets a sneaky little crook called Willy in the pub (that’s where he meets everyone!) and decides to join with him in his dirty little stolen goods business. Wanna buy a watch? You know the type of thing. Franz obviously feels it’s about all he’s able for at the moment, with just the one arm. Talk about a slippery slope, though.

Whatever happened to the oath he swore when he came out of prison to only ever go straight again? It looks like Franz feels like there’s not much point in keeping his oath anymore. Going straight is for schmucks, right? Guy never got rich going straight.

We know ourselves that there’s more to life than getting rich but maybe Franz is tired of being dirt-poor, one of those Between-The-Wars forgotten men. We don’t know anything much about Franz’s record in World War One but we do get to read about the hilarious moment when he decides to buy an Iron Cross replica to account to people for his missing arm, the cheeky liar…!

Franz is on the verge of another life-changing moment but he doesn’t know it yet. Eva thinks he needs a new woman to raise his spirits, among other things, lol. The resourceful Eva’s already found someone she deems suitable, although why she’s fixing Franz up with someone who might be a threat to herself, Eva, is a mystery to me.

Her gift to Franz is a beautiful, shy much younger woman called Sonia, whom Franz christens ‘Mieze.’ He falls for her immediately because of her looks and her sweet, gentle disposition. She falls for him too, though he’s at least twenty, twenty-five years older than her.

She’s clearly looking for a father figure- she even dresses like a little girl and talks like a little girl and wears little-girly pink ribbons in her hair- and there’s no need to analyse why an older man is attracted to a beautiful younger woman. They go for walks in the woods together and she buys him a canary. It’s love all right.

The money Mieze makes from working as a prostitute certainly comes in handy. She immediately accepts Franz as her new pimp. Why should Franz work when he has Mieze’s earnings? Why indeed? He’s a very liberal man when it comes to sharing his woman around. However, it would appear that even Franz Biberkopf has his limits.

Mieze is being paid for sex by a rich older man and Franz has no problem whatsoever with that because the money she makes goes to him. When Mieze is daft enough to admit her attraction towards the rich older man’s good-looking young nephew, however, Franz proves that he’s still a big man by beating the living daylights out of her with his one remaining hand and choking her half to death. Shades of Ida…

Mieze is spared Ida’s fate by the intervention of the odious Reinhold, who is suspiciously close at hand that very night. After the savage beating, Franz expresses guilt and shame- only verbally, mind you- and a loving Mieze forgives him immediately. She pours oil on the troubled waters and smooths everything over with her customary docility.

I personally think that she has deeply masochistic tendencies. She doesn’t react at all like you’d expect a battered woman to react after an assault. Instead, her beatific, almost martyr-like manner as she holds ‘her Franz’ to her again tells us a lot about Mieze, who’s even allowed Franz to change her name, a deeply personal thing about her, from Sonia to Mieze.

I think her behaviour tells us that she’s severely damaged after her upbringing and her life as a prostitute, which can’t all have been plain sailing and rich benefactors. I also think it tells us that she won’t live to see forty, the way she’s going. Will she die at Franz’s hands, a death I could swear she’d almost relish, or does the fickle finger of Fate have something else in mind for her? Let’s move swiftly on…

Franz who, by the way, bears no ill-will against Reinhold for the whole amputated arm thing, makes the mistake of formally introducing Mieze to his partners-in-crime, including Reinhold, down at the bar where they all hang out.

She has an instantaneous powerful effect on Franz’s old friend Meck, who thinks her beautiful, and also on Reinhold, whom she’s met once before but not formally, that is, when he was pulling her out from under Franz before Franz killed her the way he did Ida.

Meck and Reinhold both think that she’s much too good for Franz, and they’re each jealous that Franz has managed to pull such a pretty young thing who’s clearly devoted to him. The spiteful, if not downright evil, Reinhold is determined that he’ll get his mucky paws on the lovely Mieze’s body, and before too much more time has elapsed.

He sneakily orchestrates some alone time for himself and Mieze, all behind Franz’s back, of course. Why doesn’t he just ask Franz straight out if he can sleep with the girl for a few Deutschmarks? After all, Franz doesn’t mind pimping her out for a few quid.

Reinhold takes her to the Freienwalde, the forest in the gorgeous rural area where she is accustomed to sometimes walk with her beloved Franz. Poor silly Mieze’s fate is immediately sealed. What happens to her at Reinhold’s hands is sad, grubby and shockingly inevitable, given her profession, her damaged psyche and her vulnerability.

When Franz finds out, he goes temporarily insane and is taken to Buch Mental Hospital, where he is force-fed by doctors who are stumped by his insanity and intent on keeping him alive to face the hangman’s noose if it turns out that Franz is responsible for what happened to Mieze, as the police seem to think.

If only Franz had broken from the disgusting evil Reinhold, the snake in the grass who not only cost Franz his arm but who has now taken away from Franz, his so-called friend, the only precious thing Franz had left in his life.

If only Franz had had the strength to sever the unhealthy, unholy alliance between himself and the dangerous criminal Reinhold. Will he ever see that Reinhold has feet of clay and is perhaps the worst thing that’s ever happened to him? Reinhold, Pums, the whole gang, it’s all poisonous and polluted. It was a bad day for Franz Biberkopf when he fell in with them.

Will the odious Reinhold ever pay for his crimes? And can Franz ever rise again after this latest body-blow sees him come face-to-face with Death Himself? Well, that, folks, is the sixty-four-million dollar question. Read Dőblin’s wonderful masterpiece of the Weimar Republic for yourself and find out.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE BLUE ANGEL or DER BLAUE ENGEL. (1930) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

blue angel bigger

THE BLUE ANGEL/DER BLAUE ENGEL. (1930) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PROFESSOR UNRAT’ BY HEINRICH MANN (BROTHER OF THOMAS MANN).

