“IN ANTICIPATION OF SOMETHING TERRIBLE.”
This is from a recently rediscovered fragment of the lost original version of DER GOLEM. Many of you will have seen the famous 1920 film, with its expressionistic studio recreation of old Prague. But none of us have seen Henrik Galeen’s 1915 movie, which is filmed mainly on location and in modern dress. Paul Wegener creates the role of the clay giant with whom he is now irrevocably associated, and Galeen himself plays the Rabbi who reanimates the ancient statue.
So, the 1920 GOLEM, subtitles OR HOW HE CAME INTO THE WORLD, is a prequel, showing the monster’s creation. It’s also a more sophisticated piece of cinema, although perhaps it’s unfair to judge the Galeen, only a few minutes of which survive. But we can definitely say that the stiff, Frankensteinian tread of the Golem is already in place, although he moves pretty quick, and Wegener looks positively baby-faced compared to his 1920 self — it’s strange to look at a murderous ambulatory statue and find oneself going “Awww…”
Alas, the first sequel to this movie, THE GOLEM AND THE DANCER, is also a lost film. (I hate the fact that films are lost, but I love the concept of the “lost film” — it has a certain romance. And I love fragments too.) In that one, Wegener played a satiric version of himself, an actor famous for playing a Golem, who attends a party in clay-face fancy dress and meets a girl — well, they say there’s someone for everybody. I can’t quite visualize the hulking Wegener in light comedy mode, but who can say what the results were like? 80 years after the film was made, author F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre blessed it with the world’s greatest advertising copy: “Her muddy buddy is no fuddy-duddy.”