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Pandora's Box (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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(Nov 28, 2006)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

One of the masters of early German cinema, G.W. Pabst had an innate talent for discovering actresses (including Greta Garbo). And perhaps none of his female stars shone brighter than Kansas native and onetime Ziegfeld girl Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabst’s lurid, controversial melodrama Pandora’s Box. Sensationally modern, the film follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu, whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with. Daring and stylish, Pandora’s Box is one of silent cinema’s great masterworks, and a testament to Brooks’s dazzling individuality.


G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box serves as a filmic window into the decadent Weimar Republic because of its tauntingly beautiful star, Louise Brooks. Brooks, encompassing the very essence of sexual allure and mystery, is iconically linked to her character, Lulu, the dancer-turned-streetwalker who captivates all men in her path with her elusive beauty. Set in Berlin, 1928, Pandora's Box is about Lulu, an aspiring star whose patron, Dr. Schön (Fritz Kortner), finds loyalty to his fiancé impossible because of Lulu's unsurpassed charm. Schön's son, Alwa, also falls in love with Lulu until a series of tragic incidents render them destitute in London, where Lulu resorts to prostitution and, in a final devastating scene, picks up her final john, Jack the Ripper. In the silent film era, Brooks's expressive face and graceful movements enabled her to epitomize a Roaring Twenties' version of feminism: innocence underpinned by sexual innuendo. Key scenes in Pandora's Box, such as when Lulu thrills at Dr. Schön's fiancé discovering he and Lulu embraced, or when Lulu's gleaming eyes mimic Jack the Ripper's polished knife blade, are radically risqué examples of all-time seductive cinematic moments. The Criterion Collection's beautifully packaged release of Pandora's Box features a thorough booklet of essays and photos, as well as a biographical documentary about Brooks and an interview with Pabst's son, Michael. After languishing in obscurity for many years preceding her death in the '80s, Louise Brooks will now forever be remembered as Lulu, Hollywood's finest vixen. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • Silent with four different musical score soundtracks
  • Commentary by film scholars Thomas Elsaesser and Mary Ann Doane
  • 1998 documentary Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu
  • 1984 one-hour filmed interview Lulu in Berlin
  • New video interviews with Richard Leacock and Michael Pabst, the director's son
  • Booklet including Kenneth Tynan's famous essay "The Girl in the Black Helmet," a chapter from Louise Brooks's memoir, and a new essay by film critic J. Hoberman

Product Details

  • Actors: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Krafft-Raschig
  • Directors: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, NTSC, Silent, Subtitled
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: The Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: November 28, 2006
  • Run Time: 133 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000HT3QBO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,424 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Pandora's Box (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is not my personal opinion (I prefer F. W. Murnau's FAUST) but it is the general consensus regarding this groundbreaking adult film which made a screen icon out of Louise Brooks and assured G.W. Pabst his place in cinema history. The movie is based on two plays (EARTH SPIRIT and PANDORA'S BOX) by controversial German playwright Frank Wedekind who wrote them at the dawn of the 20th Century with the deliberate intent of shocking his middle class audience by talking bluntly about the consequences of sex, violence, and hypocrisy. Austrian composer Alban Berg would later use them as the source of his unfinished opera LULU.

G.W. Pabst already had a reputation as a director of German neo-realism thanks to the 1925 Greta Garbo film THE JOYLESS STREET (influenced by D.W. Griffith's ISN'T LIFE WONDERFUL of 1924). In the sound era he would make the film version of THE THREEPENNY OPERA (1931). PANDORA'S BOX mixes realism and German expressionism in equal amounts to tell the story of a naive dancer/prostitute and the tragedy she brings to everyone who tries to become close to her. It's amazing how Pabst saw something in Louise Brooks that no one else did and then brought it out so effectively onscreen. From the performances to the lighting, the editing and the camerawork, to the relentlessly downbeat mood, PANDORA'S BOX is a true landmark of the cinema (silent and sound) that anyone seriously interested in film should experience.

Finally available in the U.S. on DVD, this Criterion 2 disc set is all that you could ask for. The print for its age (1928) looks great and you get the choice of 4 different background scores which show how important music is to silent cinema. Each one makes it a different viewing experience.
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I recently received my copy of the newly released version of "Pandora's Box" from Criterion and I can honestly tell you this is my vote for THE best release of 2006,bar none!!

To start with just picking this set up is impressive in itself!It comes in a handsome light and dark gray cardboard slip case almost an inch thick and inside it contains a two disk set absolutely loaded with fabulous and unexpectedly surprising extras AND a thick booklet!

The two disc set itself has the nice light and dark gray theme carried on for IT'S covering.When you slip the DVD into your player the screen gives you the usual surround and stereo audio options.However it also gives you your pick of FOUR(yes FOUR!!)different scores in which to choose from when viewing the movie.This is totally unprecedented in my experience.The scores are piano,orchestral(an approximation of what the late 20s European theater goer might have experienced),cabaret(a light and whimsical small band style) and modern orchestral.All these choices are absolutely wonderful but my favourite is the piano.However just having these options in the first place helps place this collection right at the top of the heap.

And if this wasn't enough film studies professor T.Elaessan and author Mary Ann Doanne together offer up a nice and very informative optional commentary on the film....one which I recommend at some point you give a listen to.And things don't stop there my friends!!

Two wonderful documentaries are also included.First is one I had heard of but had never seen called "Lulu in Berlin" produced back in 1984 by Richard Leacock and Susan Woll.It's a delightful film and mainly revolves around an interview of Louise in her home in Rochester,N.Y. a few years earlier.This comes in at around 48 minutes.
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This film is a must for silent film lovers and connoiseurs of film in general. G.W.Pabst directed and co-scripted a mesmerizing story (based on two plays) and filmed it in Germany with the stunning American actress Louise Brooks. She plays Lulu, a beautiful child/woman who doesn't understand the effect (and destruction) her open sexuality has on those around her. Considered daring in it's day, "Pandora's Box" still carries the emotional and sexual charge it did in 1928, thanks to Brook's striking beauty and performance and Pabst's straight-on directing of the story and it's subject matter---including a Lesbian countess who also falls for and helps Lulu when she's arrested for murder. Lulu is more or less an innocent in that she sees nothing wrong with sex therefore she can't understand the problems she unwittingly causes because others take her seriously and seek to possess her. Criterion is presenting a two disc set of this legendary film and it's been a long time coming. See also Pabst's other excellent German silent with Brooks made the following year (1929) "Diary of a Lost Girl", available from Kino. It's a fine companion piece to "Pandora" with Brooks playing another beautiful and misunderstood waif who ends up in a bordello. Both are collector's items and deserve viewing by modern audiences who are interested in the evolution of film as art.
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G.W. Pabst is perhaps the most underrated of all the early German film makers. Unlike his contemporaries, Lang and von Stenberg, Pabts never successfully transitioned to Hollywood and was declared a traitor for creating films under the Nazi regime, although he would continue to make films in Germany for the rest of his life. Pabst was not a political man, but a great auteur able to capture the condition of social exile within the changing culture of his time. Based on the controversial plays by Wedekind, Lulu is Pabst's towering masterpiece. She is a symbol of tradition battling modernity, the emergence of the New Woman, the corruption of the old European establishment after WWI and most important, the outsider who is devoured by the forces of legitimate policy and law. However, Lulu is no martyr. She represents the threat of the marginal and its ability to creep into the fragile constructed social reality. She exposes the weakness of this aparatus and lives on as image in the mind of the viewer. Like Pabst, Lulu rises above the compressing political and cultural views of the times, the people and the regimes that followed to become one of early cinema's most potent icons.
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