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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cavalier and Clay
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...
Published on November 2, 2002 by Jason A. Miller

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars good vision, mediocre direction
Some iconic imagery, but a fairly clunky early film. Wegener's creature is, dare I say, too animated - down to his overly articulated face. Lyda Salmonova's performance was so insufferable that I felt joy at seeing her pulled through the streets by her ample raven tresses. Still, it was fun to witness what was clearly inspiration for Whale's Frankenstein. And the Astaroth...
Published 9 months ago by Splean


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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cavalier and Clay, November 2, 2002
By 
Jason A. Miller (Brooklyn, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition) (DVD)
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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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Inspiration For Frankenstein., October 1, 2002
By 
Chip Kaufmann (Asheville, NC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition) (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. This is one of four new releases in Kino's German Horror Classics series that also features authorized versions of CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (a knockout), NOSFERATU, and the rarely seen WAXWORKS. They can be obtained seperately or all together in a box set. If you are one of the ever growing number of silent movie fans then this movie, indeed this set, is a must.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Golem, April 24, 2004
This review is from: The Golem (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. I've seen the painted starscape and arched gables in Charles Laughton's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. The Golem busts down the ghetto gate just like King Kong, and confronts the little blonde girl in the same manner as Karloff did in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
I imagine all this was a lot scarier then than it is now, but it's still well worth everyone's time. If the score and print quality had been higher, I would have given this one five stars.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best, May 31, 2000
This review is from: The Golem [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The cinematography in this movie is STUNNING. One feels as though one were a captive in an alternate dimension of reality; an almost Lovecraftian world where the very geometry of the buildings seems to writhe and come to life. The atmosphere of Budapest in the Middle Ages seems to be captured perfectly. After the Jews being ousted from the town by royal decree, the leader of the Jewish community crafts the Golem out of clay and brings him to life in a black magical ceremony (interesting to note that among the crimes accused of the Jews in the edict, one was witchcraft). The Golem then is brought before the king and results in the Jews being allowed to remain. But the Golem falls in love(!) with a young lady and runs amok. The story is a classic and there is a considerable amount of drama here, but the real gem of this movie are the incredible visuals and the atmosphere. One of the greatest expressionist classics ever made. Far superior to "Caligari" in my opinion.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Religious and ethical issues still valid, October 26, 2004
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This review is from: The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition) (DVD)
In considering silent films to be shown in our church sanctuary accompanied by pipe organ, I recommended this film because of the weighty issues it exposes. The "Frankenstein" theme--humankind's limitations in controlling life we create--is more relevant today than in 16th century Prague or 19th century England. Genetic manipulation brings forth moral, ethical, and religious questions. But there is much more to "Der Golem".

One of the fascinating subtleties of this film is the use of symbolic imagery. For instance, note that the six-pointed Star of David is used when religious practices are depicted and five-pointed stars are used for occult practices. The Burtonesque structures that seem on the verge of keeling over imbue the ghetto with a vague sense of unease and disjointedness that mirrors the social disconnectedness of the golem. Themes of redemption, purity, reconciliation, and childlike belief are evident. I was also impressed by the respectful treatment of the Jews and their religious practices in this film.

The intensely emotional expressions in the clay face of the golem convincingly portray the wrenching and rending of the fabric of a personality that longs to live and move among humans and will never be able to do so. The golem is never portrayed as evil himself, but rather as the product of, in modern terms, bad genes and emotional deprivation. I do not consider this to be a true horror film, because I think it was intended, through the portrait of a "lost soul", to cause viewers examine their own perceptions of themselves and others.

