Pandora's Box (1929) Poster

(1929)

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6/10
lovely camera-work, but the "über-vamp" theme seems very dated and old
MartinHafer6 November 2006
I know that this film is a huge favorite of many silent film fans and I don't want to say I disliked the film but I also was not nearly as bowled over by it as most. While I admit the camera-work is lovely and the plot is sometimes interesting, it also is way too old fashioned and ridiculous to be a great film in my opinion. It's a definite screen cliché that there is an "über-vamp" that has mystical powers to bend everyone (both men and women) to her selfish will. This idea was beaten to death in many of Greta Garbo's silent films and this Louise Brooks film just seems like another one of these hoary old tales. In the movie, this über-vamp was able to get a man to run away with the woman responsible for her father's death, get a woman to whore herself to a man to help the über-vamp escape from a white slaver and man after man practically killed to possess her!!! Come on folks,...this is ONLY Louise Brooks--not someone with X-Men-like powers to seduce!!! In the end, this is a well-made but totally silly film, though the end was kind of satisfying, as Lulu FINALLY found someone not 100% impressed with her looks or grace. As for me, give me a more realistic silent film like THE BIG PARADE or a silent comedy like THE FRESHMAN instead of this ridiculous type of soap opera-like celluloid.
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10/10
Lulu through the eyes of Pabst
TheLittleSongbird14 July 2020
The story of Lulu, was already familiar with the story from seeing and hearing Alban Berg's opera 'Lulu', is an immensely harrowing and tragic one, and a brave one to dare to adapt on film at this particular time in film history. GW Pabst was one of the best and most influential silent film directors, known for the authenticity of his settings visually and in atmosphere (coined "street realism"), how his films were edited and his direction of actresses and how he developed their skills.

All three can be found here in 'Pandora's Box', which made star Louise Brooks a cinematic icon for very good reason. It has Pabst written all over it, that's how big an impression his style and direction make here, and to this day is one of his and Brooks' best films. Even better than the wonderful 'Diary of a Lost Girl' (also directed by Pabst and also starring Brooks hence the comparison), which has pretty much all the brilliant things 'Pandora's Box' has but 'Pandora's Box's' ending works much better and takes more risks (even with again being significantly censored in various countries at the time) which is what makes it marginally better.

'Pandora's Box' looks fantastic even now, with some of the most truly beautiful and atmospheric images for any silent film. The lighting is moody, which adds so much to the dark, sleazy tone of the story, and the editing typically seamless for a Pabst film. The sets are far from static and are not static, even if they weren't authentic in real life they certainly looked and felt authentic, which is where Pabst's pioneering street realism comes in. Best of all visually is the exquisite, rich in atmosphere and very creative cinematography.

Moreover Pabst's direction is masterly, it's a triumph visually and creating a hugely realistic mood that is as hard hitting and moving as is required for the story. This is far from too safe directing, always admire it when directors and writers bring a pull no punches approach to uncompromising subjects and that was something that Pabst was consistently brilliant at and doing it in a way that makes one feel that they are there (another example of his street realism).

The most familiar of the music scores available for 'Pandora's Box' is Stuart Oderman's. To me, it fitted quite well even if it will never go down as one of my favourites. It was foreboding and leaves one unsettled even when not being complex in instrumentation, there are melodramatic parts but the nature of the story calls for that. While the story may seem too melodramatic and lacking in cohesion for some, to me it had some intense sensuality and some darkly humorous moments without resorting to camp. But above all it was violently harrowing and moving, with an unforgettably disturbing ending that never fails to shock. One of Pabst's biggest stengths and what set him apart was how he portrayed the dangers and plights of his female lead characters, most evident in 'Pandora's Box' and 'Diary of a Lost Girl'. Atmosphere-wise, 'Pandora's Box' is quite unlike any film released before and at the time and is still quite unique now.

Despite the characters not being ones one sympathises with (Alwa comes closest but namely down to how he is treated), with Lulu being pretty amoral, they are very interesting and the interactions between them induce a wide range of emotions. The cast are all strong, with Gustav Diessel a big standout as a truly sinister Jack the Ripper. Along with Pabst and the production values, one of 'Pandora's Box's' biggest treasures is the magnificent and quite iconic performance of Brooks in a challenging role that she embodies every single shade of. She looks wonderful on camera too and her face and eyes tell so much, one believes everything she conveys.

