Robert Wiene directed one of the greatest films of all time: "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari". But that film owes much more to its script and to its audacious set designs than to Wiene's direction or editing, and much evidence indicates that most of these factors (including the studio-imposed flashback structure) were already in place when Wiene was summoned (at short notice) to replace Fritz Lang at the helm of "Caligari". Most of Wiene's other films are workmanlike at best, and "Der Gardeoffizier" is hardly Wiene at his best.
This film is a straightforward (silent) staging of Molnar's farce "The Guard Officer", which was later remade by MGM as "The Guardsman", the only starring-vehicle movie for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. There was also an operetta remake ("The Chocolate Soldier"), and at least one later film has ripped off Molnar's plot without crediting him.
All the versions have the same plot. An egotistical actor (played in this version by Alfred Abel) comes to suspect, with no evidence at all, that his wife is unfaithful. He disguises himself as a dashing guardsman and proceeds to woo his own wife in disguise. When she responds to his advances, he begins to wonder whether or not she has seen through his disguise.
María Corda, as the wife, is darkly attractive but not a very good actress. Alfred Abel had a long film career but is remembered only for his role as Fredersen, the master of "Metropolis". In that film, his performance was stiff and understated. Here, his performance is stiff and overstated. He overacts shamelessly as the ham actor, then he piles on the overacting even more shamelessly when the ham actor slips into his various disguises.
The Lunt and Fontanne version of "The Guardsman" has many faults, and was a strange choice as the Lunts' only starring vehicle. But it's a vastly better film than Wiene's version. Even "The Chocolate Soldier" (which I loathed) is better than this. Skip this movie and rent a video of "The Guardsman" instead.
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