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Threepenny Opera

Rudolf Forster , Lotte Lenya , Georg Wilhelm Pabst    Unrated   DVD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Product Description


This 1931 film puts one of the musical theatre masterpieces of the 20th century--a slashing attack on greed, violence, and social pretension--in the visual and musical context of its origins. Musically, it omits some of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's numbers and gives to others a softer edge than the hard-hitting music took on in the last half of the century. The 1931 singers, including Weill's wife and definitive interpreter Lotte Lenya, tend to croon numbers that are snarled or barked in the definitive audio recording Lenya made and supervised in the 1950s. A comparison of the 1931 "Pirate Jenny" song, for example, with the recording a quarter-century later shows how performing styles toughened after World War II.

For those interested in performance history, this is a priceless document. For those looking for a dramatic experience, it has less impact than it would have if it were made today, but it still has plenty. This print is considerably sharper than some copies that were available before digital remastering was perfected. --Joe McLellan

Product Description

The sly melodies of composer Kurt Weill and the daring of dramatist Bertolt Brecht come together on-screen under the direction of German auteur G. W. Pabst (Pandora's Box) in this classic adaptation of the Weimar-era theatrical sensation. Set in the impoverished back alleys of Victorian London, The Threepenny Opera follows underworld antihero Mackie Messer (a.k.a. Mack the Knife) as he tries to woo Polly Peachum and elude the authorities. With its palpable evocation of corruption and dread, set to Weill's irresistible score, The Threepenny Opera remains a benchmark of early sound cinema. It is presented here in both its celebrated German and rare French versions.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not Brecht Nov. 24 1999
Format:VHS Tape
I've seen the movie version of this, one of the best scores and scripts created in the "musical theatre genre." While Lotte Lenya and the supporting cast are very good, this version is hardly true to Brecht or his style. Apparently Brecht did not understand that by selling the screen rights to the script, he was also giving the producers liscence to do whatever the wanted with it - and he had no power over it. The endind is notably changed from any translation you are likely to find in print, and few of the best songs remain - as a matter of fact, i recall only about four or five songs in the film verison. Mr. And Mrs. Peachum, while wonderfully portrayed, are far from the middle-class underlords we love them to be - they were a mismatched pair, Mrs. Peachum in a fabulous dress, and drop earings, and Peachum looking like one of his beggars. A interesting note, though: MacHeath's gang are adorable, fun and very will played!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not what the title promises Aug. 24 1999
Format:VHS Tape
This is a far cry from the stage version with not only several songs missing but what seems to be a rewrite of the script and book. The acting is pre-1931--as one history of cinema puts its, a style we will never see again--and the film techniques are from the silent days. But it has some powerful moments, mostly when the Streetsinger is on screen. Among the visual highlights are the confrontation of the Army of Poor with the Queen (who looks too old to be Victoria), the marriage of Polly and Mack among the purloined furniture and trappings, and the marvelous resolution of the ex-police chief Brown, Mack, and Peachem becoming "respectable" bankers (i.e., thieves). So this is worth a good deal as a social document is but is not worth much as a musical event. (Question: if all the signs of the shops are in English, why do the Poor carry signs in German?)
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2.0 out of 5 stars awkward but historically interesting April 3 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Considering Brecht was very displeased with this film its no wonder it bears little resemblance to the stage version,flat performances ( including Lenya who must have been amazing on stage), the omission of half the score ,including solomon song, tango duet,and the lucy role altogether, the ending being changed,omitting the hanging and reprival, and poor subtitles make this a curious but ininspired production. even the time period is wrong,victoria became queen in 1832 not the 1890s! still as a film that set all of nazi germany into a flutter it has moments of great social commentary. no as many as the masterpiece stage production however.
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Format:VHS Tape
Kurt Weil and Bertold Brecht were known opposers of the emerging Nazi regime. "The Three Penny Opera" made it official: The artists were no longer welcome in their native Germany. -- The macabre story of Mecky Messer and his bride Polly is best known to us through the immortal song "Mack The Knife", but there is much more to this than the glorification of a serial killer. --This film appears worn; The scenes are stagy and the sound is aweful (the music played live in the background as the action was filmed!), but the message passed the test of time. I recommend this film especially to Theatre and History Majors.
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