Genre: Silent Period Fantasy Horror
Starring: Gosta Ekman (Intermezzo), Emil Jannings (Tartuffe; The Blue Angel)
Directed By: F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu; The Last Laugh)
Overview: The Archangel Gabriel and Arch-Duke Mephisto gamble over the fate of the world with Faust as their Pawn. When plague decimates those around him, Faust's inability to cure the sick shakes his faith, just in time for Mephisto's contract of youth and power.
Acting: When you throw on a black cloak, evil eyebrows and bottom lighting, turns out you can look pretty mean and intimidating. When you say 'this is the most beautiful woman in Italy', however, she'd better be at least mildly hot. Rich doesn't mean hot, it really, really doesn't. Faust, the old guy, pretty cool and Moses-ey. Faust the younger? A robin hood look-alike in tights. Yeah. Ouch.
Cinematography: Regardless of the fact that Murnau is one of my new favorite directors, this film is, regardless, another reminder of his genius with the camera. He unleashes their full potential like the Battle of the Planets Phoenix. Glorious angels, demons lording high over town breathing plague wind into the living, religious metaphor and dark gothic imagery, Murnau knew what he was doing, and directors who gazed upon him might just have gone blind. Go buddy!
Script: This story has been retold over and over. It's famous, it's a cool story, but throw in a girl and your epic battle versus good and evil over the fate of the world, frankly, turns faggly. For the longest time I wondered, 'why did Mephisto agree to be Faust's eternal servant, and when Faust asks for help in wooing a woman, he's reluctant and back-stabby about it?' Einh, it rubbed me the wrong way, even if the question gets answered.
Plot: This story went in a very peculiar direction. I remember reading the Marlowe version of Faust years ago, and I don't recall such an ending as took place here, so that detracted from the overall enjoyment. Also, there was a segment where Mephisto and some old lady get into a wooing-chase, and not only did that lengthen the film, it seemed rather out of place on the grand scheme of things. Take over the world or seduce this woman? Right. What's that about?
Mood: Going into this I knew it would be demons and mortals, but the Archangel Gabriel was a nice touch. This film had great effects and was well directed, but it was just a little too long. The music was perfectly gothic and the look was just the right amount of dark, so it redeems itself just enough.
Overall Rating: 66% (Hell is Hot, This is Not.)
Aftertaste: After seeing The Last Laugh, I decided to collect of all Murnau's work, because as a director he's become one of my favorites. This movie changed my mind. I don't think I'll ever see this again, and though Murnau's dark genius is still Top 5, I think I'll make due without this one. Maybe you should too.