DIRECTED BY JOSEF VON STERNBERG. PRODUCTION COMPANY: UFA.

STARRING MARLENE DIETRICH, EMIL JANNINGS, KURT GERRON, ROSA VALETTI, HANS ALBERS AND REINHOLD BERNT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There’s something eerily magical about this classic Weimar Germany film, even today, nearly a full ninety years after it was made by Josef Von Sternberg, who returned from America to Germany especially to direct it.

After seeing Marlene Dietrich perform in the Berliner Theater in Georg Kaiser’s cabaret ZWEI KRAWATTEN (TWO NECKTIES), Von Sternberg knew that he had found his leading lady.

Though still recognisable, she hadn’t yet grown into her famous face, if you get me, the same way you can look at a young Brigitte Bardot in MANINA or a young Joan Crawford in GRAND HOTEL and think, is that really them, they look so different when they’re young…? 

Although Von Sternberg would modestly shrug off suggestions that he ‘discovered’ Dietrich, I think it really must be said that he did. She went on to have a long and varied career after THE BLUE ANGEL, which led to a contract with Paramount Studios, served as a more than efficient springboard or launching-pad to international stardom.

Josef Von Sternberg, a dark-haired, rather sad-faced man who looked small next to some of his taller contemporaries, made a few minor changes to the story on which the film was based, PROFESSOR UNRAT (PROFESSOR GARBAGE) by Heinrich Mann, but the basic plot remains the same.

A college professor who teaches English Literature, among other things I’m sure, to the boys and young men who attend the Gymnasium, a German word for college or place of learning, meets and falls head-over-heels with a beautiful cabaret singer in a nightclub. This reckless act of impulsivity leads directly to his downfall only a short few years later.

Professor Immanuel Rath makes his way to the nightclub, THE BLUE ANGEL, after a spate of saucy-postcard-hoarding by his students. He sees Lola Lola for the first time as a scantily-dressed image on a kinky postcard (these passed for porn back then…!) and is straightaway taken and intrigued by her. How much more taken will he be, then, with the flesh-and-blood, three-dimensional Lola Lola when he encounters her for real…?

He goes to the nightclub ostensibly to complain about its performers corrupting his young pupils. All thoughts of his moral responsibilities vanish from his mind when he meets the enchanting Lola Lola backstage in her dressing-room.

To the unmarried Professor in his forties, whom we can imagine as having led a very sheltered, bookish life up to now, Lola Lola is sexiness- and sex- incarnate. The magnificent Dietrich is very young here, but she has already learned how to use her eyes and lips to devastating effect. The poor Professor doesn’t stand a chance against such an onslaught of raw sexuality. He’s smitten from the off.

Of course, Marlene Dietrich was always about the legs. The legs, the legs, the legs. This film could also have been called ‘FRILLY KNICKERS AND STOCKING-TOPS’ because that’s what she’s dressed in for most of the movie. She elevates the taking off and putting on of stockings into an art form as she teases and tantalises Rath with a private little striptease in her cramped backstage dressing-room.

She (or maybe I should say they, both Dietrich AND Lola Lola) holds the- mostly male- audiences to the cabaret spellbound as she belts out songs like ‘FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN’ and ‘YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE, YOU’RE THE SALT IN MY STEW.’ They are utterly in thrall to her sexuality and mystique, as is Rath.

When Rath proposes to Lola Lola, I’m always gobsmacked that she says yes. Rath is a portly, not very attractive school-teacher who’s probably not rolling in money. He’s a figure of fun to his students. They don’t respect him. They have nothing but contempt for him.

What on earth does Lola Lola see in him? A kind of father figure, someone who represents security and stability to her, maybe? Or maybe she just says ‘yes’ in the spirit of yeah sure baby, why not, I don’t care either way, it’s all bullshit anyway and, who knows, it might be a blast to try it for a bit…?

Either way, they get hitched, much to Rath’s delight and, four short years later, we come full circle right back to Rath’s origins and it’s not a pretty picture. The marriage has destroyed him, although I can’t give you the details.

His self-respect is non-existent, he’s a figure of fun for all now and not just for his pupils, and his reputation, such as it ever was, is in shreds. Was it worth it, Rath, Von Sternberg seems to be asking his male protagonist, was she worth it…? Would he do it again?

The dark, cramped, narrow little slanted streets surrounding the Blue Angel nightclub look like they’ve come straight out of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI or any other masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema. There’s a fabulous town clock in the film that’s worth looking out for too, the creation of set designer Otto Hunte, and a sad and rather chillingly portentous scene involving a late parrot.

Who is Lola Lola? We know nothing of her background or origins. Is she hard and cold because she’s had to be or because she enjoys it? Is she immoral? Is she promiscuous? Does she have a heart at all?

Does she take pleasure in Rath’s downfall or, as is probably more likely, does she simply regard him as being big enough and old enough to look after himself? She’s his wife, after all, not his mother or his nursemaid, and he’s a grown man.

I don’t think she’s particularly malicious, although she’s certainly mischievous. I think she just doesn’t care, but not because she’s uncaring or heartless. She has enough to be doing looking out for herself. Whatever her motivations anyway, in Lola Lola we’ve been given a timeless creation of sheer sexiness and sensuality whose appeal doesn’t dim with the years.

Marlene Dietrich was a truly beautiful woman and an acting legend on two of the finest legs to ever grace a stage. In THE BLUE ANGEL, Josef Von Sternberg has bottled this legend and encapsulated it for us for all time. Kudos to you, Joe dear. Kudos to you.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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