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Archive for January 31st, 2010

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1925 151m) DVD2 (Germany only)

Aka. Die Freudlose Gasse

Down Melchior Alley

p  Hirschel Sofar  d  Georg W.Pabst  w  Willy Haas  novel  Hugo Bettauer  ph  Guido Seeber, Curt Oertel, Robert Lach  ed  Georg W.Pabst  art  Hans Sohlne, Otto Erdmann

Asta Nielsen (Maria Lechner), Greta Garbo (Grete Rumfort), Valeska Gert (Frau Greifer), Agnes Esterhazy (Regina Rosenow), Einar Hanson (Lt.Davy), Jaro Furth (Hofrat Rumfort), Henry Stuart (Egon Stirner), Werner Krauss (Geiringer, the butcher), Ronald Garrison (Don Alfonso Canez), Tamara Geva (Lia Leid), Loni Nest (Mariandl), Herthe van Walther (Else), Ilke Grüning (Frau Rosenow), Karl Etlinger (Max Rosenow), Max Kohlhase (Herr Lechner), Mario Cusmich (Col.Irving), M.Raskatoff (Trebitsch),

As I watched the opening credits roll on FilmMuseum’s glorious DVD restoration of Pabst’s silent classic, I noticed the name of Ilka Grüning in the cast, as you will above, and remembered her as one of the refugees in Casablanca.  And in anticipation of watching Pabst’s film, knowing the plot well from several viewings of inferior, butchered versions (ranging from a meagre 100m to a barbaric 60), I couldn’t help recall the opening of Curtiz’s Hollywood classic, and the sequence where two British tourists are hoodwinked by a pickpocket, who mutters, hypocritically, “vultures, vultures everywhere.”

            For Casablanca c.1942 substitute Vienna just over twenty years earlier, and where there everyone came to Rick’s, here everyone comes to Melchior Alley, a slum thoroughfare where poverty dwells in every doorway, cellar, attic and mouse hole.  The two central protagonists are both young women; the first, Grete, works in the office of a lecherous skirt chaser, but can hardly keep herself awake after spending all night queuing for meat from a local butcher, Geiringer (one of the meanest sons of bitches who ever got evicted from under a rock).  Her father, desperate for money, cashes in his voluntary redundancy package to make money on the stock markets, has one day of success, but then goes bankrupt, and Grete is left to carry the can and do whatever needs must to survive.  Then there’s Maria, daughter to somewhat rougher parents, living in a cellar but in love with Egon, a shady character who wants to marry another for her money.  (more…)

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