Algol (1920)

ALGOL (1920)
Article #1085 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2004
Posting Date: 8-1-2004
Directed by Hans Werckmeister
Featuring Emil Jannings, John Gottowt, Hans Adalbert Schlettow

A miner is given the secret to limitless energy by a mysterious friend, and uses it to become the master of a global economic empire.

This obscure german science fiction movie may be at least partially fantasy; the opening scene describes the star of Algol as being “the eye of the devil”, and there is some reason to suspect that the character named Algol may be the devil himself. As such, the movie hovers in a somewhat odd area between FAUST and METROPOLIS, though it really can’t be fairly compared with either one. One odd thing about the movie is that it really doesn’t seem to dwell on political or social commentary despite the theme of economic oppression; the focus seems to be on how the miner’s eventual growth into an economic tyrant destroys his personal relationships, and it is ultimately his loss of those aspects of his life (rather than a realization of the widespread suffering he is causing) that causes him to take the final actions that he does. Despite the fact that the character could be extremely unpleasant, you end up caring somewhat about him, and you’re sad to see him destroy the love and affection that surrounds him. Much of this can be attributed to Emil Janning’s excellent performance. My print has German subtitles, but I was fortunately provided with a translation of the title cards that went a long way to explaining the story; without it, you would have had another one of those confused “what’s going on here” reviews that I find myself doing whenever I don’t understand the language.

A special thanks goes here to the person who was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the film.


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