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Waxworks [Silent] (Full Screen) [Import]

Emil Jannings , Conrad Veidt , Leo Birinsky , Paul Leni    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Lesser-known among silent German classics, Waxworks is a carnival of a movie inviting you to visit three distinct freak shows and sample the thrills and peculiarities each has to offer. A young poet (Wilhelm Dieterle, who became Hollywood director William Dieterle) is hired to pen "startling tales" about three figures on display in the Wachsfigurenkabinett. Somehow he and his boss's daughter (Olga Belajeff) win plum roles in each fantasia he concocts. The Arabian Nights episode, featuring Emil Jannings hamming it up as Caliph Haroun al-Raschid, boasts demented architecture and a blend of comedy and surrealism that inspired Douglas Fairbanks's Thief of Bagdad. Conrad Veidt, making a memorably mad Russian icon of Ivan the Terrible, towers amid episode 2's fiercely angular compositions. Then, still-unnerving double-exposure cinematography is used to bring "Spring Heel Jack" (Werner Krauss's version of Jack the Ripper) out of the realm of fantasy and menacingly into the real-world framing story. Get your ticket right here. --Richard T. Jameson

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3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe not for everyone... May 5 2004
Format:DVD
No doubt this film is important in various ways, such as representing German cinema and art of the time, and both sets and acting are good and interesting, but from a more general viewpoint this film might be a bit disappointing to the average viewer. Unless you are particularly interested in the Expressionist artwork or other technical aspects, "Waxworks" might seem to lack a concrete storyline or a lighter air like that of many American films of the time. Although the individual stories contained in Waxworks are good and interesting, the overall feel is a kind of heavy, dark intenseness; much like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, for instance. Unless this style is of special interest or appeal to someone, this film might not be the best choice, but for a sample of German film and art, it's certainly worth a try. Otherwise, this DVD is excellent, with a few other interesting special features.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy excursion into German Expressionism May 6 2003
Format:DVD
Kino does a beautiful presentation of this entry into German Expressionism on film. The plot essentially includes a writer telling stories about figures in a carnival waxworks display. The writer is smitten with the daughter of the waxworks owner, as a sideline. These are fairly incidental to the trilogy of stories that intertwine.
First, Haroun Al-Raschid is played by Emil Jannings. This story is fairly humorous and very fun to watch, with a chase scene through an Escher-esque set as a baker tries to escape after a failed attempt at thievery.
This is followed by Ivan the Terrible, played by Conrad Veidt. Conrad plays an eerie, insane, and meglomaniacal potrayal of the famous tyrant. Ivan, as promised, is indeed, terrible and Conrad's acting adds volumes with this peek into murderous insanity.
Werner Krauss portrays Jack the Ripper in the third story (dreamed by the sleeping writer). His performance is grand and uncanny, though the association of Jack the Ripper with Spring Heeled Jack is highly erronious, and distracting. While Jack the Ripper never displayed any uncanny abilities to speak of (in the film as well), Spring Heeled Jack was known to leap great distances and heights and breath fire. These two characters have little in common, even down to the fact that there were numerous descriptions of Spring Heeled Jack by eye witnesses, and very few of Jack the Ripper. Additionally, Spring Heeled Jack is only credited with one murder, seemingly accidental. By combining them in such a poor manner, Leni does an injustice to two classic legends.
This film is classic of German Expressionism, and aside from bad scholarship, lives up to its reputation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars German Horror Classic Debuts On DVD. Sept. 30 2002
Format:DVD
Paul Leni's WAXWORKS has taken its own sweet time in coming before the public in presentable form. This of course is not the film's fault. Now that it is here as part of a quartet of restored German Horror Classics, there is cause for much rejoicing. As is often the case with most anthology films the parts are greater than the whole. There are three episodes involving figures in a wax museum which are linked by the framing story of a writer writing about them. Are they scary? No, but at least one of them (IVAN THE TERRIBLE with Conrad Veidt) is genuinely disturbing while another (SPRING HEELED JACK with Werner Krauss) boasts the most expressionistic sets since CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (also in this set of four new releases from Kino International). The longest sequence features Emil Jannings in an Arabian Nights setting which is more comic in tone and surprisingly erotic thanks to Olga Belajeff who plays the romantic lead in all three stories. The male lead is William Dieterle who plays the writer. He would give up acting and become a major director in Hollywood during the 30's and 40's. This is the first time this film has ever looked this good. It was restored from two differnt prints and has been properly tinted. The accompanying piano score is effective especially in the IVAN sequence. WAXWORKS is not a great film but it is an important one. It is one of the first horror anthology films and boasts spectacular set designs for the three stories. While it won't scare you, it will entertain you and that is ultimately what it is all about. As mentioned earlier this is part of a quartet of silent German horror films newly restored and released on DVD. It can be purchased seperately but if you enjoy these type of films then spring for the whole package. In addition to NOSFERATU and CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, there is a striking new restoration of THE GOLEM.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars German Horror Classic Debuts On DVD. Sept. 30 2002
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Paul Leni's WAXWORKS has taken its own sweet time in coming before the public in presentable form. This of course is not the film's fault. Now that it is here as part of a quartet of restored German Horror Classics, there is cause for much rejoicing. As is often the case with most anthology films the parts are greater than the whole. There are three episodes involving figures in a wax museum which are linked by the framing story of a writer writing about them. Are they scary? No, but at least one of them (IVAN THE TERRIBLE with Conrad Veidt) is genuinely disturbing while another (SPRING HEELED JACK with Werner Krauss) boasts the most expressionistic sets since CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (also in this set of four new releases from Kino International).

