Archive for Thea Von Harbou

The Sunday Intertitle: What an odd thing to say

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2017 by dcairns


“I’m not doing this anymore! Running around at 200kmph! It’s modern cannibalism!”

A strange intertitle from the pen of a strange woman, Thea Von Harbou. Due to a job I’ve got on, I found myself watching both SPIONE and both parts of DR. MABUSE: DER SPIELER this week, which is quite a lot of espionage to consume at one sitting. But highly enjoyable, as most binges are.



The above statement is made here, in the cosy flat of two disgruntled henchmen. I could imagine that being a great premise for a sitcom, except that Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter already nailed that concept. And who IS sending Ben and Gus those baffling orders for scampi &c? Surely it’s the doctor himself, who starts off flesh-and-blood in this film, becomes more of a psychic influence in TESTAMENT, and is a mere principle by the time of 1,000 EYES. By the time he seeps into Pinter he’s a Godot-like abstraction, probably not even a conscious presence…

Post-binge, I found I slightly preferred SPIONE, since by that point Lang’s insert shots have moved on to a new realm of gleaming fetishism, but MABUSE sets out the plan for so much later Lang, it’s like watching the birth of a monster. Horrible yet awe-inspiring. FANTOMAS and his many imitators may have set the pattern, but to the master-criminal scheme is added something fresh, via Norbert Jacques’ novel: while Fantomas worked mostly alone with the occasional foxy accomplice or hired-for-the-occasion goon squad, Mabuse is the leader of a criminal empire, or, as he later calls it, a state within a state. All the Hitler comparisons stem from that one adjustment.

It makes Mabuse both more like a real-world crime boss, and yet also more fantastical, since he seems able to accomplish anything. He has tentacles everywhere, like a naughty Hokusai octopus. One thing I was watching for was some good police interrogation scenes, but the recurring theme of MABUSE is that any time the police clap a perp in irons, Mabuse has the guy offed before he can squawk.


Here’s a Mabuseian insert shot — not quite up to the standard of SPIONE, but very nice.


Shang a Lang

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , on June 16, 2014 by dcairns


On drums — Fritz Lang. Saxophone — Brigitte “Bleeding Gums” Helm. And on keyboards, vocals, and National Socialism, Thea Von Harbou.

The Sunday Intertitle: McTropolis

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , on June 15, 2014 by dcairns


To St Andrews Square in the heart of our fair city for an outdoor screening (part of Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Film in the City event) of METROPOLIS, Giorgio Moroder version. Don’t ask me why they screened this one. I guess they didn’t have a three-hour slot for the restoration, or they thought this version would go down better with the kids, who are into all that Queen and Bonnie Tyler and Adam Ant stuff.

Fiona quite likes this version because it’s how she first saw the film. She defends Moroder slightly — “He wanted to show the film to a new generation.” But that’s Ted Turner’ colorization argument — you get more people to see the thing, but what they’re seeing is NOT the thing. Still, he did put out a version of the film that restored Von Harbou’s plot, which had been moronically rewritten in English-language territories. (The female robot is presented, in that rewrite, as “The worker of the future,” and the city’s ruler has her incite riots for no discernible reason. Complete nonsense, concocted by some Hollywood Pat Hobby who felt the original story was “silly.”) Moroder’s electronic scoring is acceptable, though I think a little disappointing considering how good Moroder was at film composing when he had a living director to collaborate with. The songs are bloody awful. The tinting is overenthusiastic. The synth sound effects just work as score so they don’t upset me. The end titles that credit Fritz Raspe’s character, “the Thin Man,” as “Slim,” are acceptable. It’s a valid translation, with noir resonances just as strong as the more familiar one…

The Moroder version actually begins with a title announcing that much of Lang’s footage has been lost, “probably forever,” delightfully announcing its obsolescence with its opening frame. Kind of poetic: Lang’s movie triumphs over time, time triumphs over Moroder’s edit. I give Moroder enough credit to believe he’s delighted to be proved wrong on this occasion, so everyone’s a winner.

metropolis_moroder_eureka_dvd_cap03 (1)

Fiona enjoyed the show, I mainly read Raoul Walsh’s autobio, the clouds threatened rain but held off until later, and there was applause when evil Maria’s eyes opened, and when the film ended. So, even under rather odd conditions, Lang’s film still impresses.

Buy the right version (UK): Metropolis [Reconstructed & Restored] (Masters of Cinema) [DVD] [1927]

And US: The Complete Metropolis [Blu-ray]