Simanaitis Says

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SILENT FILMS LACK NOTHING in entertainment value. Today in Part 2, we continue with movie treatment of Die Büchse der Pandora, Pandora’s Box, 1929.

Lulu’s Cinema Career.  Frank Wedekind’s theatrical plays were recast in film by Austrian director/screenwriter Georg Wilhelm Pabst.

Wikipedia observes, “Released in 1929, Pandora’s Box was a critical failure, dismissed by German critics as a bastardization of its source material.” However, Wikipedia continues, “By the mid-20th century, Pandora’s Box was rediscovered by film scholars and began to earn a reputation as an unsung classic of Weimar German cinema.”

Paste Magazine includes Pandora’s Box as No. 58 among its “100 Best Silent Films of All Time.” The magazine notes, “Pandora’s Box starts off scandalous and voyeuristic, then descends into a nightmare.” 

Briefly: Lulu is the mistress of Dr. Ludwig Schön, a respected middle-age newspaper publisher.  Schön’s son Alwa falls for her as well, and things get complicated, deadly complicated. The end—let’s not reveal it here—involves Lulu’s descent into outright prostitution in London. And an encounter with Jack the Ripper. 

Production and Movie Theater Challenges. Pabst’s selection of American Louise Brooks angered Weimar film critics. He had been close to choosing Marlene Dietrich, but at the last minute opted for the younger and less worldly-wise Brooks. (At least she was deemed less worldly-wise at the time.)

Lulu, as portrayed by Louise Brooks.

Belgian actress Alice Roberts portrayed Countess Augusta Gerschwitz, Lulu’s pal. However, she  was less than comfortable with the role’s androgynous tuxedo attire.

The Countess Augusta Gerschwitz, played by Alice Roberts.

Wikipedia notes, “Pabst was deft in manipulating his actors: He hired tango musicians to inspire Brooks between takes, coached a reluctant Alice Roberts through the lesbian sequences, and appeased Fritz Kortner, who did not hide his dislike for Brooks.” Kortner portrayed Dr. Schön (ultimately the late Dr. Schön).

Critics accused Pabst of making a “scandalous version” of Wedekind’s plays (not that the plays were particularly namby-pamby). Censors objected to the Countess’s lesbianism. And no one liked Brooks being American. 

The New York Times reviewer admitted that Brooks is “attractive” and “moves her head and eyes at the proper moment.” Geez, I think she’s sexy. And Quentin Tarantino listed the movie among his 10 greatest films of all time.

So there. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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