The longest sequence features Emil Jannings in an Arabian Nights setting which is more comic in tone and surprisingly erotic thanks to Olga Belajeff who plays the romantic lead in all three stories. The male lead is William Dieterle who plays the writer. He would give up acting and become a major director in Hollywood during the 30's and 40's. This is the first time this film has ever looked this good. It was restored from two differnt prints and has been properly tinted. The accompanying piano score is effective especially in the IVAN sequence.

WAXWORKS is not a great film but it is an important one. It is one of the first horror anthology films and boasts spectacular set designs for the three stories. While it won't scare you, it will entertain you and that is ultimately what it is all about. As mentioned earlier this is part of a quartet of silent German horror films newly restored and released on DVD. It can be purchased seperately but if you enjoy these type of films then spring for the whole package. In addition to NOSFERATU and CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, there is a striking new restoration of THE GOLEM.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy excursion into German Expressionism May 6 2003
By KNO2skull - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Kino does a beautiful presentation of this entry into German Expressionism on film. The plot essentially includes a writer telling stories about figures in a carnival waxworks display. The writer is smitten with the daughter of the waxworks owner, as a sideline. These are fairly incidental to the trilogy of stories that intertwine.
First, Haroun Al-Raschid is played by Emil Jannings. This story is fairly humorous and very fun to watch, with a chase scene through an Escher-esque set as a baker tries to escape after a failed attempt at thievery.
This is followed by Ivan the Terrible, played by Conrad Veidt. Conrad plays an eerie, insane, and meglomaniacal potrayal of the famous tyrant. Ivan, as promised, is indeed, terrible and Conrad's acting adds volumes with this peek into murderous insanity.
Werner Krauss portrays Jack the Ripper in the third story (dreamed by the sleeping writer). His performance is grand and uncanny, though the association of Jack the Ripper with Spring Heeled Jack is highly erronious, and distracting. While Jack the Ripper never displayed any uncanny abilities to speak of (in the film as well), Spring Heeled Jack was known to leap great distances and heights and breath fire. These two characters have little in common, even down to the fact that there were numerous descriptions of Spring Heeled Jack by eye witnesses, and very few of Jack the Ripper. Additionally, Spring Heeled Jack is only credited with one murder, seemingly accidental. By combining them in such a poor manner, Leni does an injustice to two classic legends.
This film is classic of German Expressionism, and aside from bad scholarship, lives up to its reputation. The DVD includes the necessary original color-wash familiar to German silent films of its time, and is a very nice print to watch. Included as extras in this volume are REBUS FILM I, a fun 1926 short by Leni combining live footage and animation to perform a crossword puzzle on film. Also, an excerpt from Douglas Fairbanks's THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, as a comparision to Emil Jennings's role in WAXWORKS. The film WAXWORKS has 12 different scene selections.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paul Leni's Seldom-Seen Homage to Caligari April 9 2005
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
In the wake of World War I, German film was sharply influenced by expressionism, an arts movement which is less concerned with imitating reality than in using design to reflect psychology and emotion. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI brought the style to the screen in 1919, and throughout the 1920s many directors would create projects under its influence.

