Der Schatz

The Master, the Master’s wife, their daughter, the senior journeyman in the bell-foundry, the journeyman goldsmith.

The last of these departs with the daughter, the house collapses behind them, undermined by a search for gold hidden by the Turks.

The original score by Max Deutsch has been laid on in Prague, with tintings and titles.


The Joyless Street

This version is a simplified rendition of Pabst’s Die freudlose Gasse, in which he takes apart the Viennese predicament after the war. Here, the advantage is all to Garbo, who hardly needs it.

The poor stand in line all night, the rich finagle and party. Their finagling can break a man, his daughter is driven down to a cabaret, an American lieutenant takes her away from all that.

Sublime performances, and the one by Garbo.


Secrets of a Soul

Geheimnisse einer Seele, a psychiatric case of knife phobia, treated by analysis.

The patient’s experiences around the time when the neurosis first appeared are shown, and a vivid dream.

The psychoanalyst deals with these, and further elicits a childhood memory that proves crucial.

Freud’s name and portrait are given at the outset.

The point is the intense drama taking place exclusively in the mind.

Great influence on Hitchcock (Blackmail, Marnie) and Russell (Altered States) can easily be seen.

An exceptionally accurate and witty drama of this kind, “necessarily too pat” according to Time Out Film Guide, on childhood fears and jealousies.


Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney

Her lover of a blissful season is a Bolshevik officer, she finds this out over her father’s dead body (the late gentleman, a “foreign observer” in the Crimea, had just purchased a list of “Bolshevik agents” copied out of the phone book).

Paris is a refuge, not for long, the Bolsheviks have the same mission there that Napoleon had in Moscow.

The Imperial Russian crown is replaced by dissolve with the portrait of Lenin, the man who sold the list moves on to Paris, an American’s diamond is missing, a parrot is torn apart to find it, the officer is redeemed of a murder charge.

A blind girl might just as well be in the dark, saves electricity, Pabst has the joke.



Erring Ways, wrong turns, etc.

Lawyer’s wife seeks the arty crowd, with great advantage for Hitchcock in Blackmail one year later.

He is a deuced good highly-placed and well-paid lawyer, confoundedly at ease with his briefs all in order, she wants some adventure.

There isn’t much on offer, what there is brings her into divorce court, but why split hairs?

An even-tempered, plain-spoken (cp. Murnau’s and Lubitsch’s German intertitles) anecdote rather like the one called “Ring Around the Rosy” in Kelly’s Invitation to the Dance.


Die Büchse der Pandora

Orson Welles receives the inspiration of this in its first acts, all the deep impression it made is securely analyzed and often visible in Citizen Kane.

That is something of a pedigree of criticism for a film suffering the censor at its New York premiere, where the Times couldn’t make head nor tail of it, and since that time various rescensions. At ninety-seven minutes, Halliwell sees an “oddball fantasy”.

Ken Russell takes a long, deep study of the revue composed by Alwa Schön to set his English version of Wilde’s Salomé, so that with Citizen Kane and Salome’s Last Dance there is a firm basis of criticism.

Hitchcock’s fire-alarm gag occurs here, the abduction of Lulu from the courtroom is paralleled in Young and Innocent.


Tagebuch einer Verlorenen

The film is brilliantly constructed in its script, so that the actual shooting is a matter of course. That naturally makes you think of Capra. The entire work may be collapsed into its central reference and starting point, the confirmation of a girl, or expanded from it, like a concertina.

She is wearing a coronal of flowers, and a white dress. The housekeeper is leaving, a young girl rather unhappy about it. Meinert, who runs the family’s apothecary shop downstairs, offers to explain it all, and inscribes the first note in her confirmation gift of a diary, “Tonight in the shop at 10:30.” Many other gifts descend upon her.

The housekeeper’s body is fished out of the water and brought on a stretcher. Her replacement, Meta, arrives, already looked after by the girl’s father. At 10:25, the shop is closed, the girl descends in an Oriental robe, goes limp in the lecherous apothecary’s arms, and is carried to her bed.

