Prologue: The murderer "Boss" Huller - after having spent ten years in prison - breaks his silence to tell the warden his story. "Boss", a former trapeze artist, and his wife own a cheap ... See full summary »
Joe May's sensual drama of life in the Berlin underworld is in many ways the perfect summation of German filmmaking in the silent era: a dazzling visual style, a psychological approach to ... See full summary »
After killing her treacherous step-father, a girl tries to escape the country with a young vagabond. She dresses as a boy, they hop freight trains, quarrel with a group of hobos, and steal ... See full summary »
William A. Wellman
Because the Baron of Chanterelle wants to preserve his family line, he forces his timid nephew Lancelot to choose one of the village maidens to wed. Lancelot flees to a monastery to escape ... See full summary »
The dancer, Diotima, meets an engineer and skier, Karl, in his cottage in the mountains where they fall in love and have an affair. When Karl's young friend, Vigo, meets her she gives him ... See full summary »
A five-person team of gold prospectors in the Yukon has just begun to enjoy great success when one of the members snaps, and suddenly kills two of the others. The two survivors, a husband ... See full summary »
In the beginning of the industrial revolution, the Paris Commune was established in 1871 against the rich and the powerful, and violently repressed by the army that remained faithful to a ... See full summary »
Two wagon caravans converge at what is now Kansas City, and combine for the westward push to Oregon. On their quest the pilgrims will experience desert heat, mountain snow, hunger, and ... See full summary »
Prologue: The murderer "Boss" Huller - after having spent ten years in prison - breaks his silence to tell the warden his story. "Boss", a former trapeze artist, and his wife own a cheap side-show that displays ''erotic sensations''. But he longs for his former glamorous life in the circus. When he meets the orphan Berta-Marie, he falls under her spell and leaves his wife and young son behind. He makes Berta-Marie his partner in a new trapeze number. One day, the famous trapeze artist Artinelli takes note of them and engages them for his trapeze show in Berlin. Their salto mortale becomes an immediate sensation. Calculatedly and cold, Artinelli seduces Berta-Marie and destroys "Boss'" happiness. Written by
Christian Taube <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A German sexual triangle set backstage at the circus
The male flyer initially appears in cinema as a flawed hero. The prototypes are characters found in Variety (1925), directed by Ewald Dupont and based on Felix Hollaender's novel, The Oath of Stephen Huller.
This is a semi-expressionist film about a heavy-bodied catcher-husband, Boss Huller (Emil Jannings), whose wife, Bertha-Marie (Lya de Putti), is seduced from domestic bliss by the trio's lighter-bodied star flyer, Artinelli (Warwick Ward). The cather-husband imagines dropping his rival, the flyer, but murders him instead in a fight, and goes to prison. The seducing male flyer is the provocateur of extreme passion, a position subsumed by female aerialist characters in later films. But the male aerialist as a criminal, even murderer, intermittently reappears in representation because he epitomizes a capacity for extreme risk-taking, which is translated into socially risky immoral behavior. But it is the male flyer who becomes especially vulnerable to depiction as a fallen hero, literally and for losing emotional control.
Although little-known today, Variety is one of the major works of German Expressionism. It's an immorality of emotion drama with a fine performance by (the always great) Jannings and the wonderful visual film-making that is the hallmark of the Expressionist movement (extraordinary cinematography by Karl Freund). Variety was heavily censored for its American release; how it was changed makes it almost as interesting as a case study in film censorship as it is enjoyable as a movie.
In its original version, the film begins with a drawn-out portion showing how Emil Jannings falls in love with Lya De Putti, left his wife for her, and created a trapeze act with his lover. This part of the story was excised completely by the American censors, and title cards added to redefine Jannings and De Putti as the married couple of the U.S. release version. The censors' intent was to erase the plot point of casting adulterous lovers as the established couple in a love triangle. The effect was to far more radically transform the story. The unfaithful husband who is in his turn betrayed by his unfaithful lover is transformed into a sympathetic cuckold. The opportunistic temptress who catches two men only to end up with none is transformed into a young wife who succumbs to temptation. From unsparing morality play to conventional melodrama, courtesy of censorship.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?