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Der Blaue Engel

The Blue Angel

Germany 1930
produced by
Erich Pommer for UFA
directed by Josef von Sternberg
starring Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti, Hans Albers, Reinhold Bernt, Eduard von Winterstein, Hans Roth, Rolf Müller, Roland Varno, Carl Balhaus, Robert Klein-Lörk, Charles Puffy, Wilhelm Diegelmann, Gerhard Bienert, Ilse Fürstenberg, Weintraubs Syncopators
screenplay by Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmöller, Robert Liebmann, based on the novel Professor Unrat by Heinrich Mann, songs by Friedrich Hollaender

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Professor Rath (Emil Jannings) is his hometown's most respected citizen, a highschool professor who's feared and hated by his students, but who also puts a great deal of work in their moral and ethical education - so when he learns that several of them visit a seedy nightclub, the Blue Angel, he is outraged, and decides to go there to catch them redhanded to teach them a lesson. On his hunt for his students, he stumbles into the changing room of nightclub singer Lola (Marlene Dietrich), whose permissive attitude and revealing clothing style shock and embarrass but also charm him. 

The next night, he's back, to see Lola, and she invites him into her changing room. When her boss, the stage magician Kiepert (Kurt Gerron), wants to force her to have champagne with a drunk customer, Rath stands up for her, to defend her honour. Lola is so touched that she invites Rath to stay overnight. This leads to a scandal, and eventually word of this scandal reaches the school Rath works at. The principal gives Rath a good scholding and thinks that's it, but Rath is stubborn, and claims he will marry the girl, which leaves the principal no other way out than to fire him.

When Rath arrives at Lola's place, she (and her troupe) are ready to leave to put up camp in another city. When Rath proposes to her, she bursts out into laughter, but then accepts. Out of a job anyway, Rath travels with Lola's company, but there isn't much he can contribute to the troupe, and theatre life just isn't for him. Eventually, he is degraded to selling dirty pictures of Lola to the audience, and he isn't even good at that ... and more and more he becomes a broken man.

Four years later: Despite Rath's protests, Lola's troupe returns to his hometown, and Kiepert decides to make him a featured attraction on the show, his assistant during his magic act, as he figures everyone in Rath's hometown will love to see the professor being humiliated on stage - and he is right, the first show is sold out in a matter of minutes. Lola in the meantime has grown somewhat tired of Rath, basically because he does nothing, is living off her money, and even complains about it - so she supports Kiepert's plan to get him onto the stage. Enter Matezza (Hans Albers), the strongman, who feels attracted to Lola almost immediately, and even Rath can't help but notice she feels drawn to him as well. And Matezza has picked the time during Rath's first onstage appearance to try to seduce her. Like in a trance, Rath witnesses glimpses of this while on stage being humiliated, but eventually he storms off stage to violently attack both Lola and Matezza - but his colleagues somehow manage to keep them apart, and Rath is put into a strait jacket for everyone's good until he has calmed down.

Later than night, after Kiepert has taken off his strait jacket once more, Rath flees the night club, wanders town with a maniacal look on his face, eventually breaks into his old school, his old classroom, where he dies holding onto his desk ...

 


The Blue Angel is full of iconic pictures, iconic songs, and is best known for having made Marlene Dietrich an international star - and past the surface it's also a pretty great film, a drama about human failure set in great sets, brought to the screen in striking images and by excellent actors.

Pretty much a must-see!

 

By the way, this film was shot simultaneously in German and English language (not an unusual thing in the early talky era). This review is based on the German language version.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD