Directed by: Fritz Lang
Countries & Regions: Germany
Length: 203 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 18 April 2011
Cat No: EKA50047
Languages(s): German, English
Hard of Hearing Subtitles: English
Screen ratio 1:1.33
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Fritz Lang's Indian Epic
Cast: Debra Paget , Luciana Paluzzi , Angela Portaluri , Paul Hubschmid , Walter Reyer , Claus Holm , Rene Deltgen , Valery Inkijinoff , Sabine Bethmann , Guido Celano , Jochen Brockmann , Richard Lauffen
Also known as ’The Indian Epic’, this double bill of fantasy adventure films is the penultimate work of German master Fritz Lang, best... Read More
Fate's a funny thing. Fritz Lang's penultimate film(s) have been much misunderstood and frequently assailed over the years but there are many Langians – including your humble correspondent – that regard them amongst his finest achievements. And since Fritz Lang was one of the greatest of directors, that means – oh man..
On his way to meet the Maharajah of Eshnapur, German architect Harald Berger (Paul Hubschmid) encounters the beautiful Seetha (Debra Paget), headed the same way. She's going to dance in the temple but falls for Berger when he saves her from a tiger. Trouble is, the Maharajah also has his eye on her. If this love triangle wasn't enough, there's palace intrigue, plots and counter-plots, hidden passages and lepers, ravening beasts and divine intervention.
This is pure melodrama but it's how Lang films it that's important. The previous ten years had seen him pare his style down to a minimum but here, he effortlessly slipped back into the style of his silent pictures. The story is distilled to its pulp essence, muting nuance and emphasising sensationalist aspects in a series of hallucinatory set-pieces – a woman is murdered during a magic show; a man dying in the desert fires futile bullets at the indifferent sun; the gods (apparently) save a fleeing couple.
Such dreamlike moments remind us of the huge impact Lang had on the Surrealists. Indeed, this film represents the fullest expression of his own surrealist tendencies, never more clear than in the astounding sequence where Debra Paget, as naked as cinematic standards of 1959 allowed, disports herself before a very obviously (deliberately?) fake snake. One can imagine Luis Bunuel watching it and muttering, 'Caramba. I wish I'd thought of that.'
That these films are appearing on DVD at all should inspire ululation up and down the land; that they do so with gorgeous, reference quality transfers and accompanied by genuinely useful extras means that DVD label Masters of Cinema should be placed on the fast track for beatification. It's too early to speak of 'DVD of the years' but it'll take something pretty special to top this.