Archive for Paul Wegener

Feet of Clay

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , on February 1, 2020 by dcairns

A stash of Blu-rays just arrived from Eureka! Masters of Cinema — all releases I’ve worked on in my capacity as video essayist. I’ll talk about them in three separate posts.

(Also: I repainted the floor. Need to clean it though.)

DER GOLEM comes top of the pile since I collaborated on it with Fiona. We each wrote and narrated part of the commentary and supervised the edit, performed with typical skill by Stephen C. Horne. I’m trying to monetize Fiona’s brain — her ADHD traits make her a particularly dogged researcher, and she turned up tons of stuff here that doesn’t usually get mentioned, including a key collaborator on the film, Marlene Moeschke, who has tended to be written out of the history of this classic film.

2019-08-15 17.52.50

The Sunday Intertitle: A Collaborative Medium

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2019 by dcairns

Rabbi Loewe is a collaborative medium, summoning the demon Astaroth in DER GOLEM.

Masters of Cinema is releasing Paul Wegener’s epic about a great man with feet of clay, and I’ve done a video essay with Fiona for it, our first real collaboration of this kind. She read the narration of my DIARY OF A LOST GIRL piece but this time she’s co-writer and we read the VO in turn. Her researches turned up a crucial, forgotten female collaborator on the film.

Incidentally, the film is restored from the long-lost negative, and looks much, MUCH better than the YouTubey frame-grabs I’ve been forced to use here.

The movie is also going to be playing UK cinemas around Halloween, so don’t be surprised if it gets another Sunday Intertitle during Project Fear, our Euro-horror blogathon. The Blu-ray streets on November 18.

This was actually my second collaboration of this kind: Masters of Cinema are also releasing King Hu’s taut and exciting THE FATE OF LEE KHAN, and I co-wrote a video essay with the sublime Anne Billson for that one. Released on October 21st and available for pre-order.

Just a week later, on October 28th, FOX AT FULLER hits the shops, again with a video essay by me. This time I got Samantha Fuller to read her father’s words, which she does magnificently, so I seem to be sharing VO duties a lot recently. I’m reminded of the late Leonard Cohen’s observation on the effect of a female backing singer accompanying his voice: “Some dismal quality is neutralised.”

Jon Robertson produced all three discs, Stephen Horne video edited the essays on THE GOLEM and THE FATE OF LEE KHAN, and Timo Langer edited FULLER AT FOX.

The Sunday Intertitle: “Eeeeeeeee–oooo”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on November 25, 2018 by dcairns

Eeeeeeeeeee–oooooooo! ‘Tis the cry of the abominable arcti Paul Wegener in THE STRANGE CASE OF CAPTAIN RAMPER (RAMPER – DER TIERMENSCH aka RAMPER – THE BEASTMAN), and where has this movie been all my life? Daredevil pilot Ramper (Wegener) kisses his dear mother goodbye and promptly crashes his plane in the arctic wastes. Lost in the snows for years, he informs his expiring co-pilot of his intention to KILL HIS BRAIN to prevent himself suffering from loneliness. He becomes a beast — a shaggy, yodeling yeti. Finally captured by the crew of an ice-bound ship (who include Max Schreck among their number, violating the nautical rule about it being unlucky to sail on a ship that has Max fucking Schreck on it), he is brought back to civilisation as a sideshow exhibit, billed as “Teddy, the man-ape”. It could happen to you!

The version of the film I saw is in ragged shape, apparently telecined handheld, with jaunty English-language intertitles and scenes missing. But director Max Reichmann, who was new to me, does wonders with suspense and atmosphere, and Wegener is pretty effective as the hirsute hero. “Teddy” hasn’t actually transmogrified, apart from growing lots of facial hair, and nobody thinks to take off his fur coat, so the world is convinced he’s a “missing link,” or “found link” I suppose we would have to call him.

Another odd thing: between performances, Teddy is kept in a crate, lying prone, vampire-fashion, his fur and whiskers expanding to fill the whole box like styrofoam packing. It’s an odd manner of storage for a sideshow exhibit, although I guess Cesar the somnambulist never complained, but he wouldn’t, would he? There’s no particular historical justification for keeping apes in crates, but interestingly yetis sometimes are: one thinks of that episode of CREEPSHOW…

But can even a world-famous specialist in mental diseases cure a very hairy Paul Wegener who has deliberately KILLED HIS OWN BRAIN? Can you perform artificial resuscitation on a brain? Or maybe you can defibrillate it? Isn’t that what ECT is? Yes, I’m almost positive that’s right. In fact, we meet Professor Barbarzin, clad in all-over rubber insulated gimp gear, pulling the world’s biggest knife switch – Henry Frankenstein would plotz – and performing some strange electromagnetic healing ritual on a slabbed loon.


Teddy’s keeper is reluctant to allow treatment: if Teddy is cured, he goes from being a highly profitable beastman to some worthless schlub in a fur coat, a spectacle unlikely to pull a crowd, whatever Flanagan and Allen can prove to the contrary. Still, like all Central European empresarios trafficking in human misery, he has a heart of gold really, and consents readily after being threatened with a slavery charge.

Electrogalvanic brain therapy follows, and reason is restored, but maybe only halfway? Soon, Teddy/Ramper is breaking free from the Barbarzin Institute with the aid of a table leg and standing outside his mother’s door, pleading for admission, unable to understand that fifteen years have passed since he flew off into oblivion and I guess the old lady’s dead. Pretty strong pathos from Paul: he’s not just a golem, he can play other kinds of lumbering halfwits too. I fear I’m not conveying how moving this scene is.

Shown around town by a couple of drunken swells, the more Ramper sees of modern life, the more nostalgia he feels for his desolate glacier. Tragically, the copy in my possession cuts out in advance of the conclusion described in Mordaunt Hall’s contemporary review: somebody seems to have felt that truncating the movie so that it ends with Ramper being discovered in the drunk tank the next morning would serve as a sufficiently happy ending. Which says something about that anonymous somebody.

I would heartily recommend this film to lovers of polar ice, man-beasts, circuses, big Germans, mad science and yetis. Which ought to cover everybody.

Mordaunt Hall, something of a glacial imbecile himself, wrote: “Mr. Wagener’s acting is probably good, but much of the time one can only see his eyes. Mary Johnson supplies the childish beauty, but that’s about all. This picture was directed by Max Reichmann from a story by Curt J. Braun. The stage features include the Sixteen Roxyettes, dancers, and “Peer Gynt Suite.” The Movietone gives part of President Coolidge’s Gettysburg address.”