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||IMDB Rating: 5.8/10 from N/A votes
||Release: 12 Dec 1921 /
||Director: Robert Wiene,
||Synopsis: Extremely rare work of Robert Wiene. From the director and year of excellent The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari this work was eventually overshadowed by the success of Caligari. It has a dreamy atmosphere, like another world or something.
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I’ve been wanting to give this a whirl ever since acquiring it six
years ago – as part of the Kino edition of the same director’s THE
CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920). However, the result (without taking
into account its obvious narrative gaps, being incomplete in this
version) is nowhere near as groundbreaking or even compelling as that
earlier classic – despite the comparable Expressionist look (including
a clock standing in for the face of a skeleton[!] and which is still
its best quality).
The plot revolves around a femme fatale called Genuine – hence, the
vampire of the title is not of the blood-sucking variety – who had
actually been the high priestess of some cult. Due to a clash between
factions, she ends up in a slave market (featuring surprising but
discreet nudity) and is eventually bought by an eccentric old man
(among other things, he likes to doze off while being shaved daily!),
who keeps the girl in the cellar of his ‘notorious’ mansion so as to
shelter her from the vices of modern life; incidentally, one is never
quite sure in which era this is all supposed to be taking place – since
the dapper but doddering old man has an Arab, with painted bare chest,
for a servant! The irony, then, is that the girl’s own nature – she has
a feral countenance and wears a skimpy striped outfit! – is infinitely
more dangerous to the young men she enslaves (one of whom sports a
highly anachronistic Duran Duran hairdo!). These, in fact, are somehow
driven mad (as it stands, the details aren’t very clear – particularly
with respect to the old man’s nephew); when the son of his exclusive
barber is similarly afflicted, the latter rouses the populace against
her and – in a scene which basically replicates Cesare the
somnambulist’s fate from the aforementioned THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI
– she dies in the ensuing pursuit.
In conclusion, the treatment afforded the film isn’t sufficiently
gripping to rate it higher than a mere curio at this juncture; besides,
it’s all the more disappointing coming from Wiene (who, besides
CALIGARI also made the equally influential THE HANDS OF ORLAC ).
By the way, another interesting effort of his – the Dostoyevsky
adaptation RASKOLNIKOV (1923) – will soon be released on DVD by the
budget label Alpha (under the alternate title of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT)…
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