The Ethiopian King Samlak offers his daughter Makeda to the powerful Pharaoh Amenes in order to secure peace between the two countries. What was intended as a political move ends as a debacle. Instead of Makeda, Amenes chooses Samlak's beautiful slave girl Theonis. Nevertheless, Amenes can not secure the love of Theonis as she is in love with the young Egyptian Ramphis. Having suffered humiliation, the Ethiopians declare war on Egypt. Amenes is injured in a battle and perishes - but only seemingly. The happy union between Theonis and Ramphis is in peril when Pharaoh Amenes returns to claim his wife and his throne. Written by
Peculiar alterations were made to the original German version in the Russian, Italian and US release versions: The Russian version shows the Pharaoh as a tyrannical ruler; harsh and despotic. The Italian version, on the other hand, emphasizes the love-stricken, vulnerable Pharaoh. He eventually loses his power as a result of his love for the beautiful slave girl. Presumably, this portrayal was not acceptable in Russia at the time and the film was edited accordingly. In the US release version the film ends with Ramphis's rise to power and the happy union between him and Theonis. The return of the Pharaoh and the subsequent tragedy is omitted in favor of a happy ending to satisfy the expectations of the US audiences. See more »
When he is reigning as Pharoah, Amenes (Emil Jannings) has a shaved head. When he reappears after having been thought dead, he has a full head of hair. See more »
The fabulous restoration of this film alone makes it worth viewing. The pictures are glossy and luscious as to be almost magical. It makes you realize that even though the movies were still silent in the 1920's, the quality of the film was first rate.
Also extremely noteworthy of the version recently shown on TCM is the spectacular orchestral score, really one of the best. Try to actively listen to the music if you can from time to time - especially in the late battle scenes, it is worthy of Wagner.
The sets are over the top, and the cast begins as a cast of dozens, then scores, then hundreds, and then literally thousands as the climactic battle scenes are reached. The Germans really outdid themselves here, easily matching the Hollywood spectacles of the same era. With great skill, director Ernst Lubitcsh was able to interweave outlandish spectacle with a lot of close-up tragedy, perhaps having learned this technique from watching D.W. Griffith fliks.
Unfortunately, the exaggerated emotive acting is a little painful to watch at times. This is the kind of over-acting histrionics that would be mocked by some for many years after the advent of sound.
The plot occasionally borders a bit on the unbelievable as well. I think the silliest thing was when, early in the film, the pharaoh is about to sign a peace treaty with the Ethiopians, when suddenly he is informed that someone is "approaching" the Treasury! In great shock, the king abandons the ceremony to deal with this incredible event personally! This would be like President Roosevelt walking out on the Yalta Conference in order to deal with a dog that had piddled in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. Silly indeed.
The actor playing the hero "Ramphes" may also have the ugliest haircut in the history of serious film.
But these are minor distractions. "The Loves of Pharaoh" is art, and it is movie history, and the glorious restoration makes it well worth viewing.
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