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#1 Izo

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 03:11 PM

Lang is a director I'd like to know more about. I've only seen a few of his most important films, but would like guidance towards others. I've really thought that all of his films I've seen are truly brilliant. Actually, here's the full list:

Forum Topics
M
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
Contempt (Lang acts in this film directed by Jean-Luc Godard)

The Complete Fritz Lang Mabuse Boxset(MoC)
M (MoC)
Spione (Spies) (MoC)
Metropolis (MoC)
Frau im Mond (MoC)


Highly Recommended:
(2) Metropolis
(2) M
(2) Spione
(2) The Big Heat
(1) Indian Epic (No, really!)
(1) Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler
(1) Fury
(1) Die Nibelungen
(1) Clash by Night
(1) The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
(1) You Only Live Once
(1) Frau im mond

Save For Last:
(1) While the City Sleeps
(1) The Blue Gardenia
(1) Scarlet Street
(1) Woman in the Window



Resources:

Roger Ebert Great Movies:

Metropolis
M
The Big Heat


Senses of Cinema:

"Pure Artifice": Fritz Lang's Moonfleet
Fury
Power and the Mythic Gaze in Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler
You Only Live Once
Where Dreams Go to Die: Scarlet Street
Great Director

TSPDT 1,000 Greatest Films: Destiny (1921), Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler (1922), Die Nibelungen (1924), Metropolis (1926), Spione (1928), M (1931), Fury (1936), You Only Live Once (1937), The Woman in the Window (1944), Scarlet Street (1945), The Big Heat (1953), Moonfleet (1955), Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956), While the City Sleeps (1956), The Tiger of Eschnapur (1958), The Indian Tomb (1958)

TSPDT 250 Quintessential Noir Films: Ministry of Fear (1944), The Woman in the Window (1944), Scarlet Street (1945), Secret Beyond the Door (1948), The House by the River (1950), Clash by Night (1952), The Big Heat (1953), The Blue Gardenia (1953), Human Desire (1954), Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956), While the City Sleeps (1956)

#2 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 03:23 PM

I'll move my review here of Dr. Mabuse. I think you will like Spies though.

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922: Fritz Lang: Germany) ***/****
This weekend I wanted to take care of one longer film I owned. Dr. Mabuse figured in for several reasons: first it was the earliest Fritz Lang movie I have, second I wanted to watch it before The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, third the film is quite influential and fourth some masochistic instinct moved me to take this five hour film on. The movie was originally shown in two parts (and I watched it in two days and rewatched the first part a second time to get the relationships correct; too complete the masochism I also watched all the extras too).

While the film moves a bit slowly and the second part is nowhere near as interesting as the first it is still a worthy film to watch. Fritz Lang's style was not as developed as it would be by Metropolis and the film is certainly influenced by earlier expressionistic films especially The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and The Golem (1920) in both content and character.

For such a long film the plot is quite simple. Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge in an archetype performance) is a man of many personas (a disguise for each one) and an urge to rule over Berlin. Contrary to the title, he is not a gambler. Everything he does is stacked in his favor. In the exquisite first act he dons on his stock market personality and effectively buys and sells a specific stock at the perfect time (making any day trader quite jealous). Unbeknownst to everyone except his minions (he seems to have too few lackeys for such a is that he has manipulated the lows and highs of the stock by stealing plans causing the stock to lower only to release them unopened causing it to rise. Even when he plays cards in another persona (a version of blackjack I believe) he cheats by using his brain powers (he is shown as a psychoanalyst in another scene; he is one of the first analrapists shown in cinema).

His nemesis is Chief Inspector Norbert von Wenck (Bernhard Goetzke who would costar in Alfred Hitchcock's lost film The Mountain Eagle) who is hot after his trail because of a rich socialite Edgar Hull had recently lost a lot of money under strange circumstances. One of the best scenes in the film is when Mabuse (in a weird gambler disguise with the most fake nose I have seen in a non-comedy) bets with the Inspector (also in disguise) and cannot quite manipulate him with his mind powers.

Dr. Mabuse would make too many mistakes in the more languid second half that a man of his acumen would not make (especially the ending that is quite reminiscent of the later American gangster films). It becomes a bit too frustrating because the plot contrivances elongate the situations more than necessary (quick note: do not read Leonard Maltin's small entry in his movie companion books; it is one of the rare instances he gives away a spoiler) and the ending goes completely against character.

However the length, there are so many beautifully directed scenes throughout the film. The use of scenery and special effects are quite impressive as well.

