This was the last screening in the Barbican’s season of Weimar expressionist films (as opposed to films that are just very expressive…) with Stephen Horne, introducing as well as playing, quoting Lotte Eisner’s later-life conviction that there were only two fully-fledged expressionist films - Von morgens bis mitternachts, and Caligari – along with the third segment of this film which, as Stephen promised, was well worth the wait!
As the Sun cracked the flags in the Barbican’s concrete courtyards, a substantial audience clearly preferred silence to shining as we gathered at the Centre’s lowest point: The Pit cinema.
|Olga charmed by Emil|
Waxworks was directed by Paul Leni who subsequently made The Cat and Canary, The Man Who Laughs and others in Hollywood. It is one of the first portmanteau horror/fantasy films with three stories all contained in a framing sequence set in a house of wax.
Leni recruited three of the Weimar’s leading men: Jannings, Veidt and Krauss who were respectively, corpulent, terrible and cutting!
|Assad canoodles with Zarah|
|The Caliph's Palace is almost like a living thing...|
The Caliph decides to investigate this woman for himself whilst Assad, forced to prove his manhood after Zarah realises that if she can catch the Grand Vizier’s eye she could do better, heads off to the palace to steal the Caliph’s magical Wishing Ring…
Cue a masterclass in kingly carousing from the protean Jannings, fleshy-grotesque in heavy padding, over-weighted turban and wicked moustache… he smiles, he gurns he licks his lips but he has charm enough to stop Zarah – and the audience – from running. Can Assad complete his task and keep his head and his wife? Have you read the Arabian Nights?
|Time waits for no man|
Waxworks is a sight for sore eyes (hayfever and long drives…). Leni’s sets are superb throughout and Helmar Lerski’s cinematography brings them to life from the oppressive low-beamed ceilings of the Kremlin to the nightmarish exposures for jumping Jack flash.
|Jack's menacing montage|
Waxworks is available in its fully-restored length complete with tints, from Kino and you can order direct as well as from the long river that winds past localised tax-returns…