In the next scene, her child is presented to the family. Meta takes charge, the girl, whose lovely name is Thymian, won’t name the father, her diary is brought and forced open. “It’s Meinert.”

Thymian is placed in a women’s reformatory, very severely run. Regimentation is all, the girls eat their soup to the beat of a stick, one spoonful at a time, in rigid unison. There is an unwholesome air about the place, the director’s wife eyes a girl at table, and beats the time for bedtime exercise with an orgiastic gong. The tall director in black, utterly bald, steers the girls with an outstretched hand on the neck.

Thymian writes to her father, thinks better of it and writes to young Count Osdorff, whose confirmation gift had been a necklace charm engraved like his card with a coronet. “But I’m not a countess,” she told him. “Yes, but I’m a count.”

His father, who holds the same title, gives him one last chance to make good. The young man is required to milk a cow on the family farm, he is wearing the suit and cap of a country gentleman, he puts his gloves on and makes a gingerly attempt in front of a small crowd who have stopped work to watch. Failing at this, as in “every school and trade”, he is sent away with a small roll of bills to fend for himself.

The young Count visits Thymian, tells her to steal the keys that night, he’ll take her away. In their dormitory, the girls smoke, play cards, chat or read. The director’s wife surprises them, she seizes Thymian’s diary, the girls toss it back and forth, grab the woman, take her keys, Erika and Thymian escape. The director enters and attempts a rescue, he and his wife are pummeled with blows.

Thymian goes to see her baby, left with a midwife by her aunt and Meta. The infant has died, its name was Erika, she passes the coffin on her way up the stairs. In the street she dejectedly pauses, a vendor takes her “to see Erika”. Her friend is ensconced in a fashionable establishment run by a kindly matron who presents Thymian with a black cocktail dress and shoes, and her first customer. The atmosphere is festive and friendly, the décor is modern, the vendor dispenses wieners and gulps wine, Thymian has her first glass of champagne. The customer dances her to bed, she goes limp in his arms, in the morning she’s presented by the matron with an envelope of cash, which she refuses. She’ll give dancing lessons, her first client is a goatish young man who tests the divan with his stick and is chased away by Dr. Vitalis, who always “comes to save us and stays to join us”. He’s feted at a jazz party with a lottery (Osdorff gets the ticket with her name on it). Thymian’s father is at the restaurant on a yearly trip to town, with his new wife Meta and the man whom Thymian refused to marry because she didn’t love him, Meinert. Thymian is standing on the bar, father and daughter almost meet, he is held back by Meta and Meinert.

Three years later, Thymian attends his funeral. She is advised to marry Osdorff, who agrees. 45,000 marks come into her hands, Meinert owns the shop by mortgage. Meta and her two small children are sent away by dog cart, Thymian gives them the money. On hearing of this, Osdorff leaps out a window.

She blames herself, his father accepts responsibility, makes her his niece, a countess. On a seaside holiday, where her “former life seems like a horrible dream”, two lady cousins of the elder Count’s invite her to join their Society for the Rescue of Young Girls, which runs the very institution she escaped from. Erika is there, brought back against her will. Thymian takes her home. “With more love,” observes the Count, “there would be no lost girls.”

The dancing lesson is Blake Edwards before the fact, the film looks as if it were made yesterday, even in a slightly problematical print with an illustrious pedigree, run at nearly if not quite the correct speed.


Westfront 1918
Vier von der Infanterie

The very end, though Pabst expresses a doubt, of the Germans in France.

Kubrick takes note in Paths of Glory, a little song in the trenches tells the tale.

Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader) describes a “wave of pacifist sentiment” and, with reference to Pandora’s Box, “bilious fatalism”, like Patton of the Boches.

Time Out Film Guide says the same, “grim, humanitarian... ultimately simple pacifism”.


