Print this page

Der Müde Tod on Blu-ray / DVD

Monday, 24 July 2017 17:57

Der Mude  Tod out now on Blu-rayThis is the film that gave hugely influential writer/director Fritz Lang (“Metropolis”,”M”) his breakthrough at the age of 30. Four tales in one, the primary story traces the misfortunes of a young woman (Lil Dagover – “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”), whose fiancé is taken by Death soon after they arrive at a village inn. Overcome with grief, the woman pleads with the Grim Reaper to let her either join her lover in death or bring him back to life.

Death (Berhard Goetzke – “Dr Mabuse: The Gambler”, “Die Nibelungen”) offers her a glimmer of hope if she can save one of three characters in separate narratives, each dealing with doomed lovers in different tragedies. The first is a Persian escapade featuring a Caliph who hunts his sister’s infidel partner; the second is a Shakespeare-light tale set in Venice where a woman plots her husband-to-be’s murder. Lastly, we have a more humorous adventure set in mystical China.

As in Lang’s later masterpieces, the narrative is very easy to follow, the characters are uncomplicated and this emphasises the film’s fairy tale qualities. The sets are superb and very intricate snapshots such as a town square, a palace interior and a temple courtyard, designed for a static camera so that the audience can take their time, soaking in the fine detail.

Dialogue caption cards are kept to a minimum and a suitably mood-driven orchestral soundtrack by Cornelius Schwehr matches the on-screen action. “Destiny” or “The Weary Death” is notable for featuring an incarnation of Death who bears no ill-will and if anything is more benign than malevolent. He is tired of doing the Lord’s work, and though fans of the “Phantasm” movies will recognise his Tall Man-like visage, the two characters could not be further apart.

I was instantly sucked into this breezy movie; the double-exposure special effects may appear very simple now but they work in the context of the film, and more importantly they are there to support excellent story-telling and direction. Another must-see for fans of early cinema.

Special features include:

  • High definition presentation from the 2K restoration
  • Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
  • Score by Cornelius Schwehr, performed by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel
  • Feature length audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
  • A new video essay by David Cairns
  • A 44 page booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp and an original review of the film from 1921

The HD restoration is still quite scratchy and the image shimmers quite a lot but there is a ton of detail in every frame. Cairns’ brief video essay is an excellent pocket or bluffer’s guide to the film, Lang’s other films and his personal life.

"Der müde Tod” (1921) is out now in dual-format Blu-ray and DVD (two discs), courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 116 minutes approx, carries a 'PG' certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

Last modified on Monday, 18 September 2017 18:00