In summation, a silent film masterpiece. While the critical and commercial failure at the time is understandable, the acclaim it's garnered over-time is more so. 10/10
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9/10
Stunning and Sad!
Hitchcoc18 December 2009
I'd never seen Louise Brooks before. She absolutely lights up the screen. In this she is the juggernaut one minute, the victim the next, but always incredibly fetching. This is an early story of great sexuality where the young woman uses all her sexual wiles to captivate whomever she is in league with. She eventually get in over her head when a successful businessman is killed. He is in a battle with her over a gun, actually hoping to create a false suicide, but the gun goes off and kills him. From that point on we have a relentless effort to remain undercover and steer clear of the authorities. The hard thing is that Brooks' character is so beautiful, she is constantly attracting attention. This film must have been way ahead of its time. Prostitution is never mentioned but it's probably a given. There is also an obviously lesbian character who desires Brooks and will do anything for her. Still, it is dark and sad and concludes in a way that makes us wish she had drawn a better lot. The actress is excellent and I'm glad I got to see some of her work.
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4/10
Sleaze and promiscuity back in the day
Horst_In_Translation18 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Die Büchse der Pandora" or "Pandora's Box" is a 1929 black-and-white silent movie, so this one is already over 85 years old. It stars Louise Brooks, a dark-haired actress, who is probably more known today than she was back then. Despite being American-born she starred several times in the films of Georg Wilhelm Pabst, one of Germany's top silent film directors. Unfortunately, I cannot appreciate this film here as much as most others do judging from the movie's IMDb rating. It has an interesting premise, especially taking into account when it was made, but that's also it pretty much. There are a couple fine scenes in here, but it's not even close to being enough for a film that runs considerable over 2 hours. I was pretty much bored by it I have to say and it also did not help that I found the main character very uninteresting despite how hard they tried to make her as interesting and controversial as possible. Then again, I am not the greatest silent film fan out there, so I may be a bit biased, but nonetheless there are a handful of films from the silent era that I managed to appreciate a lot more than this one. Then again, there's also some that I liked even less, such as the Mabuse film for example. As a whole, this may have been a much better watch at 80 minutes perhaps, but for this massive duration the material simply wasn't enough. An epitome of how quality does not match quantity. Not recommended.
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10/10
Tragic Masterpiece
claudio_carvalho27 June 2012
The dancer and prostitute Lulu (Louise Brooks) is the mistress of the newspaper owner Dr. Ludwig Schön (Fritz Kortner) and lives in an apartment paid by him. When her former "protector" Schigolch (Carl Goetz) visits Lulu, he brings the opportunist agent Rodrigo Quast (Krafft-Raschig) that invites Lulu to dance in a play.

Dr. Schön tells Lulu that he will marry the aristocratic Charlotte Marie Adelaide v. Zarnikow (Daisy D'Ora) and mesmerizing Lulu forces him to marry her. However, in the wedding party, Dr. Schön finds Lulu partying with Schigolch and Rodrigo Quast in their bedroom and he gets his pistol and forces Lulu to shoot him. Lulu is arrested and almost six months later, she goes to the tribunal for trial. Despite the testimony of Dr. Schön's son Alwa Schön (Franz Lederer) and his friend Countess Anna Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), Lulu is sentenced to five years in prison in a prejudicial verdict. But her friends cause a bedlam in court and Lulu flees. Alwa and Lulu decide to travel to Paris, but in the train, they are convinced to follow the crook Marquis Casti-Piani (Michael v. Newlinsky) in the beginning of Lulu's downfall.

"Die Büchse der Pandora" is a tragic masterpiece by Georg Wilhelm Pabst with the beautiful and talented Louise Brooks in the lead role. This actress seduces not only the men in the film, but the male viewers with her beauty and innocent and naive look. Last time I saw "Die Büchse der Pandora" was on 12 October 1999 and yesterday I was spellbound again by this lovely actress. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "A Caixa de Pandora" ("The Pandora Box")
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8/10
An Essential Silent German Film
gavin694216 February 2016
The rise and inevitable fall of an amoral but naive young woman (Louise Brooks) whose insouciant eroticism inspires lust and violence in those around her.

