The Sunday Intertitle: Death of a Princess
Thanks to regular Shadowplayer Guy Budziak for supplying me with a copy of Joe May’s THE INDIAN TOMB.
Of course, watching it now means trying to fit it into the oeuvre of screenwriters Fritz Lang & Thea Von Harbou, whose reputation has long superseded May’s. It feels very Langian, and not only because of the architect hero (Lang studied for that profession, a training which emerges not just in METROPOLIS and SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR, but in all those titles — HOUSE BY THE RIVER, SCARLET STREET, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW). What connects it to later works like METROPOLIS is the way it’s riven with factions, including but not limited to heroes and villains. DIE NIBELUNGEN is probably the best example of this “beyond good and evil” approach, where sympathy for one group of characters over another isn’t as big a deal as it generally is in mainstream movie narratives. (In NIBELUNGEN, that’s putting it very mildly indeed.) This sense is even stronger in Lang’s much later remake of THE INDIAN TOMB, which dispenses with the more overt supernatural elements (and I wonder why?).
Nevertheless, despite being impressed by the mighty sets and the scope of the sprawling story, I was somewhat tickled by the above intertitle, spoken to console the architect who dreams of building his own Taj Mahal — within seconds, he will learn that an Indian princess has indeed expired, and guess who they want to erect her tomb?