Gold

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(7/10) In a nutshell: This smart, well filmed and very successful 1934 film marked the beginning of the end for German science fiction before the Nazis banned the genre. Hans Albers shines as the heroic scientist kidnapped by an evil businessman to make gold out of lead, and screen legend Brigitte Helm gives one of her most understated and balanced performances.

Gold. Germany, 1934. Directed by Karl Hartl. Written by Rolf E. Vanloo. Starring: Hans Albers, Brigitte Helm, Michael Bohnen. Cinematography: Günther Rittau, Otto Baecker, Walter Bohne. Editing: Wolfgang Becker. Art direction: Otto Hunte. Music: Hans-Otto Borgmann. Produced by Alfred Zeisler for UFA. IMDb score: 6.7

The impressive set-piece designed by Otto Hunte - the gold-making, atom-splitting machine.

The impressive set-piece designed by Otto Hunte – the gold-making, atom-splitting machine.

Germany was the leading country when it came to sci-fi films in the twenties, much thanks to cinema legend Fritz Lang and his two masterpieces Metropolis (1927, review) and Woman in the Moon (1929, review). In the early thirties USA started catching up, mostly through Universal’s and Paramount’s horror films, many of which dealt with explicit sci-fi themes. Lang himself moved to the States discarded sci-fi to instead begin pioneering film noir, but the German film industry still had an ace up its sleeve, and it was called Karl Hartl, who made the sluggish F.P.1. Does Not Answer in 1931 (review), and in 1934 he followed up with Gold, shortly after Kurt Bernhard had scored a hit with the 1933 film The Tunnel (review). (Trivia: neither Lang nor Hartl were born in Germany, but Austria.) Gold also featured Germany’s two most popular actors at the time; Hans Albers and Brigitte Helm. Continue reading

Alraune

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(4/10) In a nutshell: A misogynist but still fairly entertaining sci-fi/fantasy film from Germany about a soulless woman artificially produced from the semen of a hanged murderer and the womb of a prostitute. Worth watching for the ever alluring Brigitte Helm in the lead.

Alraune. 1928, Germany (also known as A Daughter of Destiny, Unholy Love or Mandrake). Written and directed by Henrik Galeen. Based on the novel Alraune by Hanns Heinrich Ewers. Starring: Brigitte Helm, Paul Wegener, Iván Petrovich. Cinematography: Franz Planer. Produced by Helmut Schreiber for UFA. IMDb score: 6.2

Brigitte Helm as the evil seductress in Alraune.

Brigitte Helm as the evil seductress in Alraune.

This silent 1928 film is the best known, and by many critics described as the best, version of Alraune, or Mandrake – a 1911 novel by Hanns Heinrich Ewers. It stars one of the most noted actors and directors of German silent cinema, Paul Wegener, immortalized as The Golem (1914, 1920), and Brigitte Helm, best known as Maria/Maschinenmensch in Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis (review). It was directed by Henrik Galeen, best known as the screenwriter for classics like the original 1914 The Golem, Nosferatu (1922) and the 1926 remake of The Student of Prague. It tells the story of Alraune (Mandrake), a woman born from the seed of a hanged criminal from the womb of a prostitute (although in the edited English language version we get the impression that the prostitute is inseminated by the mandrake root found beneath hanged men). Continue reading

Metropolis

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(10/10) In a nutshell: The plot may be slightly simplistic and the political message naive, but the thematic and visual influence of Austrian director Fritz Lang’s exciting 1927 masterpiece Metropolis is rivalled by few in science fiction and in film in general. A great, entertaining, sprawling epic in a future tower of Babylon.

Metropolis. 1927, Germany. Directed by Fritz Lang. Written by Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang. Starring: Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlig, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Cinematography: Karl Freund. Produced by Erich Pommer for UFA. Tomatometer: 99 % IMDb score: 8.3 (#106) Metascore: 98/100.

The hugely influential Maschinenmensch robot and some early, beautifully rendered special effects.

The hugely influential Maschinenmensch robot and some early, beautifully rendered special effects.

Few films have been so much written about and analysed as Austrian director Fritz Lang’s stupendous epic Metropolis. Not only is this dystopian sci-fi classic with political and religious undertones one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time. It is also one of the films that has had the biggest influence, not only on the movies, but on art, literature and even architecture and design, in history. Despite all this, Fritz Lang himself disowned the film nearly from the day it was released. Continue reading