Die Dreigroschenoper

Pabst’s free satire following on Brecht and Weill plays up equally the two constituent elements of National Socialism as it was founded in his day, this is the perfect determinant of the final scene that literally draws up the papers.

It meant nothing to Mordaunt Hall (previously the New York Times had found Pandora’s Box unintelligibly censored, but as Mackie says, “it wasn’t nice, it was art”), who seems to have had difficulty in following the plot.



A mining accident at a French border town, German miners speed to the rescue alongside their colleagues.

Circumstances as they are before, during, and after. That is to say, it ends with foolish speeches and the fences that make good neighbors, it begins with border crossings and language trouble and economic difficulties, in the middle it goes down two thousand feet to save anyone.

This is a perfectly sage and clear-eyed realism from which conclusions can be drawn, some of them immediate and far-reaching, some permanent.

They do not include an assessment by Time Out Film Guide (which does not know “a man’s a man for a’ that”), echoed almost word for word by TV Guide, “the absolute high-point of German socialist film-making of its period.”


The Mistress of Atlantis

Antinea, identified with Paris, the City of Light, daughter of a can-can dancer but not of an Arab prince.

Atlantis exists somewhere in the desert, not in any ocean.

Antinea excels at chess and commands her lovers, not to serve her is to die.

Two French officers overrun by tribesmen are taken to her, one survives to tell the tale, “a fever dream”.

A marvel among films, Welles and Fellini and Robbe-Grillet bear its influence.



Don Quixote

Variety thought so ill of this masterpiece that it choked the very public in its rage, “Strictly for the arty clientele... for general consumption tedious and dull. Americans in general may feel that the story scarcely rates retelling.” All but quoting Shakespeare unbeknownst to itself.

The speed of execution achieved by Pabst is that of Hitchcock, and then some, and this is matched inevitably by setups that catch every ball that is tossed, to say the least. The sheep that Don Quixote charges upon reappear after the windmill exploit watching concernedly as he is led off. The crowd of peasants who see him brought home in the empty cage of an unused hay wagon chatter and gape, but the burning of his books (“In the Middle Ages they would have burned me,” said Freud) and the absolute collapse of his persona induce awe among them, recorded by a passing camera that stops on Sancho caressing his ass in tears, an ending not exceeded by Kubrick in Paths of Glory.

The striking clarity of Welles in his later films comes from this (and we have his assistant director’s establishment of a personal Don Quixote to consider).

Renoir’s two-edged sword finds its cognate here between the wars, where the ridiculous meets the sublime and a real Spain bears witness of itself (one of the senses, among many, in which the picture’s worth Cervantes’ words of a surety). The Duke is an enlightened despot, a beacon amid the gloom (noted by Russell in The Devils), the lighthouse of Ramuz that sees what it shines upon, only. A single line gives birth to Yates’ Year of the Comet.

The dreadful comedy begins by upsetting Cyrano’s apple cart on stage, the mummery of rural order gets trounced by the Knight of the Mournful Countenance. Pabst patiently explains in a few seconds the barber’s plate that is the Don’s helmet, he is not without concessions to the great cinemagoing public, the Don is no impostor but himself as advertised, a literary conceit made visible. But note the one magic trick, Sancho bounced à la Goya back up where he stood, by the same device that unburns the book economically at the close, from an artistic point of view.

George Robey sings when he’s of a mind to, Minnelli could do no better. Ravel’s songs are not lost, and Ibert’s score is one of the best. Chaliapin sings it memorably.


A Modern Hero

A rather brilliant psychoanalytical treatment of a farce character, the American, a French expatriate from the circus who doesn’t get the girl but starts a business and climbs the heights and loses it all and returns to Europe with his mother, a clairvoyant.

Its deadpan is so firm that Halliwell was mighty fooled (“unconvincing moral tale”), still more Variety (“essentially weak on plot and characterization”).

“Pabst is cited here not for his American film, A Modern Hero,” Sarris makes a point of saying in The American Cinema.

