For director Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich it all began with The Blue Angel, one of the masterpieces of Germany's Weimar cinema. This landmark film thrust the sultry and unrestrained Dietrich on an unsuspecting ... more »international film audience. She plays the prototypical role of Lola, the singer who tempts repressed professor Emil Jannings (the king of expressionist actors) into complete submission night after night at the Blue Angel nightclub. The film perfectly captures the masochism and degradation of the Weimar Republic, just before the rise of Adolf Hitler. And yet the moral confusion exhibited by Jannings is really due to his own torment. Dietrich is merely an instrument of his innermost desires, standing on stage in top hat, stockings, and bare thighs singing "Falling in Love Again." --Bill Desowitz« less
"Relative newcomer Marlene Dietrich's electrifying performance in the 1930 sound film THE BLUE ANGEL overshadows the perhaps even greater performance by Emil Jannings as a sexually-repressed professor. Her screen presence also more than overcomes Josef von Sternberg's rather static direction that was typical of early sound films, elevating this romantic melodrama into its classic status. Kino's region-free DVD contains both the German and the English versions of the film, each on a separate disc. Both versions look very clean for a 71-year-old film, although just a tad less sharp than I would have liked. The English version looks a bit cleaner still. The supplements include a side-by-side comparison of the two versions (with the German version shown on the left), and the English version indeed looks better. The German version is supported by optional, white-on-black-bar English subtitles. The black bars, of course, cover up part of the picture. I would suggest Kino use white, black-bordered lettering for subtitles in the future instead.The German version runs 102 minutes, and has a few scenes that are not shown in the English version due to censorship (such as the moment when Lola rotates her body to reveal her bare back side to her nightclub audience). The English version runs 100 minutes. Although it was supposedly made for English audiences, only Dietrich's role is all English-speaking, while the other actors speak a combination of both languages -- English for important dialogs, German for less important ones. The included audio commentary on the German disc is a mild disappointment. Although historian Werner Sedendorf's analytical comments are excellent, he just does not speak often enough. Long stretches of silence are frequent. Kino should have thought of filling the vacancies with additional comments (either by Sedendorf or someone else), especially when a lot of relevant topics are not adequately covered, such as the legendary collaborations between Dietrich and von Sternberg, the details about the censorship practiced on the English version, the period of German Expressionism that inspired directors like von Sternberg, etc. The DVD does include a generous amount of extra material. There is a wonderful biography section that includes photos and credits of about 30 cast and crew members. There are about 150 photos, some of which are then-and-now comparisons of some of the props and costumes in the movie. There are text screens of the film's production history. The best extras, unquestionnably, are the 4 film clips of Dietrich's screen test and concert performances. There is a memorable clip of the 1930 screen test of Dietrich singing "You are the Cream in my Coffee." There are 2 clips of televised concerts from the 60s and 70s showing Dietrich performing two of the songs in the movie (English renditions of "Falling in Love Again" and "Lola Lola"). There is another TV footage of her singing "You are the Cream in my Coffee" after reminiscing about her 1930 screen test."
A classic of world cinema
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 09/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A German cinema classic from the late Weimar-era, and the film debut of super-sexy Marlene Dietrich, who is stunning in her role as a flirtatious, heartless cabaret singer whose carnal wiles bring an infatuated school teacher to ruin. But then, what is *really* responsible for his downfall? Dietrich as the temptress, his own repressed sexuality and concurrent fetishization of her beauty, or the close-mindedness of the society around them? As with much of the art of this era (in Germany and without), this film depicts the clash of the old world and the new -- the modern, open, crass, liberating and chaotic world of the individual against the older, stable, stifling, communal and "moral" world of the village and church. At any rate, the transformation of actor Emil Jannings from a fusty old humbug into a degraded shell of a man is a dramatic triumph, and the direction, by Josef von Sternberg, is flawless -- filled with darkness, closeness and brooding claustrophia. The new DVD version features both the German and English-language versions (the English version isn't dubbed, it was actually *acted* in English by the same German actors, and has a few interesting differences of moral tone...) and also includes, as an added bonus Marlene Dietrich's first screen test, which is hilarious, and a must-see for her fans."
