This stylish and sophisticated silent film coming just before sound has a sexy and romantic glow that rises above its melodramatic origins and ultimately touches the viewer's heart. German director Joe May, who would eventually gravitate to Hollywood and make some memorable "B" pictures, shows both flair and tenderness for subject matter in this story of a beautiful girl so long fallen that love might not be within her grasp.
Set designer Erich Kettelhut and cinematographer Gunther Tittau give a rich and opulent look to the simple storyline which proved too risque for some and was banned. No original negative is known to exist but this print discovered in Russia is probably as close to how it first appeared as we are likely to ever see. Viewed today, of course, it seems quite tame. Whether that is due to a more sophisticated understanding of matters pertaining to love and lust or just a benchmark of how far we ourselves have fallen depends on your point of view.
Beautiful thief Else Kramer (Betty Amann) uses her feminine charms and gracefully curved assets to steal. When she is finally caught, it is up to young street cop Holk (Gustav Frohlich) to escort her to justice. But the young man who still lives with his mother and father, who is also the Chief of Police, will prove no match for the game Else brings to the table. She cries and and pleads and implores on the short journey to the station, and once he gives in and allows her to make a stop at 11 Kirchstass, she overwhelms him and he falls in love.
Like all men who've just been with a woman, all he can think of across the gulf which separates them is his longing to be with her again. Though it should have been only a ploy for the worldly Else, May shows little moments which give us an inkling that Else may have a heart after all. When she affectionately runs her fingers over his papers then mails them back to Gustav with a gift, he storms back to 11 Kirchstass in anger. Once she sees how much she has hurt young Holk, that part of her heart which has remained untouched by her jaded morality comes to life again.
But danger is moving closer, as her tawdry entanglements include a partner. It will bring about a violent confrontation and a moment of decision for Else, who must decide if it is too late for redemption. Amann is truly wonderful in those final moments, wondering whether love will be lost forever. Tenderness rises above melodrama in this beautifully produced and directed silent from Germany. A must see for silent film buffs.