"Pandora's Box" had previously been adapted for the screen by Arzén von Cserépy in 1921 in Germany under the same title, with Danish actress Asta Nielsen in the role of Lulu. Director G. W. Pabst searched for months for an actress to play his Lulu. On seeing Brooks as a circus performer in the 1928 Howard Hawks' film "A Girl in Every Port", Pabst tried to get her on loan from Paramount Pictures. His offer was not even made known to Brooks by the studio until she left Paramount over a salary dispute. Pabst's second choice was Marlene Dietrich.

With All Due respect to Dietrich, Brooks was the proper casting choice. She makes the role her own, and she is now probably best known for this film. Of course, there is the rumor that she helped popularize the haircut she has here. Dietrich already has "Blue Angel", so why have two iconic films? The film was re-discovered by critics in the 1950s, to great acclaim. Modern critics now praise the film as one of the classics of Weimar Germany's cinema, along with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, The Last Laugh, and The Blue Angel. Indeed, the Weimar era of German film is possibly the single greatest time and place for cinema... with this movie being no exception.
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7/10
Pandora's Box
jboothmillard1 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I found this German made silent film listed in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, the title didn't suggest anything to me automatically, apart from possibly the famous mythological story being involved, but I watched out of curiosity. Basically in Weimar, Germany, Lulu (Louise Brooks) is a beautiful dancer and prostitute, and also the mistress of well respected newspaper publisher and owner Dr. Ludwig Schön (Fritz Kortner), she lives in an apartment that he pays for, she lives off the money of other men who she seduces with her both enchanting and her innocent spell. One day she is happy to have a visit from old patron and her former "protector" Schigolch (Carl Goetz), with him has brought agent Rodrigo Quast (Krafft-Raschig) who is offering her an opportunity and inviting her to dance in a play. When Dr. Schön tells Lulu he is going to get married to aristocratic Charlotte Marie Adelaide v. Zarnikow (Daisy D'Ora), she uses whatever techniques she can to force him into marrying her instead. On the day of their wedding however, in the bedroom the groom finds his bride partying with Schigolch and Rodrigo Quast, and in anger he gets his gun out, but it is her that he forces to pull the trigger and shoot him, following this she is arrested. Six months pass and Lulu faces the courtroom, and despite the help of Alwa Schön (Francis Lederer), the doctor's son, and his friend Countess Anna Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), she is sentenced to five years in prison as not all the facts of the crime are sure, but she escapes with Alwa when her friends cause a havoc. They decide to travel together to Paris, but they actually end up in a squalid part of London, it is on a Christmas Eve that Lulu meets her fate when there is a prostitution situation, killer Jack the Ripper (Gustav Diessl) is her client it ends with her murdered, while Alwa disappears to join to Salvation Army. American Brooks became a cinematic icon following this film playing the Femme Fatale, and rightly so, with no sound this film relies entirely on the expressionistic imagery and an atmospheric story of false love, sexuality and occasional violence, it certainly has a good amount of tension and intrigue to keep you watching, a most worthwhile silent drama. Very good!
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2/10
Overrated Because Of Brooks' Reputation & Looks
ccthemovieman-121 April 2007
This movie makes a big mistake in one area: it doesn't provide enough written dialog. You watch this film for interminable minutes not knowing what the people are saying! It's frustrating and makes for an extremely slow movie. It gets to be like pulling teeth to try to finish watching it. The 100 minutes feel more like 1,000.

Not only that, the story is a real downer, and I certainly wasn't surprised to hear that this was a disaster at the box office. Word must have gotten out.

The only memorable facet to this film - to me, as a male - was ogling Louise Brooks, a beautiful and sexy woman. She had one of the prettier faces of her day. The supporting cast was okay, but nothing memorable, even Gustav Diesel as the "Ripper."

Maybe like other viewers, back then and today, I was expecting a lot more. This is yet one more example of critics fooling us. It's "in" to praise everything Brooks did, so beware. Watching this movie will disappoint you, big-time!
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7/10
Disastrous chain of circumstances
rmax30482316 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Louise Brooks is Lulu, a high-end prostitute in 1928 Berlin. She's always dancing around, gay, beautiful, careless -- like Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan except that instead of money she has sex. A couple of her clients are in love with her.