A True Classic
Rebecca | 03/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film that turned the head of Adolf Hitler and sky-rocketed Marlena Dietrich to international stardom is as fresh and orginal today as it was when it first hit theaters in Germany 70 years ago.With the aid of english subtitles, we are introduced to Dr. Immanuel Rath, an esteemed professor of an upper-class German prep school. A stern and authoritative man, his feathers are ruffled severely when he learns some of his students have been neglecting their studies in favor of visiting a night club, the Blue Angel, on the more sordid side of town to hear a beautiful singer named Lola Lola.When Rath confronts Lola, he becomes smitten with her. An infatuation which will eventually lead to his own professional and personal downfall.Emil Jannings (the first person ever to win a Best Actor Oscar) is marvelous as the stuffy and destructive Rath, and his ham-handed pirouette into complete emotional and physical breakdown is mesmerizing. Dietrich is equally fundamental in her role as Lola, slowly seducing, not just her fellow characters, but the audience too, with her entralling presence.Is it any wonder this film lives on?"
One of Kino's best packages. A must for Marlene Fans!!!!!!!!
J. A. Stankunas | Jupiter, FL United States | 04/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I like most the DVDs that Kino makes but I must say that this is their most impressive package. A two disk set, the features are marvelous, including both versions of the film (which look great)! Marlene Dietrich musical performances, scene comparison, informative commentary, and a not to be missed screen test with Marlene. The film alone is great, but the DVD package makes it outstanding. Its about a professor, Emil Jennings, who is perfectly cast, and his downfall after meeting a nightclub dancer named Lola Lola, played with great charisma by Marlene Dietrich. A must, don't hesitate to but the Kino 2-disk set if your a Dietrich fan!"
Culbert Laney | Colorado Springs, CO United States | 12/20/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The story, while interesting, features a very abrupt transition. One day, the protagonist is a rigid, somewhat sadistic professor, the next he's in a state of complete ruin and humiliation. It reminds me of "The Last Laugh," also starring Emil Jannings. Both of these are films that improve on subsequent viewings, when the shock of the arbitrary overnight destruction of the characters has worn off. In fairness, I must say that if you took many professors out of their safe tenured nests, they'd probably fare far worse than Professor Rath does here. At least he's able to muster up an attractive female companion.This special edition offers complete versions of both the German and English editions of the film. The German version is from a very fine print. It has good detail but is occasionally a bit contrasty. It has marked fine grain throughout, which the compression required for DVD struggles with. If you focus on the grain, it appears to move in fits and starts, giving the subliminial appearance that the picture is constantly going into brief digital pauses. Well, no matter, its still very good. The sound is also fine if slightly muffled.From what I can tell, the English version is from the original camera negative, with one or more prints used to fill in missing or damaged sections. The print(s) are generally as good as that used for the German version, but thankfully without the graining. Where the negative was used, which I estimate is almost 2/3 of the film, the picture quality is truly superb. The sound quality is more variable. When it is good, it is excellent for the vintage. However, many sections suffer from distortion, which exacerbates the difficulty in understanding some of the thick German accents. It seems that someone put a great deal of effort into using the best possible materials on a scene-by-scene basis, and key scenes look far better here than in the German version, which really increases the impact of a film that relies so centrally on its visuals.The conceit of the English version is that English is only spoken where it makes sense for the plot. To drive this, Emil Jannings is an English professor, who insists his students speak English, while Lola Lola only speaks English and no German. Otherwise, everyone speaks German. This works well enough for the first half of the film, after which they give up and just allow the characters to speak English as necessary, even if it doesn't make sense. The actors' mastery of English varies considerably, with only Marlene Dietrich truly fluent. Given most American's aversion to foreign accents, much less actual foreign languages, this was an ill-fated attempt. However, as the first talking picture produced at the German UFA studios, who had been getting world-wide acclaim for their silents, you can see why they wanted to try. While the English version clarifies some plot points relative to the German version, the combination of German speaking, heavy German accents, and distortion in the sound track means most viewers will also miss important plot points that were clear in the German version. Overall it makes sense to view the German version first. This special edition includes attractive menus, a commentary track, photographs, etc. However, the best extra by far is an early audtion from Dietrich. When she sings, she adopts the corny happy style of the day, but she's constantly interrupted by the marginally-competent piano player, causing her to revert to character to threaten him in increasingly explicit terms."