Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Finances of the Grand Duke |
Actors: Harry Liedtke, Max Schreck
Director: F.W. Murnau
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Comedy
THE RESTORED AUTHORIZED EDITION — In one of the most eclectic films of the German silent era, visual stylist F.W. Murnau (Faust, Sunrise) broke away from the dark, foreboding dramas for which he was known to explore the rea... more »
F. W. Murnau Father of Light and Shadow
Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 03/21/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A photograph from the production shows Murnau in front of a battleship. He is tall, thin, and angular. He stands next to his crew, close to them, yet also far away. He could not know the glory history had in store for him. Though highly panned by German critics of 1924, "The Finances of the Grand Duke" contains many sumptuous flashes of the Murnau genius. Even if it is a comedy. Filmed on location, and with deft photography by Karl Freund, Murnau proceeds cautiously in this, his only known attempt at sophisticated humor. Sadly, critical reception of the day would keep the Master from ever again stepping into "high comedy". "Finances of the Grand Duke" opens with the "benevolent dictator" of his Grand Dukedom idly
tossing coins from his cliffside palace to a gaggle of young sun-tanned boys in the sea below. Hmmm. But wait. Duke Don Ramon is soon informed that he has no time for trifles! His tiny island nation of Abacco is in the red. Very red. A crafty financier offers the Duke $10 million to sell Point Hermosa. Doesn't he know? It could be converted into a lucrative sulpher pit. But how would that endanger the health of his countrymen? Suddenly, a missive from a swooping plane above delivers redemption in a letter. Russian Princess Olga is wealthy and in love. With the Duke. A boat adventure follows, with the Duke happily celebrating his new benefactress. But Princess Olga meets Philipp Collins, and she is soon misled by his charms. Philipp Collins buys the debt of the floundering Abacco nation; in a bewildering stock market transaction. Princess Olga is informed that the Duke is deposed! Or even murdered! Hounded by an evil crook and his three fiends(including a hunchback), all parties race home to the palace for a final confrontation. The villains are subdued, and Olga's Russian brother proposes a wedding for Olga and the Duke. Philipp Collins gives a toast: "I have to drink something. I immediately feel weak when other people get married." Naturally, Murnau gets the "last laugh"....When "Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs" was first released, a German writer said "One was curious to see how Murnau, so committed to gloomy themes, would tackle so agreeable a subject. Here one discovers an unknown side of Murnau: grace and tension and charm". As in "Nosferatu" the exteriors are real. They were shot in Yugoslavia, at Ragusa, Spallato, Cattaro, and on the island of Arbe. But the brilliant mother-of-pearl city of Split(now in Croatia), with its ancient ruins, which still throb with life, becomes no more than a background. The movie actually hurries through these splendid temple ruins. For the palace, Murnau wanted to film in the Grand Hotel on the island of Rab, but in the end, the palace was rebuilt on the German set. But Murnau does use the ocean shore and seaside towns for some great panoramic shots and he shows a mastery that exceeds the stiffness of "The Haunted Castle". According to critic Gerhard Lamprecht, "The film was made in bright sunshine in Dalmatia(now in Croatia), and the castle was built at Babelsberg. It was a film that was only meant to entertain. Murnau could be very gay, and he had an excellent sense of humor when he wished...". For filming, Murnau had charted a sailing-boat,a plane, and even a battleship. At the time, the film was criticized for over-long explanations, and was heavily cut. This Kino 77-minute version survives what's left of an original 2-hour movie. One shot survives that is truly Murnau; a street-lamp burning and traced like a filigree against a cloudy sky. And in a street scene, the playful orchestration of the traffic anticipates "The Last Laugh", or even "Sunrise". A scene that critics marveled over is a certain precursor of one of the finest images in "Sunrise(and missing from some other prints)" : A train with full lights switched on rushes out of a lighted station and straight into the camera. Lotte Eisner complains that German directors could not pull off light comedy. How about the frivolity of Lubitsch in "Trouble