If you are new to silent cinema I would not suggest this as a place to start unless you have tremendous patience. This movie is definitely for fans of Fritz Lang's later silent features who want to view a landmark film not only in German and silent cinema but also a precursor to super villains in the titular character. Compare Rudolph's Mabuse to his Haghi performance in Spione.

Contrary to some reports, while the Kino version might not be the best version out there, it certainly looks quite good and is one of the better Kino's I've seen.
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#3 Izo

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 03:25 PM

I think you will like Spies though.


Why is this? I've heard very little about the film.

How does Die Nibelungen hold up?

#4 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 03:42 PM

Why is this? I've heard very little about the film.

How does Die Nibelungen hold up?


I have not seen my copy of Die Nibelungen. I'm hoping it holds up. I'm not sure of when I'll put the 5 hours or so into it. I haven't seen anything of Lang yet that I would give less than ***/****.

I was hoping Duke (who is also a fan of Spies (Spione)) was going to chime in on this. I should have given more explanation. Rudolph Klein-Rogge ( DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER) plays another excellent master criminal in Haghi (looking like Lenin) in one of the best spy films of the silent era. The beautiful German Expressionist filming is a joy to look at and it is quite inventive. I liked this more than Dr. Mabuse though I feel that is a good film. I don't value this as highly as Metropolis, I do feel the pacing drags a little with the relationship (looking forward to seeing the new long cut of that movie) or M, but it is definitely worth watching.
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#5 Duke Togo

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 02:23 AM

I would rank what I've see like so, all are recommended:

Metropolis:
Easily my favorite Lang, and certainly in the runnings for my favorite overall silent. The grandiose design of the city has been a clear inspiration for decades of art styles and science fiction. I am reminded of the metropolis of the DC comic universe, and more than that, Gotham City. Notice how much was borrowed in Burton's first Batman, to the point of an almost play by play recreation of the end struggle up the clock tower. The themes of class struggle here are similar to those explored in Welles' The Time Machine.

Spione:
Perhaps one of the first films next to Mabuse The Gambler to create a world of secret underground networks of organized criminals, central puppet-master villains, and slick spy heroes using slick spy gadgetry, the espionage genre might owe everything to Fritz Lang. This didn't have the strongest protagonist I've ever seen, but the villain was distinctive and interesting. This even included the obligatory core romance long before James Bond hijacked the genre. I really liked the almost self aware on-stage closing sequence where Haghi makes his exit. ***spoilers*** His yelling, "Curtain!" after ending his own life, followed by applause of the audience then the real end of the film is an almost confounding concept to think about, though fitting for such a puppet-master as Haghi. ***end spoilers*** It really propels both the villain and the film itself above much of Lang's other work for me.

M:
An suspenseful look at a community frozen by the threat of a single serial child killer. The most clear social points made here are how quick we are to distrust each other when facing a hidden threat, and I bet this had something to do with the excellent example used in Carpenter's The Thing. Peter Lorre is a great choice for the social misfit Hans Beckert. This film may also hold some kind of record for simultaneous cigar smokers.

Fury:
I'm a bit cold to Spencer Tracy in this (I liked him in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)), but his place here as a martyr to explore crowd violence is well used. I love the way Lang's films often tackle themes of human nature, particularly those dealing with communities. He even finds a clever way here to explore the morals of vengeance if the wronged were given the chance.

Die Nibelungen - Siegfried:
A great fantasy epic based more on original Norse myth than the Wagner play, Lang apparently wanted to avoid sticking too close to the themes of Wagner's famous play which was highly regarded by Hitler himself. The follow up, Kriemhild's Revenge, is apparently more in line with what Hiltler wanted in the original, and I compare it to the political influence and nationalism we saw in Eisenstien's Alexander Nevsky, but did not see in the Ivan films. I haven't seen the second film yet, unfortunately.

Clash by Night:
By far one of the strongest roles I've seen from Robert Ryan, he is absolutely perfect casting for such an honest exploration of the alpha male in our society. The nice guy Jerry (Paul Douglas) is clearly not right for the strong and independent Mae (Barbara Stanwyck), and I really admire that once again Lang tries to be honest with what he perceives as human nature.

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse:
This was a pretty exciting film, and I loved Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the shifty-eyed Dr. Mabuse. Not really what I thought was the best Lang film I've seen, but I really liked the odd performance at the end where Mabuse makes his exit. This is one I feel I need to see again to appreciate certain things.

I've had the Indian Epic set sitting on the shelf for a long time, so I might watch that soon now that I have a good recommendation from Izo. I also plan to watch all the other Lang films I doubled on with the MoC editions sometime soon, so I might have different thoughts on them in several months.