Welles, of course, remembers it in Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons.


Salonique Nid d’Espions
(ex Mademoiselle Docteur)

After Westfront 1918, the Eastern Front.

It is all summed up in a succulent melon savored by a madman with a knife, and thus Pandora’s Box (pace the absurd squib in Time Out Film Guide).

Lattuada’s great Fräulein Doktor had a mother (perhaps Gréville’s Under Secret Orders).


Le Drame de Shanghaï

The murder of China, viewed finally from the perspective of Allied warships observing the Japanese invasion.

This is mainly an homage to Sternberg, of course, Hitchcock is concurrent, too (Foreign Correspondent followed a year later).

The tale of le Serpent noir opposed by one Cheng is made to intersect most gratefully with its mirror in the fate of Kay Murphy, née Maria Sergeyevna, “the Queen of Shanghai”, a singer at the Olympic, whose daughter arrives from boarding-school in Hong Kong.

Pabst rises to the occasion in one of the greatest works of the cinema.



The Neuberin and Hanswurst at the birth of German tragedy with Lessing’s Emilia Galotti.

There are numerous difficulties, not to say complications, love and the State (Russia), it comes down to an auto-da-fé for the clown (he all but pisses on it), the nobility of self-interest gives way to something finer still (Corneille is indicated) and too late the birth is achieved.



The sick line up at his door for treatment, medicine is so backward.

He saves a leg here, a plague victim there.

He seeks the Golden Elixir that bestows a thousand years of life.

His famulus tries a variation, the patient dies. Paracelsus diagnoses apoplexy but is forced to flee.

The famous Ritter Ulrich von Hutten is a patient whom Paracelsus cannot heal, the disease (Morbus gallicus) is too far gone in him.

The burgher’s daughter is engaged against her will to a rich Graf, she falls into a swoon, the love of the famulus revives her, naturally. Paracelsus refuses payment, the girl contributes it to his escape.

The university disputation wins Paracelsus a teaching post, but envy drives his students away.

The Totentanz that follows upon the entry of plague into the city is notable. Paracelsus is a student of Nature, gypsy lore, the University of Ferrara, astrology, alchemy, a leading scientist of his day.

Werner Krauss is a great likeness of him (cf. the portrait by Quentin Massys).

Erasmus also appears, a sage counselor.

Pabst under the Nazis. The early appearance of Hitchcock’s Rope theme establishes a common source in the sorcerer’s apprentice. Elements of the drama recur in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and The Magician (The Face).


Cose da pazzi

“You can’t go on ignorant of the New Order that will light the world!”

Thus a woman in her nightgown haranguing the citizenry from the terrace railing of her luxury apartment several floors up. “Viva la guerra!

The wrong girl goes to Villa Felicità, a madhouse for the well-to-do.

Hence a wonderful succession of skits comprising the vaudeville “crazy house”, all chimeras and idées fixes, with special reference to the war just ended and the Cold War just begun.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” is the most particular identification of the entire dilemma, given a rigorous and thoroughgoing analysis in every respect, including O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh.

A masterpiece of comic perfection.


Der Letzte Akt

The last act of the comedy builds slowly at the bunker, security arrangements, visitors, reports and so on, the military situation, then Hitler appears in his Nazi doubletalk, a lunatic figure ringed by cronies, generals, staff, each outer ring less magnetized by his proximity, a spectacle of the utmost importance, witnessed and researched.

Bosley Crowther disregarded it in his New York Times review as a “late and profitless account”.


Es geschah am 20. Juli

Events of the day in 1944 when der Führer was blown up in his Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg, and orders were given in Berlin for the liberation of Germany.

Directed with mechanical precision almost, to keep the errors and mischances from taking on any extra weight.

Pabst considers it a notable day for Germany amid the mass murders, and would like to commemorate those who died for their part in it.

Wicki, who plays Stauffenberg, no doubt remembers the filming in his contribution to The Longest Day.