The crowning achievement of Weimar cinema, The Blue Angel is an exquisite parable of one man's fall from respectability, presented in both the newly-restored German and English-language versions. Emil Jannings, the quintessential German expressionist actor, stars as Professor Immanuel Rath, the sexually-repressed instructor of a boys prep school. After learning of the pupils' infatuation with French postcards depicting a local nightclub songstress, he decides to personally investigate the source of such indecency. But as soon as he enters the shadowy Blue Angel nightclub and steals one glimpse of the smoldering Lola-Lola (Marlene Dietrich), commanding the stage in a top hat, stockings and bare thighs, Rath's self-righteous piety is crushed. He finds himself fatefully seduced by the throaty voice of the vulgar siren, singing, "Falling In Love Again." Consumed by desire and tormented by his rigid propriety, Professor Rath allows himself to be dragged down a path of personal degradation. Lola's unrestrained sexuality was a revelation to turn-of-the-decade moviegoers, thrusting Dietrich to the forefront of the sultry international leading ladies, such as Greta Garbo, who were challenging the limits of screen sexuality.
Kino's two-disc set features both the restored 106-minute German-language version and the trimmed 94-minute English-language version, which was shot simultaneously for the American market (with the actors clumsily performing in English). Historian Werner Sudendorf of the Berlin Film Museum provides an informative and well-researched commentary track (on the German version) steeped in production history and background detail, and he contributes "The Blue Angel Chronicles," a historical timeline illustrated with production stills. Marlene Dietrich fans will love the concert clips of Dietrich revisiting three songs from the film in that smoky, throaty nightclub voice of her mature years. Other features are Dietrich's 1929 screen test, a two-minute interview clip from 1963 in which she discusses The Blue Angel, a stills gallery with behind-the- scenes photos, costume illustrations and posters, bios of 41 key cast and production staff members, and original and reissue trailers. --Sean Axmaker