#6 sexy rancheros

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 03:11 AM

I'd recommend checking out You Only Live Once. Henry Fonda and Fritz Lang, you can't go wrong there. It might be my favorite film by him, but I haven't seen it in a long while so...

I caught The Big Heat again recently. I think the shot that best exemplifies the film's sensitivity and worldview is the shot of the elderly and meekish female "informant" through the fence. She's been though a lot of hurt in her day just like all the younger women are throughout. It's kind of astonishing how every victim is pretty much female except for maybe two. Women acting as sacrificial lambs. Also, Glenn Ford basically acts as a catalyst to all sorts of bad shit happening. I'd probably rank it at #4 on my noir list after In a Lonely Place, On Dangerous Ground, and Laura along with Sweet Smell of Success.

While the City Sleeps is decent. That might be too kind to it since it was my first exposure to Ida Lupino.

The Blue Gardenia is more of a trifle and harder to recommend.

A lot of people dig Scarlet Street and Woman in the Window, especially Scarlet Street, but I find both a little too cynical for my tastes.
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#7 Izo

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 07:12 AM

I've had the Indian Epic set sitting on the shelf for a long time, so I might watch that soon now that I have a good recommendation from Izo. I also plan to watch all the other Lang films I doubled on with the MoC editions sometime soon, so I might have different thoughts on them in several months.


The movie is really a return to his long-form silent film epic days. In fact, it's a remake of a silent film written by his then-wife that Lang had originally wanted to direct.

I love the film(s) - like Die Nibelungen, it's broken up into two parts, The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb. They are very obviously not perfect and the imperfections tend to be glaring. Much has been said about the stuffed tigers and cobra-on-a-string, but to me they only add charm to the film and the snake in particular adds a sense of unreality to the scene it is in. I'm not one to nitpick special effects a lot of the time, though. Performances, too, are never more than purely utilitarian. Mostly, they are fine, but you'd be hard-pressed to see anything special about them aside from the sheer physicality of the lead woman. There are two dubs of the movie, and neither is right. Dealing with Italian films and European genre films for as long as I have, dubbing bothers me very little.

The film truly belongs to Lang and his production team. I particularly love the bare set design, the score, the use of color, and the really great camera movement throughout the two movies. Then you have two extended dance sequences which are absolutely hypnotic and astonishingly sexual.

Basically, the movie is just fun. Spielberg definitely saw it before he made Temple of Doom.

#8 Izo

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 03:43 PM

Clash by Night:
By far one of the strongest roles I've seen from Robert Ryan, he is absolutely perfect casting for such an honest exploration of the alpha male in our society. The nice guy Jerry (Paul Douglas) is clearly not right for the strong and independent Mae (Barbara Stanwyck), and I really admire that once again Lang tries to be honest with what he perceives as human nature.


Just finished this and it is quite good. I didn't love it, but it's interesting to see Lang direct a script that five years later would be given to Douglas Sirk. You're right about Robert Ryan (though I'm not sure anything can top his performance in The Set-Up, but it's Barbara Stanwyck who steals the show here. There's a scene a little over halfway through the film where Stanwyck begins sobbing in the kitchen after her husband kisses her goodbye to go to work, this and the actions that follow (climaxing in the cry of "Earl you'll wake the baby!") are really a sight to behold. Truly a great scene. Really all the performances are good, but that scene is a little masterpiece that would be a perfect short film on its own.

#9 Duke Togo

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 01:14 PM

I've rewatched Spione, watched Frau im Mond, and finished the second half of Die Nibelungen, Kriemhild's Revenge.

Spione (second look):
This actually seemed stronger for me the second time around. I had forgotten how consistently cool the shots Lang uses here can be. Just about every third shot is interesting and twisted in some fashion, which I suppose makes this one of the most purely cinematic films I've seen in recent memory. The love story felt much less 'ho-hum' with this viewing once I considered that this entire finely tuned machine of Haghi's network of espionage has unraveled solely because of this love. He obviously has feelings for Sonya, so where he would normally just have her killed he decides he wants it all when her loyalties have clearly been compromised. This love conquers evil concept is totally cliché now, but Lang used it very interestingly here by letting the weaknesses caused by love do the conquering and not the strengths. This is important because the strongest character here is Haghi, the villain, who would otherwise be basically invincible. It is pleasantly poetic and very sweet. The ending, as mentioned before, is just so interesting to me, and seeing it again with this new-found appreciation for the film gave it a real boost. Before this was a 9, now it is a 10 (favorite), just an amazing film.