I orignally gave four stars because of the lousy score in the Gotham Distribution release, which is a ten- or fifteen-minute loop of music that is totally inappropriate to the scenarios. I have since purchased the Kino release and found the score to be sensitive to the emotional breadth of the movie and evocative of Jewish ghetto life, the frivolity of the court, and nuances of scene through use of musical motifs. I still hope to someday see this film accompanied by a world-class organist on a world-class organ.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A prototype of silent classics!, December 14, 2002
By 
Michael J. Chrush (Kent, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition) (DVD)
THE GOLEM is a landmark in filmmaking because it was the very first of the silents, after Edison's long-lost and sought after production of FRANKENSTEIN in 1910 to present to the cinema the art of camera movement to provide suspense and horror. A movement very popularly mesmerizing through German Expressionism. Seeing this film to mind brings comparisons to the later FRANKENSTEIN films which no doubt had a strong influence on James Whale. There were actual rumors that for Bela Lugosi's screen test for the Monster he was built heavily of clay, and had a wig very much resembling Paul Wegener's Golem.
This DVD is much better than the three pack of Golem/Caligari/Nosferatu released several years ago, because like the individual DVD releases of Caligari and Nosferatu (with the curious exception of Metropolis) the film's actual tints and title cards are restored, thus viewers are able to see what they initially missed through earlier VHS releases.
Paul Wegener's Golem is very much portrayed as a precursor to Karloff's Frankenstein Monster. Hulking, sympathetic, misunderstanding, easily crossed, and feared by all except children. The films imagery is remarkable with the astrological symbols and sights of the stars in the sky, making the film atmospherical and at the same time suspenseful. The scene in which Rabbi Loew (Albert Steinruck) harbors black magic by spawning a ring of fire about him whilst spelling the magic words of ASTAROTH is still spellbinding after 80 years.
Legends of creatures made from clay are as old as recorded history. These were artificial men made of clay or mud, which was brought to life when the name of God is pronounced over it. Some stories say that it is then able to understand orders and is just great for doing housework. Others say that it can be used as a frightening type of bodyguard. Either way, it seemed that if you had a pet golem, there would be trouble right around the corner. On its' forehead is written the Jewish word EMETH, which means "truth". Every day the golem would become bigger and bigger, and heavier and heavier. Finally it would become a nuisance, if not a downright danger, to have it around the house. So the first letter of the word on his forehead must be rubbed out. The inscription now would read METH, which now would mean "he is dead". The golem would collapse and turn into clay once again. One story w䁡s told of a golem that grew so tall and large that its' master could not reach its forehead to rub out the magic letter. So the golem was ordered to take off its shoes. When it bent over to do this, its' master quickly erased the first letter. Unfortunately the golem turned into a huge lump of clay and fell on top of its' master, thereby crushing him to death. Rabbi Loew has a different method by simply snatching the magical symbol from the Golem's chest.
For those of you who own the recent VHS releases and want to know the name of the beautiful music piece heard throughout the film, it is "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Minor" composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. Karl Freund and Edgar G. Ulmer (who later directed the 1934 classic THE BLACK CAT) give the film their usual fantastic photography to the film. Lyda Salmonova is still an eye opener as Miriam, and look fast for Greta Schroeder (who appeared later as Ellen in NOSFERATU) as a flower girl.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poorly Paced but Visually Captivating Early Horror Film., May 5, 2008
This review is from: The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition) (DVD)
"The Golem: How He Came into The World" (1920) is the only extant film in Paul Wegener's Golem trilogy, which was the first horror series in cinema. "The Golem" (1915) and "The Golem and the Dancing Girl" (1917) did not survive, but that doesn't matter in viewing the third film, because "How He Came into The World" is a prequel, not a sequel. It retells the most famous Golem story, inspired by the 16th century Jewish legend of a monster made of clay and brought to life to protect the persecuted Jews of Prague. Paul Wegener wrote, co-directed, and played the Golem himself.

The mystical Rabbi Low (Albert Steinruck), spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Prague, foresees disaster for his people. A decree from the Emperor follows shortly, accusing Jews of practicing Black Magic and ordering them evacuate the Jewish quarter. Low pursues a diplomatic solution by seeking an audience with the Emperor (Otto Gebuhr), whom he has served in the past. But he also constructs a giant creature of clay, whom he brings to life through magic to be his servant and save the Jews if necessary. Meanwhile, the Emperor's envoy Knight Florian (Lothar Muthel) is charmed by Low's daughter Miriam (Lyda Salmonova).

"The Golem" waits until very late in the film to create tension. It doesn't get into full gear until the Golem becomes disobedient and Florian and Miriam's relationship heats up. There seems not to have been any attempt to pace the film, but it's only 86 minutes long. The sets are elaborate, both indoors and in the streets of the Jewish quarter. I found myself trying to make out the background detail during the Emperor's Rose Festival. Whatever is on that wall is fascinating. I was also impressed by the technical ability to project one film almost seamlessly into another during the same sequence.

Thematically, the story seems muddled. Although it is ultimately sympathetic to the Jews, who are the film's main characters, the gentiles' fear of them is, at least in part, justified. The Jews are accused of practicing black magic. And what does the Rabbi do but bring an uncontrollable menace to life through pagan magic? Of course, the story of the Golem is a cautionary tale and a reflection on the implications of hubris and violence. This film's ambitions are more circumscribed. We don't see enough of the Golem or know enough about the characters to get more sophisticated than a simple morality play and horror movie, but it's entertaining.

The DVD (Kino 2002): This is a restored print of the film, but there are some cracks and imperfections. The restoration was supervised in Italy, but most of the footage comes from a German print of the film held by MOMA. Additional footage and intertitles were taken from a copy held in Moscow, and some intertitles were taken from 1931 censor records. The color tints are based on an Italian print of the film. This is the widest variety in color tints I've seen in one film: green, purple, blue, salmon, pink, amber, and red. It's bright. Newly translated blue intertitles look nice. I assume the text we see for books & notices are also new, as they are in English and unblemished.

