Intertitle of the Week: Feet of Clay

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“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…”

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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.”

13 Responses to “Intertitle of the Week: Feet of Clay”

  1. kittypackard Says:

    “her muddy buddy is no fuddy-duddy” belongs on t-shirts everywhere. Hitherto The Curse of Frankenstein had been my personal favorite tagline with “Not recommended for people of nervous disposition,” but I think it’s just been de-throned!

    thank you for sharing this. and i agree with you, there is a certain… romantic mystère about the idea of a lost film, isn’t there? tragic as it is that 90 percent of films from that era are gone, but personally i believe that it does much to solidify silent film’s eternal intrigue.

  2. Back in the early Sixties, just as Marvel Comics was switching over from monsters to super-heroes, Steve Ditko was being showcased in a short-lived comic book called AMAZING ADULT FANTASY. I mention this because of the blurb on the cover of each and every issue: “The Magazine That Respects Your Intelligence”. Now that’s a helluva thing to proclaim on the front of a comic book. I guess they had to make it clear that unlike the others they weren’t out to insult your intelligence.

  3. I wonder how well a publisher would do with “The magazine that respects your nervous disposition”?

    I do like the ad for Gilliam’s Jabberwocky: “Faster than the fifteenth century! Bigger than the black death! At last — a film for the squeamish!”

  4. Christopher Says:

    der Golem’s Big Night…”I’m dude’in up my shirt front,Puttin’ in the shirt studs,polishin’ my naaaaiiils..”

  5. You have to imagine Dinah Washington singing, but my fantasy Golem Lyric is

    “What a diff’rence some clay makes … 24 little hours ….”

    but I’m not clever enough to customize the entire song.

    I always thought that the best modern Golem, face-wise, would have been Charles Bronson. He was proposed for a GOLEM movie for Cannon when I was there, but playing a detective, not the monster.

  6. Aw, that would be a terrible waste, and confusing to boot. “It’s the Golem! No, wait, it’s the detective.” I just wrote an article comparing Ernst Lubitsch’s face to a mudslide. In Sumurun you can compare Lubitsch to Wegener, and Lubitsch is definitely the muddier of the two.

    Maybe we should have a Golem songwriting contest. “I can’t give you anything but mud, baby…”

    And who is the most clay-like actor working today?

  7. kittypackard Says:

    the Ernsy Lubitsch/mudslide analogy is disturbingly accurate!

    hmmm … Golem lyrics … this could almost certainly derail any chance of productivity for the rest of the morning …

    “No they can’t take my clay away from me…”

  8. “I’ve statue under my skin.”
    “Clay Lady Clay.”
    “Bend Me, Shape Me.”

    I’m picturing a video for this a bit like Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello,” only the scary bust comes to life, courtesy of FX by Jan Svankmajer.

  9. lefty trivia point; Keir Dullea’s parents named him after Keir Hardy, Scottish founder of the British Labour movement. And a lovelier man you will never meet.

  10. Oops, wrong post.

    I’ll get my coat.

  11. Heh! Not to worry. Dullea was so campily enjoyable in Brave New World, I really regret he hasn’t had more work. I’d like to see that show again, actually. It was bland and TV-movie looking, but it had Bud Cort in it too…

  12. Gwynplaine McIntyre? Wasn’t Gwynplaine the name of the title character in The Man Who Laughs?

  13. It was. I have a feeling our Mr Gwynplaine may have named himself. I seem to recall some strife in his family background and he may have chosen to disassociate himself from the folks.

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