Frau im Mond:
Toted as the first utopian film based on science upon release, Frau im Mond is remarkably prophetic regarding what ended up being tried and true methods of space travel. It is almost eerie just how much he gets right, at least until we get to the part where the building-sized rocket is submerged below water before lift off, but these huge misses are expected and forgiven. This is all thanks to real rocket scientist, Hermann Oberth, working along-side this film with his own scientific theory in an attempt to create interest in funding the considerable project. It was planned to launch a real space mission on the film's opening day, which sadly could not come to pass even with Lang's considerable financial assistance. The infamous countdown to zero was invented for this film by Lang, and it is believed that the world adopted it for no other reason than watching the film and associating it with rocket launches. The Nazi’s actually banned this film during their V2 rocket project for being too close to the real science, a bitter-sweet testament to just how accurate the science turned out to be.

This time the love interest really is ho-hum, as is the plot of the outside financers to manipulate Helius and the mission. Both plots fade in and out of focus a bit too distinctly at times, making the fantastic goings-on in space the only thing we can really latch onto. The same problem is seen with characters like Professor Georg Manfeldt, who is central in the beginning but barely secondary (though oddly still present) for the remainder of the film. The only thing I could really appreciate from the plot was the nice and tidy conclusion of the love rivalry, which may have been easy to predict thanks to rival Windegger becoming a crazed coward willing to betray everyone once they enter space. He was made very fun to despise and easy (for the audience too) to betray, and Friede, played by the lovely Gerda Maurus of Spione fame (playing opposite Willy Fritsch...of Spione fame), would be crazy to remain with this toad.

A very solid 8 based on technical achievement and the science involved, recommended.

Die Nibelungen - Kriemhild's Revenge:
I was honestly a bit disappointed in the second half of Lang's fantasy epic, Die Nibelungen. The fantasy elements have pretty much vanished this time around, focusing only on the revenge sought by Gertrud for the assassination of Siegfried. The most interesting inclusion here would easily be Attila the Hun played by Rudolph Klein-Rogge, whose appearance is just as fantastically realized as Lang’s elaborate set-pieces. His mannerisms, facial expressions, and misshapen head give an authentic impression of the mongoloid savage leading a life of blood-letting and destruction. It actually makes it ironically humorous when he plays daddy with his and Gertrud's child.

As a whole the two films are without a doubt impressive, but compared to each other I just had to dock this second installment one point down to a solid 8. It felt much too focused on one thing to justify its length. I wouldn't say it was completely unnecessary to tell this story, but I think it could've fared better to just attach this part of the story in a condensed form to the first part. Forget everything I said about Hitler liking the first part of the film, but hating the second for political allegories. Further research shows that it wasn't this film that I read that about, and now I don't remember which one or where I read it. It might've been something on Eisenstein, or perhaps Wajda, but it certainly wasn't this film because it seems Hitler enjoyed the full running time immensely. Oh well, pish-posh.

#10 Izo

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 01:51 PM

Watched Die Nibelungen: Siegfried last night. Excellent movie. While you don't exactly care about Siegfried - the guy is way too prone to violence and his actions are largely unmotivated - the final act of the film is still very moving. I couldn't believe the dragon sequence. The entire film was just gorgeous to look at, as well. There were a few shots that took my breath away.

I'm baffled at Kino's choice of font for the intertitles though. They were often quite difficult to read.

#11 Duke Togo

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 02:30 PM

Yeah, the font was extremely frustrating as I finished the second part of Die Nibelungen, as if only including English translated inter-titles wasn't annoying enough. Has anyone heard anything about that MoC they seemed to have canceled? That would be an amazing release so I hope it is still on the way.

#12 Izo

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:11 PM

There was one character, I forget his name because I literally never figured out what the first letter was.

The English intertitles are something that I tend not to make a huge fuss over, though I would prefer the original ones.


Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge - ****/*****

I find it very odd that these are considered to be two parts of one film, because they really couldn't be more different. Whereas the first film, to me, felt like a recitation of events with little or no motivation and only intermittent areas of any emotional resonance. This isn't a criticism, really, it's just how the film played out. Here, though, the story is far more focused, and far less sprawling. As a result, I think, it was more engaging to me. It seems to me, being a Lang novice as I am, that the revenge plot was more interesting to Lang than the first half of the epic.

The portrayal of Attila the Hun was nothing short of brilliant, from the acting to the make up to his "lair". Really creepy stuff, and it's interesting that he's easily the most human character in either film.