German director Paul Leni (1885-1929) was one such--and although he is best recalled for his later Hollywood films, most notably the stylish THE CAT AND THE CANARY, the 1924 German WAXWORKS shows him very near the peak of gifts. It is also very clearly an homage of sorts to THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; not only would Leni cast two of that film's actors in major roles, he drew from the film's style for both sets and cinematography.

WAXWORKS is an "anthology" film, a collection of stories bound together by a running thread. A young writer (William Dieterle) is employed by a carnival sideshow wax museum to write stories about several of their figures: a Baghdad Caliph, Ivan the Terrible, and Spring Heeled Jack. As he writes, the film segues into the story the writer invents.

The longest of the three stories concerns Harun al Raschid, a Caliph of Baghdad who falls in love with a baker's wife--and then seeks to take her for his own. Featuring the celebrated Emil Jannings as the Caliph, the episode is a mixture of light comedy and Arabian Nights fantasy, particularly noted for the greatly stylized sets that recall the earlier CALIGARI and THE GOLEM to somewhat softer effect. It also offers the very rare opportunity to see Jannings, famed for his dramatic roles, in comic mode, and he proves equally adept with this bit of fluff as with his more "serious" work.

The second episode is a fantasy suggested by Russian ruler Ivan the Terrible, who delights in poisoning prisoners but finds himself fearful of his highly gifted poison-mixer. Ivan is played by Conrad Veidt, who appeared as the murderous Cesare in CALIGARI; one of Germany's most popular actors of the silent screen, Veidt was also noted for his gift at playing insanity, and his Ivan is the very incarnation of madness. As in the earlier episode, the sets are also fantastic, although perhaps not so obviously so.

Fine though the first two sequences are, it is really the last that is most famous, and justly so. Here Leni sets the story against the carnival itself and presents it in grotesque, dreamlike images that very deliberately recall CALIGARI; moreover, he casts actor Werner Krauss, who played Caligari himself, as a menacing killer who slowly stalks his terrified victims. The killer is referred to as both Spring Heeled Jack and Jack the Ripper; clearly, however, he is more akin to the latter. The cinematography in this sequence is particularly fine, using multiple exposures in a way that foreshadows Leni's stylish THE CAT AND THE CANARY.

In an overall sense, WAXWORKS is quite fine, and were it not for the fact the final sequence is so short I would easily give it a full five stars. The Kino DVD also offers a very good transfer, complete with original tinting; unfortunately, however, it offers no bonus material except a Leni short--an unexpected but mildly interesting "filmed crossword puzzle." Although some may find the anthology nature of the film a bit off-putting, silent fans will likely love WAXWORKS from start to finish.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Bob Zeidler, Amazon Reviewer
Greatly Missed and Not Forgotten
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Waxworks April 17 2005
By Steven Hellerstedt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
A man answers an ad asking for an `imaginative writer.' The waxwork displays in a fair sideshow need some interesting words thrown their way. Dashing young Poet (William Dieterle) answers the ads, and in the course of a night tells the tale of Harun-al-Raschid (Emil Jannings), the caliph of Baghdad, Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt), and later dreams a nasty dream about Spring Heeled Jack (Werner Krauss, as Jack the Ripper), all the while throwing an evening's worth of sighs at pretty young Zarah (Olga Belajeff).

WAXWORKS (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett) is a 1924 German silent movie directed by Paul Leni. The movie is divided into three episodes. Sources say a fourth was planned but the production ran out of money. The first episode asks the question When a Grand Vizier flirts with a baker's wife, what does the baker do? Dieterle and Belajeff play the young and much in love married couple, and Dieterle answers the question by resolving to steal the Caliph's `wishing ring.' Episode two again has Dieterle and Belajeff playing a young couple much in love, we join them on their wedding day, along with the mad Ivan the Terrible, a cruel sadist who derives particular pleasure out of poisoning someone and watching them squirm while the sand in over sized hour glasses time out the last moments of their lives. The third episode finds Spring Heeled Jack chasing the Poet through the fair.

