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aka - Blaue Engel, Der
Germany 1930
Directed by
Josef Von Sternberg
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Blue Angel

This early German sound picture, an adaptation of Heinrich Mann's novel "Professor Unrath", made an international star of 28-year-old Marlene Dietrich, who until this time had only had appeared in B-grades. Her performance as cabaret star, Lola-Lola, made her one of the iconic screen sex symbols and femme fatales, her world-weary version of "Falling In Love Again", in top hat, black stockings and bare thighs being regularly recycled in film documentaries dealing with such things.

With Diedrich spending a good deal of time with her skirt cut away to reveal her lacy knickers this was racy stuff in its day (and no doubt provided research material for Bob Fosse for Cabaret, 1972) but despite Dietrich's empathetic performance, the film tends to be didactic and hence feel somewhat laboured as it focuses stylistically, narratively and dramatically on the degradation and decline of the hapless Professor whilst Lola-Lola remains an entirely mythic character, a vamp without any tangible motivation at a real psychological level. Von Sternberg, who had returned to Germany from Hollywood on the invitation of Germany's leading actor of the day, Emil Jannings who here plays Lola's infatuated "victim", went on to make another 6 films with Dietrich in Hollywood, all of which in one way or another play with the various dimensions of the feminine mystique.

FYI: Indicative of the importance of the German film industry at the time, which technically and qualitatively had certainly outstripped Hollywood during the silent era, the film was also made in an English language version for the pre-Hays Code American market.

DVD Extras: This handsome Madman release includes both German and the shorter English version of the film. Although both have been restored both suffer from a noticeable amount, particularly the German version, with the soundtracks being particularly noisy. Nevertheless this is a valuable release for film aficionados and Melbourne academic Dr. Adrian Martin provides an informative commentary whilst there is a.restoration comparison of one scene. Also included are a Hollywood Remembers profile of Dietrich; 2 original German trailers; a Dietrich screen test for the film and the much older actress in interview speaking about her role in the film and singing her 3 songs from it to a television audience.

Available from: Madman

 

 

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