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ALGOL is a bit of a mess in which the film makers have attempted to graft together several recent successes in what is today considered a High Concept film -- producers being notoriously stupid, everything must be explained in less than sixty seconds. Here it's FAUST crossed with HIMMELSKIBBET only we'll do CALIGARI-style art direction. The producer nods ponderously and several months and a young fortune later, you have this mess.
Emil Jannings is a coal miner when the devil, in the form of John Gottowt gives him a machine that will produce endless power. Over the decades he grows immensely wealthy, everyone he cares about leaves him and everyone else is angry because he has bought Naples and wants to divert the Vaal from South Africa to water his garden. All the jobs in coal mines are gone, which also annoys everyone, since who would leave the depths of a coal mine given a choice? His wife dies, his daughter runs off with a socialist and his son kills him for the secret and Erna Morena, everyone dances badly and the movie ends abruptly so they can get another showing in that day.
Now, at first this is actually a good movie, except for John Gottowt, who must be the devil because he is cross-eyed. The UFA art direction is increasingly expressionistic up to the end of the prologue, when Jannings gets the marvelous power machine and the air of hellish fantasy works brilliantly. But after that we get a very Teutonic movie in which the subtext is that Work Makes Free, and people act increasingly badly and stupidly for no clear reason. The sets become massive but nothing is ever done with them. Emil Jannings starts out his starring role with a lovely performance, but by the midpoint everything seems to have been concentrated on putting him in a poor toupee and marcelling his eyebrows.
There is little to take away from this movie except the obvious conclusion that People Are No D***ed Good, and if that is the point.... well, it's far too much for far too little. A director who knew how to deal with the sets might have helped, or a screenwriter who knew how to cut a bloated script. But this is a production that got out of control and no one seems to have figured out what to do with it.
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