WAXWORKS is an impressive looking movie. Leni also handled the Art Direction and the sets are a fantastical melange of weird rounded shapes and cantered angles. The first episode, which comprises nearly half the movie's running time, is imaginative and tight. The Ivan episode drags on more than a bit, slowed down considerably by Veidt's crawling approach to screen acting. He takes forever to complete a gesture. The short Spring Heeled Jack episode seems tacked on, an expedient for a bankrupt production. It's filled with double and triple exposures and works better than it has any right to. After the long Caliph story I thought WAXWORKS lost drive and focus, and found myself steadily losing interest as the movie played itself out.

The dvd's extras features a clip from Douglas Fairbanks' Thief of Baghdad, which WAXWORKS inspired. Also included is the playful REBUS 1, a fifteen-minute or so short by Paul Leni. REBUS 1 is simply a seven-word crossword puzzle that uses filmed images, traditional and stop-action animation to solve the puzzle. It's light-hearted and frothy and, most important, translated into English.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Torture, dread and death -- and some ironic good humor -- in this stylish Paul Leni film July 9 2006
By C. O. DeRiemer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Waxworks is an anthology film directed with great German expressionism flair by Paul Leni. The horror element is liberally mixed with irony, humor and amazing escapes. The three stories, one quite short, start out with a young man (Wilhelm Dieterle) answering an ad: "Wanted - An imaginative writer for publicity work in a waxworks exhibition." The exhibition is a sideshow at a carnival, and the waxworks are life-size figures of some legendary human monsters. There's Harun al Raschid, Caliph of Bagdad (Emil Jannings), Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt) and Spring-Heeled Jack -- no, not Jack the Ripper -- (Werner Krauss). The daughter (Olga Belajeff) of the waxworks creator and the young man are attracted to each other. He picks up a pen and begins writing his stories while she watches enraptured.

Harun al Raschid was a ruler who "hated monotony, so he had a different wife for every day in the year." He's a corpulent, spoiled and lascivious potentate played with a fierce mustache, leering eyes and wandering hands by Jannings. When he becomes entranced by the baker's wife (Belajeff), she inspires the baker (Dieterle) to prove his worth by stealing the caliph's wishing ring. After attempted caresses ("Don't let that bother you, my nightingale," the caliph tells the baker's wife when her gown becomes disarranged, "your lack of clothes doesn't bother me in the least."), barred doors, leaping escapes, a severed arm and the baker's oven used as a hiding place, all comes to a close with a happy and ironic ending.

Ivan the Terrible was a "blood-crazed monster on the throne, who turned cities into cemeteries. His crown was a tiara of mouldering bones, his scepter an axe." He "loved to gloat over the dying agonies of his poisoned victims," using an hourglass to measure out their last minutes. This story is genuinely unnerving. The sight of Veidt as Ivan, followed by his astrologer, stalking down the passage to the torture chambers in a long white gown, bent at the waist, elbows back and hands on his hips, each step measured, is something to see. This ending is ironic and disturbing.

Spring Heeled Jack -- "the notorious character -- pounced suddenly and silently upon his victims." Our writer has finished his first two stories. The young girl has fallen asleep. He looks at the waxworks figure of Jack, starts to write but falls asleep. Or is he. Suddenly the girl is holding him, telling him Jack had tried to kill them. They flee into the carnival with Jack after them, a frightening figure in an overcoat, a long scarf around his neck, a hat set at a jaunty angle on his head and a knife in his hand. Is this a dream or reality? Well, watch the movie, but don't blink. This sequence is over in just two or three minutes.

Probably the greatest pleasure of the movie is its look. In Waxworks, there's not a straight line or a right angle to be seen. Bagdad is an odd wonderland of domes and crooked ladders, veils and shadows. Anything solid seems to have been made out of rough clay. The staircases in the palace look like the ribcage of some exotic creature. The Kremlin looks to be a cross between a dark, crazed fantasy and a grotesque stage set. The carnival grounds are a fantasm of double exposures, shadowy lighting effects and fog. This is an unusual and entertaining film, with two over-the-top yet skilled performances by Jannings and Veidt, and with all the strange visuals you could hope for in a film by Paul Leni.

If you like anthology films which feature stylish dread, watch Dead of Night, a British film from 1945. There are stories in the film that will make you think twice about looking in mirrors, watching a ventriloquist's act or staying with friends for the weekend.

The Kino presentation of the restored Waxworks has a very good DVD transfer, chapter stops for each sequence and an unobtrusive piano accompaniment composed and played by Jon Mirsalis. There are a couple of minor extras.
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