There are a few bonus features. "Excerpts from Julien Duvivier's 1936 film 'Le Golem'" (6 min) shows that beginning of that French film, complete with lions. "Creation: A Comparison" compares scenes of the monster's creation from Wegener's film with an excerpt from the novel by Chayim Bloch (text) and with the scene in which Faust summons Mephisto in F.W. Murnau's "Faust". There is also a Gallery of Photos and Artwork containing 16 movie stills and related illustrations.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another fine DVD release from Kino, June 13, 2003
By 
This review is from: The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition) (DVD)
The Golem is a terrific film from the silent era. The story is compelling, the setting is marvellous, and the look of the film overall is perfect for a story such as this. I won't bore everyone with a summary, but merely say that this film is for anyone who likes gothic horrors/thillers and maybe has an interest in reliogious issues.
Kino's DVD is the finest version of the film yet. Not all films are given the treatment that Metropilis recently got, but the restoration done of The Golem is quite nice. I can't say I care much for the colour tinting, but that's a small quibble. The music composed for the film is appropriate, but not great. Certainly not as good as the very fine scores written by Timothy Brock for Kino's releases of Faust and The Last Laugh - I wonder what he could have done.
In any case, The Golem is worth adding to your collection if you like silent classics and supernatural thillers. I wouldn't rank it as high as Lang or Murnau's work, but it IS a terrific film.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Silly Rabbi, Tricks Is For Kids, July 29, 2005
This review is from: The Golem (DVD)
I first saw The Golem when I was 12 and have loved it ever since. At the time I had to go to the public library, and borrow an actual film reel, and watch it inside their film vault, because this was not only before the DVD, but even before the VCR became so prevalent. I've always been a fan of the old Univeral studio horror movies, and I wanted to see how The Golem might have influenced Frankenstein. I found that the costume and makeup may have been influential, but little else, other than minor plot points. The key to the Frankenstein film was that the monster became murderous because of a damaged brain, and in the source novel because he was tormented by society. It's questionable whether a clay statue even has a brain to damage, and he certainly wasn't tormented. As he did his daily chores around the village, people seemed to be used to his presence. So there was no torchlit chase scene to cap the movie either.

The Golem's costume with its padded up bulk, although Paul Wegener was a big man already, and his huge boots, clearly were echoed in Frankenstein. Some photos of Hamilton Deane in the Peggy Webling play Frankenstein (that the movie was based on) suggested a makeup inspired by The Golem. However, some of the appearance, especially the built up forehead, seemed to be already present in Thomas Edison's 1910 version of Frankenstein, with Charles Ogle. Edward Van Sloan compared Bela Lugosi's monster makeup, in a test reel for the part of the monster, as being very much like the Golem. Lugosi was described as having a polished clay-like skin and broad wig that made his head a bit large. Since Lugosi designed much of his own makeup with Jack Pierce's help, Pierce's claim about all the research he did for Karloff's make-up sounds like hot-air. Although there are no pictures of Lugosi's makeup, it sounds like all Pierce did was give the monster a haircut, and put in the electrodes and stitches the script called for.

The only other places where one might see a similarity between The Golem and Frankenstein was in the scenes between the monster and girls. The Golem fell for Rabbi Lowe's grown daughter, and was destroyed by a little girl named Maria. Karloff's monster seemed to be always eloping by force, and of course he killed a little girl named Maria. The Rabbi had an assistant, but Frankenstein worked alone in the novel, but had an assistant named Fritz in the movie, a character that appeared in some form in the play, which is unfortunately now out of print. Of course most people remember the assistant's name as Ygor now, because of the broken necked shepherd Bela Lugosi played in The Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein.

Although there are legends about Rabbi Lowe and his Golem, only the Rabbi is historical, and some Golem legends made another Rabbi the creator. But nevertheless the movie is good historical spectacle, and moves remarkably fast for a silent movie.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review for Alpha Video version of THE GOLEM, October 29, 2009
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This review is from: The Golem (DVD)
Although this is certainly not a restored version, the print on this release from Alpha Video is quite good. There is some washing out but it isn't bad and there is surprisngly little dirt and scratching on this print. I am also a fan of the music score used for this version. I have no idea what it might be and there is no music credit on the disc anywhere but I think it really adds something to this version of the film. If you are looking for a cleaned up, near perfect release then this one isn't for you (go for the much more expensive edition from KINO) but if you don't mind a few scratches then this one is a bargain at less than ten dollars. Although this film isn't as widely known as CALIGARI, NOSFERATU or METROPOLIS it certainly ranks right beside them as one of the best examples of early German cinema. It's a true classic and deserves to be in the library of every horror fan or film buff.
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The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition)
The Golem (Restored Authorized Edition) by Carl Boese (DVD - 2004)
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