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The Serpent's Egg


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Product Details

  • Actors: Liv Ullmann, David Carradine, Gert Fröbe, Heinz Bennent, Toni Berger
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Writers: Ingmar Bergman
  • Producers: Dino De Laurentiis, Harold Nebenzal, Horst Wendlandt
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Letterboxed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: February 10, 2004
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000YEELM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,479 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Serpent's Egg" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Brand-new digital film transfer presented in the original aspect ratio (1.66:1)
  • Original English audio
  • Commentary by David Carradine
  • "Away from Home" featurette
  • "German Expressionism" featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Original theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

Director Ingmar Bergman explores the horrors of 1920s Germany and creates a hell on earth with a power few others could match (Cue) in this psychological thriller that casts a hypnotic spell of evil (Newsweek). Out-of-work trapeze artist Abel Rosenberg (David Carradine) finds the only way to navigate the surreal circus that is 1923 Berlin is to stay drunk. But even through his stupor, he can see the thread of a frightening mysteryeveryone he knows, even his most distant acquaintances, is dying violently. Can he survive or will his mind and soul completely unravel?

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By G. Bestick VINE VOICE on January 8, 2006
Format: DVD
In The Serpent's Egg, Ingmar Bergman uses Hollywood dollars to create a creepy 1920s Berlin that is both homage to the masters of German Expressionist film and a comment on the conditions that led to the rise of Nazism. Released in 1978, the movie wasn't a commercial success. Some critics blamed the script, particularly the dialog, which had a one-level-removed literalness to it. (This was one of the few films Bergman made in English.) Liv Ullmann, always a perceptive analyst of the director's work, thought the scale of the film overwhelmed him; the focus on crowd shots and lavish sets took him away from his central strength, which was the unflinching examination of the human personality under stress.

The movie isn't completely captivating, but not because it's written in English or because a lot of money was spent on sets. The main problem seems to be Bergman's limited emotional insight into the moral and social ambiguities of 1920s Berlin.

Abel Rosenberg, an American Jew, has been wandering through Europe as part of an acrobatic troupe with his brother Max and Max's wife. (Abel is played by David Carradine, an American actor best known for his role as a Kung Fu master on American TV.) Injury breaks up the troupe, and his brother's marriage. They land in Berlin, where Abel drifts through his days while the political situation deteriorates around him. One night he comes home to the room that they share and finds Max's brains all over the wall. The external action turns on Abel trying to find out why his brother killed himself. This leads him into ever darker encounters with the police, Nazi thugs, and an enigmatic scientist he knew back in Philadelphia.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. B. Alcat on July 28, 2005
Format: DVD
"The newspapers are black with fear, threats and rumours. The government seems powerless. A bloody confrontation between the extremist parties appears unavoidable. Despite all this, people go to work, the rain never stops and fear rises like vapour from the cobblestones". These phrases, said by an unknown narrator, are a clear description of the dark mood that permeates this film.

The main character is Abel Rosenberg (David Carradine), an American circus artist who is stranded in Berlin along with his brother Max and Max's former wife Manuela (Liv Ullman), due to an injury that rendered Max unable to perform their trapeze act. Things deteriorate as they run out of money, as the general situation for all those living in Germany worsens too. It is the 1920's, and the whole country suffered from inflation, unemployment, and periodic outbursts of Anti-Jewish sentiment. Berlin wasn't a good place to live for anybody at that time, but the situation for the Rosenbergs was even worse, because they were poor, unemployed, Jewish and foreigners.

"The serpent's egg" (1977) begins with Max committing suicide, as an act of utmost desperation. After that, Abel is left with Manuela as his only ally in a place that steadily becomes fulls of omens presaging misfortune. To endure the mere fact of being alive when his brother is not, Abel gets drunk every day. The irreality that alcohol offers offers him is the only way of fighting fear, fear of what is happening in Berlin, and of what he sees looming in the horizon. In Abel's words, "I wake up from a nightmare, and find that real life is worse than the dream".
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By ophelia99 on October 29, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The only thing I want to add to the many insightful comments of others is that this is one of the greatest horror films ever made. Yes, I know it doesn't have any of the stock supernatural props we associate with that genre, but it has the trapped-forever-in-a-nightmare atmosphere of the deepest nihilistic horror. It will haunt you.

Favorite moment: Protagonist is approached in the night by a prostitute:

Protagonist: "Go to Hell!"

(Prostitute, laughing): "Where do you think you are?"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Galina on April 7, 2007
Format: DVD
Fear, Loathing, and Despair in Berlin, November 1923

This film universally considered "the master's failure" but I don't agree with the statement. It is very different from the rest of Bergman's films I've seen but that does not make it failure for me. It is only Bergman's second film in English and it boasts an unusual for his films large budget (Dino De Laurentis was a producer) with enormous and elaborate sets. Bergman was able to recreate on the screen Germany (Berlin) of 1920th exactly how it was seen in the films of 1920th German directors - Fritz Lang's films come to mind first. Another film that The Serpent's Egg reminded me of was Bob Fosse's Cabaret - the theme of the Feast during the Time of Plague sounds very prominent in both films, and the cabaret's musical numbers in Bergman's film could've came from Fosse's. I was very impressed by Liv Ullmann's singing and dancing in the beginning of the film - she can do anything.

In spite of the film's obvious differences from Bergman's earlier work, it explores many of his favorite themes. It is in part a political film about the helpless, distressed and terrorized members of society that face the merciless and inevitable force of history and are perished without a trace in the process. Also like the earlier films, The Serpent's Egg explores its characters' self-isolation, inability to communicate, their attempt to cope with the pain of living, their despair, fear, and disintegration.

The Serpent's Egg may not be a perfect film and a lot has been said about the abrupt and heavy handed ending, the dialogs that don't always work, and David Carradine's performance as a main character.
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