November 1, 2016
Review #863: Waxworks.
Emil Jannings (Harun al-Rashid), Conrad Veidt (Ivan the Terrible), Werner Krauss (Jack the Ripper / Spring-Heeled Jack), William Dieterle (The Poet / Assad the Baker / A Russian Prince), John Gottowt (Inhaber der Panoptikums), Olga Belajeff (Eva-Maimune-Eine Bojarin) Directed by Paul Leni and Leo Birinsky.
Waxworks (known as Das Wachsfigurenkabinett in Germany) is an anthology film, with some fantasy and horror elements (yes, this another German "world cinema" film on Movie Night. Do not worry, other countries will get their due all in good time). Two main stories (Harun al-Rashid, Ivan the Terrible) and a closing one (Jack the Ripper/Spring-heeled Jack) are conveyed to us (with the framing piece being that the Poet must come up with backstories for the two wax figures), with Dieterle being in all three parts. The sets and costumes for the two main stories are spectacular, with fine cinematography work by Helmar Lerski. There is also a bit of neat color tinting as well. The first segment is pretty good, with a nice performance from Jannings that brings out some nice humor. It's the longer segment (by a few minutes), but it doesn't overstay its welcome too much. The second segment is also pretty interesting, with Veidt playing this villainous kind of role with a bit of lunacy that later turns into desperation, with the scene of him trying to reverse the hourglass being quite frantic, with his fate at the end being quite poetic. The final piece to close out the film is brief (around six minutes), but it is serviceable, even if it ends a bit like you'd expect (who could've dreamed that one up, I wonder), for the 20's anyway. Obviously it isn't likely realistic with world history facts, but there is a curiosity that the movie inspires within itself. Krauss does fairly well as the last villainous character. On the whole, this is a fine piece of work, weaving some enjoyable stories together with a good sense of style and flair for the time.
Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.