Saturday, December 7, 2019

Pair of Fritz Lang's late German films -- THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB -- make Blu-ray debut

Fritz Lang "completists" are sure to want to include this (for the most part) very good Blu-ray transfer of two of his last films made in Germany, once the director had tired of filmmaking in Hollywood and returned to his home country, after the Nazis had been defeated (and/or relocated to South America, the USA and elsewhere).

The place of Herr Lang (shown in portraiture/caricature at right) in filmmaking history seems pretty secure to TrustMovies, and so, when I say that these two later films are not particularly good, this certainly should not take away from the fellow's work (Metropolis/M, earlier in Germany; Man Hunt/The Big Heat, while in Hollywood.

THE TIGER  OF ESCHNAPUR together with THE INDIAN TOMB -- available this coming week on Blu-ray in a new two-disc set, with some nice Bonus Features -- should certainly find their way into the collection of Langophiles, particularly those who must have everything. For the rest of us, however, we may watch and watch and find ourselves wondering if maybe the filmmaker's style, as well as his intelligence, had partially deserted him.

The pacing is snail-like, with exposition poured upon more exposition until, as with so many soap operas, you could miss an episode and not have missed anything at all. One the plus side is an extravagant budget (for its day and for post-war Germany), with India seen in much of its glory in a Blu-ray transfer that is quite good, for the most part.

Unfortunately, the first of the films, The Tiger of Eschnapur, is by far the weakest, with the titular tiger(s) the best thing in the movie. German star Paul Hubschmid, as the hero, is rather wooden, but American actress Debra Paget (below) as the temple dancer/love interest proves beautiful and a decent enough actress to somewhat counteract her co-star. Better yet is Walther Reyer (in royal garb, bottom left) as the initially-nice-turned-nasty Maharajah, full of contradictory impulses.

The movie drags and dawdles until you may find it hard to stick around. If you do, good news: The second film moves faster and is more fun, as our hero and heroine escape the Maharajah's clutches (for awhile). The plot thickens a bit and speeds up considerably, and so The Indian Tomb proves more event-filled -- always a good idea for an adventure melodrama.

Ms Paget gets another dance number with a very fake snake (above) in which she is even more scantily-clad (these dances owe a hell of a lot more to Hollywood than to India), Mr. Hubschmid (below) takes his shirt off, and those gorgeous tigers barely make an appearance at all. But the palace intrigue among family, army and priests does hold our interest, at least.

According to history (and the Bonus Features), these 1958 films were actually released here in the USA in 1960 -- crunched together into a single 90 minute feature (each individual movie was longer than that in its original release!) by American International Pictures. Yet considering how slow and repetitive the movies are, one wonder if this more concise version might not have been the best way to view this Fritz Lang passion project. Sometimes, even Samuel Z. Arkoff knew what he was doing.

From Film Movement, in German with English subtitles and running 203 minutes, The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb combo hits the street this coming Tuesday, December 10 -- for purchase and/or rental. Among the several Bonus Features, don't miss the delightful and informative video essay by Mark Rappaport, Debra Paget, For Example. It's a keeper, even if the actual movies may not be. 

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