Genre: Silent Avant-Garde Fantasy Horror Drama Thriller
Starring: Emil Jannings (Faust; Tartuffe), Conrad Veidt (Storm Over Asia; Casablanca)
Directed By: Paul Leni (The Man Who Laughs; The Cat And The Canary), Leo Birinski
Overview: The owner of a carnival house of wax hires a writer to give stories to the statues he has on display. We watch the characters' tales unfold as they are written.
Acting: Conrad was a terrific Ivan The Terrible. His makeup was fantastic, his expressions were genuinely sinister, haunting stuff. The Caliph, the main character and his "beautiful" lady however were on the weaker side of the performance spectrum. I know I said in a previous post that German women can have nice teeth if you look for them, but I'm really starting to wonder...
Cinematography: The only thing that made me rent this was the bold declaration that this was a 'masterwork of German Expressionism'. I liked The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari so much that even if this wasn't great, it would at least be visually original. Besides the double exposures, the angled shots, and the elaborately misproportionned sets, all great examples of Expressionism, it wasn't all that wondrous to witness. In Expressionism, MORE is more... so do that!
Script: No interesting dialects, no thees and thines, no poetry or memorable quotes, just the standard storytelling "I am the caliph and this is my wishing ring" kind of thing. The writing was completely uninspired. Just telling it like it is just doesn't cut it when you're making experimental film.
Plot: So here I thought it would be this Expressionist horror carnival ride with wax mannequins moving around and grabbing the people lost in the funhouse maze. I was all ready to forgive the fact that when wax mannequins grab you it would probably be pretty easy to break free, but hey, gotta sacrifice a little for suspense, right? Instead I get stories about real people. Except for the Ivan The Terrible tale, they weren't even good, and the ending was so weak I was glad the last act was so short... and abrupt.
Mood: Points for succeeding in the theme, but not much else. My guest left in preference to a novel in the sun, and I had to stop it half way through, it was so boring. Let me give all you wanna-be movie directors and writers a piece of advice: if your main character hacks the arm off a guy, and that now limbless guy doesn't move, bleed or scream, he's probably not human, and the main character should figure that out pretty quick, rather than going on about how he murdered someone, no mater HOW dark it was when he did it. Idiot. Oh and completely inappropriate musical score too. There's really nothing haunting about a single piano plinking away in the background, really.
Overall Rating: 52% (Turning Off the T.V. Works Too)
Aftertaste: Ivan The Terrible was a son of a bitch, holy. I know this little tale was just pure fiction but I'm totally looking forward to Ivan The Terrible Part I (1944) and II (1958). If for some weird reason you want to see this movie, just watch this chapter. You have an evil man going to a wedding, and mucking up the whole day so royally that you just gotta laugh at all the death, mayhem and madness. Still, if I did my job you'll avoid this like a German silent leading lady's mouth.