The first thing you notice about "Pandora's Box", aside from Louise Brooks' haircut, is the absence of the usual German expressionism, except for the final scenes, in which the cockeyed quality of the staircase and shadows are appropriate. There's an art deco bas relief prominently displayed on the wall of her husband's apartment but that's generic to the times. The second thing is the lighting, which is exceptionally good. It must be, because I noticed it.

Another thing you notice is that Berlin society in 1928 was pretty cosmopolitan and tolerant. Brooks is at least allowed some access to high society. There is a stage manager who is both identifiably Jewish and homosexual. Brooks' best friend, a Countess, is unquestionably a lesbian. Blacks appear both at a formal fête and in the jury box during Brooks' trial for manslaughter. (She accidentally shot her jealous husband during a struggle.) And I don't know what a menorah is doing on Brooks' mantelpiece but Jews were pretty well integrated into German society by that time and maybe ethnicity and religion didn't play the part it was to play ten years later.

Anyway, Brooks shoots her new husband, is convicted of manslaughter, and she and her lover flee during a chaotic fire alarm. They meet some nasty people. The couple try to reach Paris by train but Brooks is identified by a passenger who tries to blackmail them. The reward is 5,000 marks. How much would that be in Germany in 1928, you ask? Enough to buy a Bratwurst on a roll. All sorts of disasters befall them. Most of their friends and well wishers either get in trouble themselves or turn out to be pretty rotten.

In the end they wind up with their sole remaining companion, Carl Goetz, in a freezing garret. The windows are broken and a blizzard blows in. They're reduced to eating bread that is too stale to cut with a knife and must be broken by hand.

The practical side of Brooks resurfaces and says, "To hell with this." She parts her hair in the old way, paints her lips, and in out on the street looking for clients -- despite a posted warning that Jack the Ripper is on the loose. (By 1928, he must have been 90 years old but no matter.) Guess the identity of the first man she meets and invites up for a tete-a-tete in the garret. But Pabst and his writers, who have done a good job of giving us multi-dimensional characters so far, do it again, even with Jack the Ripper. He's not the personification of evil. He's a frightened, moneyless guy who -- try as he may -- cannot overcome his compulsion.

The movie is a downer. We all want Brooks and her lover, and their friend who manages to get Schnapps even in the most desperate of conditions, to live happy and comfortable lives. It's a downer, but a well-done downer.
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10/10
a lurid melodrama made spectacular and tender by Pabst and Brooks
Quinoa19845 November 2009
The ingredients of GW Pabst's Pandora's Box are the kind that could be made into such insane melodrama that it might make Josef von Sternberg uneasy (or, if not, the average director of German cinema of the period). It's about a girl who hasn't a real home or family, except for those she gets closest to as an attractor of men. One of those is a Dr. Ludwig Schon, who is already betrothed to another- more respectable- woman, but still dotes on his Lulu, with short black hair and a charming but seductive face and eyes. She even lures in his son, Alwa, who finds the relationship-cum-engagement rather crude but can't keep his eyes off of her, even as he tries. But soon word gets out about the doctor and Lulu, and his reputation is tarnished, and at the night of their wedding as a giant, crazy celebration takes place, Dr. Schon can't take it anymore (how she acts around others, such as, well, men), and reaches a dramatic high point with her... that is, for this act.

From then on we see Lulu trying to escape trouble and capture from the authorities for a crime she actually didn't commit (it's one of those scenes that sounds far more simple than it looks), and either getting by fine like at a gambling joint with her fellow travelers, Rodrigo the theater promoter and Alwa, or not as it turns out at Christmas-time. Pabst doesn't ever paint much of a happy time for Lulu, and it's just the way it should be in such waters: Lulu is a free spirit, at least in theory, and she loves (or thrives on) drawing in men into her grasp, except for those few that she actually doesn't really want at all, and ultimately she becomes a prostitute in spite of her aim early on to be a dancer and performer on stage.

The story itself, while strong and potent with the kind of depth and misery that reminds one of other German expressionist films of the time, isn't even the best thing about the movie. On the contrary, Pabst could have made the same elements in this script, full of romantic twists and double-turns and harrowing grasps for life and just crazy bits of crime business, into a ludicrous thriller, something out of ten cent paperback books. But it's Pabst as a director of movement in cinema, how he portrays his actors on screen and gets body language and movement in a frame, the lighting and the smoke and fog, the sets expressing place and class, and how he casts it that makes it so great a film. It's a signal of what makes a movie amazing when one can see a filmmaker elevating a torrid drama into real depth, pain and anguish and lust, not to mention the dangerous exuberance of the period, and that it works even today.

