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The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition)

68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Widely recognized as the source of the Frankenstein myth, the ancient Hebrew legend of the Golem provided actor/director Paul Wegener with the substance for one of the most adventurous films of the German silent cinema. Suffering under the tyrannical rule of Rudolf II in 16th century Prague, a Talmudic rabbi (Albert Steinruck) creates a giant warrior (Paul Wegener) to protect the safety of his people. Sculpted of clay and animated by the mysterious secrets of the Cabala, the Golem is a seemingly indestructible juggernaut, performing acts of great heroism, yet equally capable of dreadful violence. When the rabbi's assistant (Ernst Deutsch) takes control of the Golem and attempts to use him for selfish gain, the lumbering monster runs rampant, abducting the rabbi's daughter (Lyda Salmonova) and setting fire to the ghetto. With its remarkable creation sequence (a dazzling blend of religion, sorcery and special effects) and the grand scale destruction of its climax, The Golem was one of the greatest achievements of the legendary UFA Studios, and remains and undeniable landmark in the evolution of horror film.

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A relic certainly, but a fascinating one, Der Golem is perhaps the screen's first great monster movie. Though it was actually the third time director-star Paul Wegener had played the eponymous creation, the earlier efforts (sadly lost) were rough drafts for this elaborate dramatization of the Jewish legend. When the Emperor decrees that the Jews of mediaeval Prague should be evicted from the ghetto, a mystical rabbi creates a clay giant and summons the demon Astaroth who breathes out in smoky letters the magic word that will animate the golem. Intended as a protector and avenger, the golem is twisted by the machinations of a lovelorn assistant and, like many a monster to come, runs riot, terrorizing guilty and innocent alike until a little girl innocently ends his rampage. Wegener's golem is an impressively solid figure, the Frankenstein monster with a slightly comical clay wig. The wonderfully grotesque Prague sets and the alchemical atmosphere remain potent. --Kim Newman

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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinrück, Ernst Deutsch, Lyda Salmonova, Hans Stürm
  • Directors: Paul Wegener, Carl Boese
  • Writers: Paul Wegener, Henrik Galeen
  • Producers: Paul Davidson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Silent
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • DVD Release Date: October 5, 2004
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JMQH
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,637 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Jason A. Miller VINE VOICE on November 2, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
My love affair with silent films began with "The Golem". I was introduced to this movie on a wintry January night, with the lights off. The flickering images, the "Brandenburg Concerto" soundtrack, and the film's angular sets, left a lasting impression on me, and it wasn't long before I started dreaming in black and white with a classical score. I watched it again this year, at midnight on Halloween, and was captivated all over again.<...
The story of the Golem is timeless (it even made a recent appearance in "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay"). The creature is brought to life from clay to protect the inhabitants of a medieval Jewish community from destruction at the hands of the Emperor. But the prophecies from which he's born also foresee his turning against his creators, and those are of course fulfilled when the Rabbi's daughter carries on an affair with the Emperor's knight. The Golem's death is a stunning moment, coming from a most unexpected pair of hands.
The look of the film (if you can discern it on VHS) is remarkable. The village's homes and towers are stark angular shapes, jutting up against a starry night sky. The appearance of the demon Astaroth, who reveals the Golem's secrets, is remarkably realized, as are the words that form from his breath.
The legend changes with each telling, but the core details should be familiar to most, and are echoed in many other sources down through history (the "Frankenstein" parallels are easy to see). If you can secure a good print of this movie (or even if you can't), the images will stay with you for a long time.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Steven Hellerstedt on April 24, 2004
Format: DVD
Wow.
Even on budget dvd (spotty print quality, meaningless background music) watching Paul Wegener's 1920 THE GOLEM is quite an experience.
It's 16th century Prague and the stars imply, and the Emperor impels, an eviction of the ghetto Jews. Their crimes - practicing the black arts, despising Holy Christian ceremonies, etc. In desperation Rabbi Loew, nominal leader of the ghetto, invokes the dread spirit Astaroth to reveal the magic word that will bring the Golem to life.
The Golem is a large clay figure in the form of a man. This faithful servant of Rabbi Loew's possesses superhuman strength and seems invulnerable - daggers bend and break rather than penetrate its skin. It accompanies Rabbi Loew to the Emperor's palace on a mission to have the edict revoked, and the Golem is instrumental in accomplishing that goal.
Of course, the movie reminds us of the dictum that should be engraved on the hearts of all mad scientists everywhere - "If you have brought the dead to life through magic, beware that life." The last third of the movie shows what happens when Man's creation stop obeying the will of their creators.
For me, the big hurdle to clear when watching silent movies is to realize they're NOT over acting. Without sound, emotions have to be expressed with some exaggeration. If you're afraid, eyes pop and mouth gapes and curled fingers cover your face. With sound that type of acting looks ridiculous. This is the second silent movie I've watched recently, and it's getting easier. The acting here is fine.
It's amazing how familiar everything looks. The sets, with walls cantered at weird angles and their organic architecture (there's a spiral stone staircase that seems to have been carved from standing rock), would fit comfortably in a Tim Burton movie.
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57 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on October 1, 2002
Format: DVD
THE GOLEM is one of those movies that many people have seen stills from or have read about but up until now have not the opportunity to see it as it was intended to be seen. Copies of it have been around for years but as was often the case with silent films until recently, it was available only in poor quality prints projected at the wrong speed with inappropriate or no music background at all. This new Kino DVD remedies that situation and is likely to be the best edition we're likely to see for some time.

The story concerns a Jewish ghetto in 16th century Prague which is saved by the creation of a clay man who is brought to life and becomes their protector. After his task is finished, he refuses to return to clay and runs amok until he is finally vanquished by the hands of a child. This is a remake of an earlier film which also featured writer and co-director Paul Wegener as the creature. Much of the Golem legend would be used by Mary Shelley in FRANKENSTEIN and this movie would be recycled by James Whale and Boris Karloff for the famous 1931 film. It is fascinating to watch this film today not only for its highly stylised sets and striking cinematography but also for its positive portrayal of Jewish life which was possible in 1920 Germany but not 13 years later.

This is by far and away the best version of this film that I have seen. It is still a little washed out in places but the restored tinting helps to minimize that. Most of the print is sharp and clear with the stylised details quite vivid especially in the ghetto scenes. The newly composed soundtrack by Aljoscha Zimmermann incorporates Jewish melodies with folk dance material and is very effective.
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The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition)
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