Friday, December 28, 2012

The Golem (1920) Review

The Golem 1920 psoter
Director: Paul Wegener, Carl Boese
Stars: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinruck, Carl Boese
Genre: German Expressionism, Fantasy, Horror
Also known as: Der Golem, The Golem: How He Came Into the World

An early work of cinematic German Expressionism based on the 1915 novel of the same name by Gustav Meyrink, but the tale's roots go back hundreds of years to Jewish folklore stories.

So, basically, a Jewish rabbi creates a golem from clay and uses sorcery to bring him to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. The only problem is, the Golem ends up causing a few problems for everyone due to some after-effects of the spell used to bring him to life...or something along those lines.

It kind of felt like a Frankenstein-esque story, and I've even heard that James Whale took inspiration from this while directing Frankenstein (1931). There's even a scene in here where a little girl gives the monster a flower, similar to the scene in Frankenstein.

There's not much to say about this one. It's solid German Expressionism, though it didn't quite captivate me as well as many others of the genre have. It just felt a little boring to me.

The set design is pretty awesome, designed by the wonderful architect, Hans Poelzig. It manages to have a twisted feel, but not as surreal as, for example, the sets of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

The cinematography is well-done, Karl Freund being the head cinematographer. Freund is known for his work on other film, such as Metropolis, The Last Laugh, Key Largo, and he's even directed a few films, most noteworthy being Universal's The Mummy and Mad Love, the remake to German Expressionist classic, The Hands of Orlac. The Golem was once of the earlier projects he worked on, but his charm is ever present.

A still from 1920 German Expressionist film, The Golem

Paul Wegener, who also directs, plays the Golem. The Golem actually looks pretty funny, though the make-up isn't bad. There are some pretty cool special effects here, or really only during one part specifically, when they were reading the spells. For its time it was actually pretty amazing.

It wasn't bad but I wasn't overly impressed by it. I can really only recommend it to fans of German Expressionism or those interested in Jewish mysticism. 

3/5 stars

Purchase The Golem on Amazon: DVD 

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