Friday, November 9, 2012

Genuine: A Tale of a Vampire (1920) Review

Genuine A Tale of a Vampire posterDirector: Robert Wiene
Stars: Fern Andra, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski
Genre: German Expressionism, Horror
Also known as: Genuine, die Tragödie eines seltsamen Hauses, Genuine, the tragedy of a strange house

Here's another great German Expressionist film directed by Robert Wiene, the same guy who directed The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Hands of Orlac. It's also written by Carl Mayer, an important name in the genre, and produced by Erich Pommer, another huge name of the genre. 

It's a story about a woman named Genuine, who is apparently a vampire, but I'd label her as more of a seductress or a succubus. It's kind of funny that her name is Genuine since all of her love is insincere. I guess that was the point. Anyway, Genuine controls various men in the town and forces them to slit people's throats and at one point she even commands one to kill themselves to prove their love. 

Quite honestly I found the film's plot a bit hard to follow, and the fact that part of the film is lost doesn't help matters. 

It's not your typical vampire story, though I wouldn't be surprised if Nosferatu found a bit of inspiration from this. There's a character in here, Lord Melo, who actually looks and dresses a lot like Count Orlok and there's even some similar use of shadows. 

I think it's pretty cool that a woman played the role of the vampire. The whole film plays out pretty similar to the way later monster movies did; with angry mobs and whatnot. 

A still from the 1920 film Genuine

I really liked the dialogue in here. Usually inter-titles are pretty boring and only serve as a means to progress the story. Not many silent films are known to have amazing dialogue. It was pretty awesome in here though, especially Genuine's lines. Here's some quotes from the film:
-"No, my angel, no, my beauty; up there is life with its ugliness. Here everything smiles at you. Only here can you be completely happy."
-"If only I could climb where I could be free, to enjoy being young and falling in love!" 
-"The desire to practice her irressistable wiles has returned." 
-"Kill yourself, kill yourself! Like in the sacrifices of long ago...What a beautiful proof of love!"
Genuine the vampire

The sets here are awesome. Cesar Klein, an expressionist painter of the time, designed all the sets and costumes wonderfully. After watching the film I actually looked up some of Klein's artwork and it was all very pleasant. 

Besides cool architectural design and patterns, there were also some cool props. Like in the barber shop there was a headless skeleton with a clock in place of where his head should of been. It just looked very creepy and macabre. 

The barber shop in Genuine A Tale of a Vampire

The version I watched had a guitar composition by Larry Marotta. I definitely recommend this version. The composition would be enjoyable even as a standalone work. But it compliments the film well and adds tension in all the right places. 

I think Genuine is a very good film that was underrated in its time and in our's. Perhaps not as stellar as Robert Wiene's other works, but worth the watch nonetheless. A bit hard to follow and slightly confusing, but the film's beauty makes up for it. 

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Genuine on Amazon: DVD - You can also find Genuine as an extra on numerous Cabinet of Dr. Caligari DVDs.

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