A Deal With the Devil (1914)

A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL (1914)
aka Den mystiske Fremmede
Article 4392 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-15-2013
Directed by Holger-Madsen
Featuring Olaf Fonss, Ebba Thomsen, Alf Blutecher
Country: Denmark
What it is: Faust variation

A medical student, dreaming of fame and riches, makes a deal with the devil that allows him to become an extraordinary success.

This short movie ended up on my “ones that got away” list, but thanks to a friend, I was able to find a copy that not only has English subtitles, but fills in the missing second reel with a “stills recreation” summary of the missing action. I’m really glad to have a chance to have seen this one; it’s a very well done variation on the Faust story. Two things in particular impressed me. One is that it makes excellent use of a visual motif it sets up early on; when the aspiring medical student visits a patient, the devil will appear at either the head or the foot of the bed, a clue which will indicate whether the patient will live or die. Another thing it does well is that it manages to set up a fairly common and quite noticeable plot device (you know how it will end when the student falls asleep early on), but manages to make the rest of the story involving enough that you forget about the coming plot twist until it finally comes around. Alf Blutecher is very effective as the devil, and this is definitely one of the better horror movies of the era.

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