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« DVD Review: The Seventh Seal (1957), 50th Anniversary Special Edition | Main | Cult Clip: Frau Im Mond (1929) »


DVD Review: Frau Im Mond (aka Woman in the Moon) (1929)

Frau Following on from its release of the newly-restored Nosferatu, Eureka has released another silent classic from Weimar-era Germany for its Masters of Cinema series - Fritz Lang's Frau Im Mond. Also known under the English title of Woman in the Moon, Frau Im Mond was Lang's final silent movie, a mix of spy flick, romantic tale and science fiction, as well as being a very stylish and very prophetic movie.

Lang's research for the movie was incredibly detailed, using cutting-edge scientific theory on rocket science to give the space travel plot credibility. In fact, the theory on display in the movie was so realistic that the movie was banned in Nazi Germany, with the authorities fearing it would compromise national security. Which probably makes this the first credible science fiction movie.

Well, credible up to a point. Let's be honest, this is pure comic book - and all the better for it. The eccentric Professor Mannfeldt believes there is a huge gold supply on the moon - but his peers ridicule hom, forcing him into a life as a recluse. But one man does believe him and befriends him - a man named Wolf Helius (Willy Fritsch), who coincidentally, is working on his own theories for space travel. But others also believe in the work of Mannfeldt - an evil consortium of some of the world's richest people. Their henchmen steal Helius and Mannfeldt's plans, offering to return them if they work with the consortium on the flight to the moon. And Helius has other problems too. His partner Hans Windegger has proposed marriage to the girl Helius loves (researcher Friede Velten, played by the stunning Gerda Maurus).

So when Helius, Windegger, Friede, evil henchman Turner and the gold-obsessed Professor Mannfeldt leave for the Moon, you know things aren't going to go smoothly. And there's a young stowaway and a mouse on board, just to add to the confusion.

If your idea of silent cinema is Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops, you really need to see something like Frau Im Mond to put those preconceptions to bed. It's an incredibly sophisticated and stylish film, visually impressive, from the Bauhaus-styled office of Helius to the mock lunar surface and the comic book spaceship. And while the science might add a sophistication to the story, the plot is pure action/adventure, a more believable Flash Gordon if you like - and after a fairly slow start, packing enough twists and turns to keep things rattling along. You might even shed a tear at the end.

On the downside, the pace of silent cinema and the concentration levels required aren't for everyone, while the science and special effects don't have the 'wow' factor  they had in 1929. In fact, it's hard not to raise a smile at the intrepid team as they head off into space in shirt and tie combos, with just a bottle of brandy for medication and some plyers for repairs (or so it seems). But remember, this was around 40 years before we actually did go to the Moon.

This newly-restored version is of 'near-original length', with no obvious gaps or breaks in continuity, although there are signs that some occasional scenes have fared worse than others over time - but nothing that will impact on your enjoyment.

And it is an enjoyable film. On that basis alone, Frau Im Mond is worth seeking out. Add to that the sophistication of Lang's direction, the visual impact the movie still has around 80 years after it was made and the almost prophetic nature of some of the science on display and you have yet another fine addition to the Masters of Cinema series.

Extras on the DVD:

Original German subtitles and newly-translated English subtitles
36-page booklet on the movie and the work of Fritz Lang
15-minute documentary about the film

Find out more about the DVD at Amazon.co.uk

Comments

Courtney

I was wondering who the author of this article was? So that it may be properly accredited.

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