#13 clydefro

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 01:33 AM

Lang is my third or fourth favorite director and I don't know who in their right mind would shift Scarlet Street down his filmography. It's a perfect Lang picture! Anyway, yeah, you're always in good hands with him. Almost every single movie he did is worth a full analysis and consideration, both on individual merits and as part of the larger whole. Hangmen Also Die is another I love. Rather than adding anything truly constructive, here's a top 10 off the top of my head: 1.) M, 2.) Scarlet Street, 3.) The Big Heat, 4.) The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 5.) Metropolis, 6.) Hangmen Also Die, 7.) Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, 8.) You Only Live Once, 9.) Spione, 10.) Rancho Notorious/While the City Sleeps/Beyond a Reasonable Doubt/The Blue Gardenia/Human Desire/The Woman in the Window/etc.

#14 Izo

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Posted 17 June 2010 - 04:01 PM

Original post updated with several links. If you have other worthwhile articles, let me know.

#15 clydefro

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 10:55 PM

Here's my review of the R2 release of While the City Sleeps. If we're being honest, it isn't quite essential Lang but it's reasonably close. I'd put it a little above The Blue Gardenia, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Clash by Night and even Fury. It's roughly even with Rancho Notorious I guess.

#16 cfkane

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 08:41 AM

The restored Metropolis is on TCM in the US tonight at 8PM followed by the new documentary Metropolis Refound. Then Langs Spione st midnight followed by M.
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#17 clydefro

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 11:11 PM

Moonfleet - great fun and absolutely unlike any other Lang picture. A few of Lang's familiar interests cross over like mob mentality and the secret lives of men but it was fascinating to see that he actually made an entertaining period yarn light on existential darkness. I don't know what I was expecting going in but what I saw definitely surprised me. It's far from being any sort of anonymous swashbuckler vehicle. I sort of liked the gypsy dance sequence too.

The Warner Archive disc also passes the test. Excellent transfer in anamorphic Cinemascope widescreen. Who knew that Lang was such a fan of purple.

#18 Izo

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 08:28 AM

It's more an adventure film, then? Knowing literally nothing about it, I imagined something more like one of his sci-fi silents.

#19 clydefro

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 09:34 AM

It's more an adventure film, then? Knowing literally nothing about it, I imagined something more like one of his sci-fi silents.


Yeah sort of, although I think there's just a single sword fight (and one of the participants doesn't even use a sword). It's not heavy on action for sure but the driving force is more adventure-oriented than, for example, suspense or mystery. Nothing sci-fi in it at all as it's set in Britain in the 18th century, with wigs and tights.

#20 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 07:09 PM

Watched Die Nibelungen: Siegfried last night. Excellent movie. While you don't exactly care about Siegfried - the guy is way too prone to violence and his actions are largely unmotivated - the final act of the film is still very moving. I couldn't believe the dragon sequence. The entire film was just gorgeous to look at, as well. There were a few shots that took my breath away.

I'm baffled at Kino's choice of font for the intertitles though. They were often quite difficult to read.


I watched this over the weekend after hesitating for quite awhile. Siegfried for the most part is too strong and partially because of this makes him less interesting (his obvious literary counterpart is Achilles, both have one soft spot, both are slain because of this spot*, though Achilles makes a far more interesting hero because of his loves both male (especially Patroclus) and female and his emotionally fragility). The character reminds me of Jettero Heller in L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth series as just too perfect.

I found myself severely annoyed with Kriemhild. Her mistake causes the potential undoing of her brother and the death of her husband. I found it such a stupid thing to do that my annoyance carries on to the next movie. What was she expecting? Nothing to happen after she embarrassed Brunhild? It is one of those gaffes that you would expect some type of retaliation -- especially when your regal position hangs on the thread as thin as the one holding the Sword of Damocles. Though since I am over-thinking this couldn't Brunhild just squash her herself?

While the plot and pacing could have been better, the visuals are outstanding in this. The Dragon, while obviously fake, is sublime in its mechanical nature (the Kino release compares this to the one in The Thief of Bagdad (1924) in the extras). The treasure of the Die Nibelungen and the dwarfs were quite exquisite in the mixture of special effects (in camera for much of this) and mythological connotations.

Those subtitles really were annoying. Is that an "H" an "I" what the heck was that word. I had some audio issues with mine, very peculiar. Starting from scratch, the audio would become very low. This wasn't an issue if I selected a scene. Though I wasn't watching the movie for the audio.

* Not all legends with Achilles mention the "Achilles Heel." It is not mentioned in the Iliad for example. But the book is easily worth reading and not just to get a better understanding of the Wolfgang Petersen directed Troy (2004).
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