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Wilkommen to Hungary, to Budapest more precisely, during the old times when the circus shows flourished in Centre Europe, those special, bizarre and popular amusements that the common people liked very much. There is in the town one of those special circus shows, "The Palace Of Illusions", where the coarse masses can enjoy strange attractions like the little lady suspended in mid-air, the living hand of Cleopatra (!) or the great Terpsichorean tragedy with Salome dancing before King Herod and not to mention the chance to watch freaks as Zela, the half lady, Arachnida, the human spider and Neptuna, the queen of the mermaids.
The ballyhoo man at "The Palace Of Illusions" is Herr Cock Robin ( Herr John Gilbert ); he will lead the audience into the mysteries and strange performances of the show, an irresistible master of ceremonies who is the object of desire of every woman, including the other circus performers, and he is not troubled if those yearning for him are half women, prostitutes or peasants.
"The Show",directed by Herr Tod Browning in the silent year of 1927, is one of those silent delicatessen treats that this German count appreciates more and more each time that it is shown at the Schloss theatre; it is not necessary to say at this German point that the binomials circus show/Tod Browning is a unique film genre that this German aristocrat savours as if it were Beluga caviar.
The film has many elements that make it special; an impeccably decadent atmosphere both in the circus show and the Budapest streets and a gloomy, menacing mood in the film story, all expertly supported by the art direction of Herr Richard Day and Herr Cedric Gibbons and the cinematography of Herr John Arnold. The main character of the film, Cock Robin, played by Herr John Gilbert suits him especially well ( it seems that the American actor didn't like very much this obscure role, a contrast indeed with his popular roles as a matinée idol ) as an unscrupulous riffraff who only cares for himself and uses the women for his own selfish purposes, economic as well as sexual, leaving aside trifles as love and such minor kinds of things; that is to say, his ethics are the same as this German count but in the Hungarian style.
Herr Gilbert 's character astonishes the audience with his wickedness, selfishness and even brutality, a character who gives no chance to regeneration during the whole film until the end of the oeuvre when some kind of human feeling finally appears thanks to the tenacity of his circus show companion, Dame Salome ( Dame Renée Adorée ) The ending, by the way, seems abrupt and imposed, and contrary to the gloomy essence of the story.
The film also scores with the disturbing presence of Herr Lionel Barrymore as "The Greek", the wicked owner of the circus show who will hatch an evil and bloody scheme against Herr Robin who is distracted by problems with money and women. Herr Barrymore uses some circus show tricks in order to get rid of his rival but when the one plan fails, the "Greek" will have to use another simple but effective method, this time with the help of a restless lizard.
Once the circus show has ended, don't forget to pay tribute, after having paid the tickets, natürlich! , to Herr Browning and his wonderful circus films full of outsiders, wicked people and indescribable freaks, the perfect and thrilling companion for a bored aristocrat, indeed!.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must go on with the silent show.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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