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Paul Wegener’s THE GOLEM (1920) comes to us in a stunning 4K restoration from Kino Lorber that finally allows me to see this film at its best.

The early years of the movies were the ones most pregnant with possibility. The medium was new. No one knew what would go over with the public. Attitudes had not calcified as they have now. Film making was relatively inexpensive. The language of silence was universal. It was a moment when exciting things could be done. Very often they were.

According to the Wikipedia post director/star Paul Wegener first came in contact with The Golem legend in Prague while filming his 1913 picture THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE. Read more on that here: .

Wegener, himself, plays THE GOLEM in his third turn at the role. He first used THE GOLEM in a now lost 1915 film fragments of which may be seen on YouTube:

A complete print of the 1915 is reputedly in the hands of a private collector. If so, hopefully, s/he will see the wisdom of sharing it with the world before s/he leaves it forever. If not, perhaps that person’s family will.

Nonetheless, while it would be great to see the film this 1920 version is Wegener’s definitive telling of the story. It is a joy to watch this restoration. The color tinting does not obscure the beauty of the film’s photography which is the work of one of the cinema’s great masters, Karl Freund:    .

The film comes with three musical scores and an excellent, informative commentary by film historian Tim Lucas who also narrates a comparison of the German and U.S. release versions. The considerably shorter U. S. release version is included.

I first saw THE GOLEM (1920) in a 8mm print I projected in my teens on my bedroom wall. That print came from the John Griggs MOVIEDROME collection. Not enough can be said about the good work done by this man and others like him. , .

At that time those of us interested in silent and early sound motion pictures were viewed quite frankly as idiots both inside and outside the industry.

Luckily those folk died off. New much more aware people have come into the business who are making the effort to save as much as possible.

The acting throughout the film is excellent. Director/star Paul Wegener was a member, like so many in early German cinema, of the Max Reinhardt company: , . As The Golem Wegener is superb.

Reinhardt had moved his actors from the then prominent Delsarte Method which used broad, gestural acting to the more restrained acting with the eyes which is the essence of the cinema. That broad acting seen in early silent films stems from the Delsarte method:   .

Not enough can be said about the performance of Lyda Salmonova, then Wegener’s wife, as the daughter of Rabbi Loew: .

She’s quite the handful, desperate to lose her virginity, loose her steaming sexuality and burning, like Eve, with a taste for forbidden fruit, the Gentile messenger knight Florian sent by the Emperor of Poland to tell the Jews to get the Hell out of the country.

The last man she wants to pop her cherry is the one chosen by her father. It’s impossible for me to blame her. He’s a cowering simp who faints when he’s needed. He does so repeatedly. Girls like bad boys. Knight Florian is one of the baddest. After delivering his message to Rabbi Loew Florian takes one look at the Rabbi’s daughter. It is lust between both at first sight.

If this seems impossible, it isn’t.

Carmel Myers, daughter of an eminent and respected California rabbi, played the seductress Iras in the 1926 BEN-HUR. In that film she waves a burning block of hashish under the nose of Roman Novarro in a vain attempt to seduce him. Perhaps there’s something about Rabbi’s daughters when it comes to fevered sensuality.

When the Rabbi’s assistant finds out the girl of his dreams has just given her all to a goy he revives THE GOLEM (whom Rabbi Loew had begun to return to the earth) setting him on a murderous rampage which almost destroys the ghetto.

The ghetto is as much of an actor in this film as any of its stars. The sets were designed by the brilliant Hans Poelzig as an organic entity long before H. R. Geiger designed ALIEN:   .

This is a film everyone working in theater and film should study stemming as it does from so many brilliantly creative wells.

Available in Canada: .

Available in The United States: .

When I first read about this film in my teens I read about the beauty of its photography. Until this wonderful Kino Blu-ray I saw this beauty through a glass darkly. Now I see it as it deserves to be seen.–Reg Hartt

A stature in Prague of The Golem.

Universal drew on THE GOLEM when filming FRANKENSTEIN in 1931. Both are seminal films.

This scene is from the American release version also on this disk. It has some wonderful moments not in the European version.


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