Schloß Vogeloed
Die Enthüllung eines Geheimnisses

The lovely, intricate German of the titles bespeaks a lovely, intricate film.

A hunting party, a widow since remarried.

“The art of prophecy learned in India,” question of a shot fired on this occasion, or two.

Disappearance of the lady’s monkish confessor (“The Revelation of a Secret”).

Träume”, a terrible hand at the window, the good Father suffering little children.

The late husband had become abstemious to the point of renunciation and otherworldliness.

A certain Count thought to have killed him, his brother, Count Oetsch. “Did you ever murder someone,” he asks at breakfast, explaining, last night I dreamed such a thing.”

The new husband, a Baron, is accused.

Return of the monkish confessor. The Baroness’s horror at her late husband’s sanctity, her longing for wickedness, even murder (the poor man is amazed).

A malentendu.


Marizza, genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna

The first reel only is extant, in Italian.

The gypsy girl, loved by a scion of good family out at heels betrothed “of necessity” to the daughter of an usuraio...

A customs officer (doganiere) fancies Marizza, she might be useful to the smugglers...

For her part, she would over the hills and far away...



The succinctness of the Dracula legend is in the stake-and-mallet. Murnau initiates more fulsomely the series, dare one say, with a more fluent analysis that is essentially a joke partaking of Pandora and Scheherazade. Its comic possibilities bubble over at once in simple naïve health and good high spirits, the theme is worked insistently to a high point of horror that is never far from the strands of comedy laid out at the very outset.

Hitchcock transformed the entire work religiously on a “bloodsucker” line as Jamaica Inn, a major analysis. Robert Wise hews more closely to the center lines of Murnau’s film in his mounting of The Andromeda Strain. Somewhere very mysteriously floats a most arcane insight, Denison Clift’s The Mystery of the Marie Celeste.


Der brennender Acker

Tabu, the Devil’s Ground is an unsuspected field of oil.

The farmer’s son goes beyond himself, marries the Countess, overhearing the geological reports.

The Count’s daughter loves him, so does the maid.

The farm he despised is his home after all.

Rohmer substantially underwrote the reconstruction with its honey-colored and ice-blue tintings, occasionally rose or charcoal or fire-orange.


Die Finanzen des Großherzogs

Grand Duke Ramon XXII, ruler of Abacco, a Mediterranean isle.

There is a rather keen resemblance to Satyajit Ray’s Jalsaghar in several aspects.

“A very respectable public debt” (einer sehr respektablen Staatsschuld) must be paid, Punta Hermosa might be sold for a sulfur mine (“niemals,” says the conscientious Grand Duke, thinking of his people), Grand Duchess Olga of Russia loves him, there are questions of scandal involving a circus rider and assiduous blackmail and so forth, the sulfur magnate underwrites a revolution, a successful marriage would save the economy à la Lubitsch, making Abacco notes a very good investment, meanwhile Murnau goes on filming delightfully around his Mediterranean locations, delightedly.


Der letzte Mann

He is always with us, the last man, keeper of the door, creating with children a softer, kinder world. Here we see him stripped of his rank and duties and reduced to a beautician’s task in The Atlantic washroom, but all is well, a millionaire dies in his arms, a fortune befalls him.

Readers of Poetry, take note.

Murnau’s genius is to draw the last ounce of tragedy from this, and Mayer’s, and Jannings’.

Truffaut noted the camaraderie with Welles, but Welles saw it first.


Herr Tartüff

Carl Mayer and Murnau on one of the high number of hypocrites there are and no-one notices, Molière’s religionist.

A particularly intimate view, in Murnau’s happy filming.

A masterpiece of masterpieces that appears out of the mists of time in a contemporary Berlin domicile.

A theory of cinema, among other things (a theory of criticism, for instance), the film within the film, projected by a disinherited actor (Lil Dagover, Werner Krauß, Emil Jannings).

Of course, this bears directly on Schloß Vogeloed.

Orgon, whose wife’s tears fall upon his picture in the locket she wears about her neck, deceived.

And they’re all named Tartuffe, says the actor.



A long extrapolation from the Book of Job, like Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Murnau assigns the credit to the people.

Und es war ein Geschrey in gantzen Aegyptenland.Virgin Spring notes the popular discomfort, just as Bergman earlier in Crisis reflects on the form. There are several places in The Twilight Zone where Mephisto appears, “Escape Clause” and “The Howling Man”, for example.

The “one-day trial offer” stretches into infinity. Œdipus Rex and Camus’ Etat de siège are indicated in the cause.

There are a lot of etchings, and some of them are by Rembrandt. Browning’s “Apparent Failure” has the same idea of looking to the source.

Grünewald’s The Temptation of St. Anthony is cited more than once, and for all one knows may have inspired Hindemith to his opera.

The point being, against Job’s or Faust’s despair, “You had a father; let your son say so.”

Murnau does what he wants, not what he must. The opening suggests a sire to Terry Gilliam.

The 1995 version with its excellent score contains a significant error in the English titles amid various solecisms. “Man belongs to God!” will not translate “Der Mensch ist gut: Sein Geist strebt nach der Wahrheit!



The disaster of a farm girl with a doltish husband nearly costs her life, but they’ve been to the city in the end, a place of amusements.

Mordaunt Hall pronounced it a film masterpiece in the New York Times.    

A film of mainly cinematic prerogatives, long before Fellini and Cinecittà.

“Manages to remain picturesquely soporific for a long evening,” said Time, if one can believe it.


City Girl

Nobody loves America like F.W. Murnau, the first half of City Girl is one of the great works of American cinema.

“I got some surprise for you! Lem’s went and married a city girl!”

Legendarily, he walked off the set, an assistant director is supposed to have finished the picture per instructions. It took a long time to finish, by way of King Vidor’s Our Daily Bread, Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass, and John Cassavetes’ A Woman under the Influence.



The Murnau-Flaherty joke on a pearl of great price who has to be paid for all the way.

Et ego in Arcadia, filmed in Tahiti lest any should miss the point.