Judge P.S. Colbert dreams of a Blue Christmas.
Our review of The Blue Angel (Blu-ray), published December 18th, 2012, is also available.
"The crowning achievement of the Weimar cinema."
SIDEBAR (excerpted from Judge Daryl Loomis' Verdict review of The Blue Angel (Blu-ray), published on Dec. 18, 2012):
All of the features from Kino's previous release of the film-a Dietrich screen test, interviews, concert footage, and the complete English language release on a separate disc-have been omitted, which makes no sense unless Kino is planning on a double-dip, which would be really lame.
My esteemed colleague had apparently just Windexed his crystal ball, for he saw all to clearly into the not too distant future. In fact, The Blue Angel: 2-Disc Ultimate Edition contains no more or less than the German language version with English subtitles released last year, plus the domestic Blu-ray debut of that English language release on a separate disc, appended with a Dietrich screen test, interviews, and concert footage!
There's not much I can add to Judge Loomis' critique of the German-language version of the film. As a cinematic milestone, Der Blaue Engel remains unimpeachable. Josef von Sternberg's (The Scarlet Empress) screen translation of Heinrich Mann's novel, "Professor Unrat" (roughly translated as Professor Trash), brings the crumbling decadence of Germany's Weimar era—then on the verge of collapse, with Hitler waiting in the wings to take over—to life. Berlin is rendered in terms of grotesque expressionism: the architecture of the city bursting from the ground in jagged lines, like teeth in an over-crowded mouth.
The film's rapier wit remains undulled by the decades since its premiere, as does the power of Marlene Dietrich's (The Scarlet Empress) star-making turn as Lola Lola, the seductress/chanteuse that lures the once respectable Professor Rath (Emil Jannings, winner of the very first Best Actor Oscar for The Last Command and The Way Of All Flesh) to his doom.
History has not been especially kind to Janning's memory (no doubt due in part to his Nazi associations), and subsequent repackagings of the film—including this one—have put Dietrich's name above the title in place of his.
Once the lights go down and the picture starts, however, the question of who the real star here is becomes inarguable: Jannings is simply perfect in the role, one so complex, and artfully wrought that I can't imagine anyone else even coming close. If you regard yourself a true cinephile, you cannot get through life without screening this film at least once.
Mind you, I'm not talking about the English version presented in this set, which, unlike its German counterpart wasn't "restored in HD from archival 35mm elements by the Fredrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung." In fact, this domestic version plays like it was run through a cheese grater, and then sonically enhanced by a pervasive hiss. To make matters worse, there are no optional subtitles, despite the heavily accented cast, and the fact that some scenes are still presented in German! Avoid this wooden nickel at all costs.
As for those aforementioned extras, they're not without charm or value, but be warned: the length of each one is minimal; more representative of a tease than a taste. There's one more extra: a "screen comparison" of the domestic (English) and international (German) versions. Sounds interesting, right? Well, it is interesting, but less so than one might imagine. You see, the two versions were shot simultaneously, so the differences are minimal in the one scene featured.
Being a bit of a crazy completist myself, I understand that there's little use in trying to dissuade those who simply must have both versions in their collections. But for those conscientious consumers who value getting the best bang for their bucks, I advise skipping this "2-Disc Ultimate Edition," and going for the one disc edition so skillfully reviewed last year by Judge Loomis.
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Scales of Justice, The Blue Angel
Perp Profile, The Blue Angel
Studio: Kino Lorber
Distinguishing Marks, The Blue Angel
• Scene Comparison
Scales of Justice, Der Blaue Engel
Perp Profile, Der Blaue Engel
Studio: Kino Lorber
Distinguishing Marks, Der Blaue Engel
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