This is one of the more interesting and underestimated Austrian films of the fifties, especially if you compare it to the typical "imperial" melodramas a la "Sissi" with Romy Schneider. The story of the unhappy and depressive crown prince Rudolf has been filmed several times, but never in such a fascinating and deeply morbid way. Rudolf Prack's performance is probably the best of his whole career, Christiane Hörbiger's debut is moving but not too sweet (in fact she is playing much harsher and more realistic a part that would have been tailor-made for young Romy Schneider). Lil Dagover, the "Grand Dame" of German cinema delivers a convincing portrait of the "old" empress Elisabeth (Sissi), trying to get away from her husband as often as possible and leaving her son to desperation and loneliness. The way Jugert uses color is remarkable and completely different from other German or Austrian films of that period. Everything is dark and gloomy and the coloured walls, curtains and tapestries seem to be as overripe and decaying as the whole house of Habsburg. Don't miss the gloomy beginning with the burials of Rudolph and his young mistress which sets the atmosphere for the rest of the film.
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