in Paradise"? She complains about the acting. In 1919, a critic said that Murnau had failed to bring off good performances in his "Satanas". We don't know. "Satanas" is now a lost film. In 1922, Murnau said: "German actors don't get artistic satisfaction out of their work. They are business-like, rushing from one film to the next". The girl, Princess Olga, played by pretty Mady Christians, is treated with indifference. "Nosferatu"s famous Max Schreck has a small part as one of the conspirators. "Finances of the Grand Duke" was produced by Erich Pommer, a veteran who also worked with Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock. Photography is by old Murnau aid Karl Freund. They were shooting "The Last Laugh" at almost the same time. During "The Last Laugh", Freund employed the hand-held camera for the very first time. Freund would follow Murnau to America, where he lensed "Dracula" in 1931. In 1932, he directed "The Mummy", and in 1935 he directed the now classic "Mad Love" at MGM. "The Finances of the Grand Duke" was from a script by "Metropolis"-scribe Thea von Harbou. Edgar G. Ulmer worked on the production design. Ulmer was the future director of the classics "The Black Cat(1934)" and "Detour(1945)". Sadly, Ulmer's work on "Finances of the Grand Duke" was left uncredited. This brand-new Kino 77-minute transfer is a nearly pristine release(restored in 1994). Scenes tinted green, and partially blue, survive from the 35mm archive master. There is an audio commentary by historian David Kalat, and it covers the movie's production, Murnau's career, and collaborators(including Edgar Ulmer). Kalat's discussion is thorough but verbose. The film is available alone, or as part of Kino's new six-film omnibus package dedicated to the legendary F. W. Murnau. With actors, Murnau wanted restraint and understatement. But writer Frank Hansen wrote: "The actors in his films had a profound inner life. He got the best out of them." But as Lotte Eisner reports in the now classic "Murnau(first published in Paris in 1964)", "Why was the acting so stiff in "Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs"? The history of Murnau's style, like that of his life, contains many riddles"."
Three And A Half Stars, Actually.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 03/25/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I wish that Amazon had half stars available in their rating system for this film by the great F.W. Murnau is just that. Not quite a four but better than what a three implies. Another reviewer states that the original was two hours long. If that was the case, I don't think the extra length would have helped as this version, at 77 minutes, seems long enough as it is. Sometimes too long.
It would seem that Murnau was trying to make an Ernst Lubitsch like comedy now that Lubitsch had gone to America but it lacks the sparkle necessary to bring that off. With the exception of Alfred Abel (METROPOLIS), the performers are good but not great. It takes a special kind of performance to make this comedy of intrigue work. The scenario is no great shakes either.
The look of the film is what makes the picture worth watching and that's the least you would expect from one of the silent cinema's great visual stylists. The cameraman was Karl Freund who also worked on THE LAST LAUGH and would go on to directing in the 1930s and then to pioneering live TV camerawork on I LOVE LUCY in the 1950s.
This is the weakest of the three Murnau titles just released by Kino International but that doesn't mean that it is not without interest. No Murnau film could be without interest. The other two in the set are THE HAUNTED CASTLE and the restored DVD version of FAUST. They join NOSFERATU, THE LAST LAUGH, and TARTUFFE (already released) as part of a 6 DVD set although you can buy them separately."
Very weak attempt
Hounddawg1963 | Illinois USA | 03/31/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is probably the weakest of the surviving Murnau films; after watching this one, its very evident as to why he didn't try comedies again. Lots of characters, very difficult to keep track of who is who and who is supposed to be doing what. And what was supposed to be funny in most cases just wasn't. Fortunately its a very short film at less than 80 minutes; by that time you will be ready for the film to end. The only extra on the dvd is a commentary, obviously Kino didn't want to put a lot of money into this one. If you are looking for an introduction to Murnau's films, don't try this one first, but instead watch his classics such as Nosferatu, Faust, or The Last Laugh."