There is Gunther Krampf's cinematography as one piece of what makes it work, and how the rhythm of the shots in the editing is done in classical structure of scenes (sometimes a scene will pick up the intensity, such as the Jack the Ripper scene near the very end, and it becomes exciting much like, or more-so, a modern melodrama today), and, depending on which music you listen to with the film on the Criterion DVD (I picked improv piano, which turned out well) it provides a perfect kick with the material. There is all of that, but it's Louise Brooks in her most notable and wonderful performance, that makes Pandora's Box stick with you. She has a quality like any star should have, but not having to speak she can rely precisely on her looks, her allure and her smile, her perfect moments of hysteria (i.e. the backstage theater scene with Dr. Scholl is perfect), and how she projects some real sorrow like in the courtroom scene.

Brooks taps into a wild soul who is caught in her own game of playing men in society, and Pabst taps into her star to make something you can't take your eyes off of. Another star or actress would have made it interesting, but Brooks, who would only go on to star in a few other movies worth mentioning (also directed by Pabst), is fearless with the character, and makes her as recognizable in the history of German film as Dietrich in The Blue Angel. It's artful film-making and a sumptuous actress in a once-controversial film (banned/censored in eight countries!)
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9/10
Comedy, Tragedy, Romance and Noir. Especially Noir!
JohnHowardReid14 June 2009
G.W. Pabst's classic, Pandora's Box (1929) is a must-see for Louise Brooks who plays the title role to ravishing perfection. If I remember correctly, the movie is divided into eight Acts, but it's not until the final two or three that the noirish elements predominate. Some of the previous acts are even played for comedy, such as the delightful opening of the lavish musical in which the antics of Sig Arno as a hard-pressed stage manager ("inspizient" is mistranslated as "instructor" in the credits of the English version) often take center stage. In Act Seven, however, Gunther Krampf is finally given his head to crowd the screen with noirish images, which become really frightening before the final curtain. Who plays the Salvo lass who is given so many intriguing close-ups? She is most effective. Of course, Louise walks away with the acting honors, but the other players are not far behind. Kortner is a bit stiff, but it suits his character.
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8/10
Louise Brooks makes out with Pandora and Pabst
wes-connors14 February 2009
In free-wheeling Berlin, lovable Louise Brooks (as Lulu) is a carefree gigolette. The breezy Ms. Brooks proposes to marry a lover, the prominent newspaper owner Fritz Kortner (as Peter Schön), for wealth and respectability - and, perhaps, because Mr. Kortner has become engaged to a prominent socialite. Vamping Brooks wins her man, after he and she are discovered during a necking session. After holy matrimony, Brooks hooks up with Kortner's handsome young son, playwright Franz Lederer (as Alwa Schön). Mr. Lederer had previously had his eye on artist Alice Roberts (as Anna Geschwitz), who secretly yearns for Brooks…

The sexually charged "Die Büchse der Pandora" (or "Pandora's Box") really isn't the forward thinking motion picture you might be expecting. And, the story doesn't really flatter Brooks' winning, modern performance. It's almost like seeing Colleen Moore play a Great Garbo script. Ms. Moore probably would not have attempted "Lulu", but Garbo certainly might have. The storyline resembles those 1920s "modern vamp" women who are "punished" for their "immorality". Not so modern, after all these years...

While the story is regressive, the film boasts terrific direction by G.W. Pabst, and an lovely lead performance. Brooks is simply wonderful in the "Lulu" role, and should have been considered one of the year's "Best Actresses". Like Brooks, Lederer seems to be acting somewhat beyond the "silent film" era. As the most fully realized of Brooks' loves, Lederer is the film's "Best Supporting Actor". Kortner, Carl Goetz (as Schigolch), and Ms. Roberts are also very engaging.

******** Die Büchse der Pandora (1/30/29) G.W. Pabst ~ Louise Brooks, Francis Lederer, Fritz Kortner
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Louise Suffers for Us
tedg6 May 2008
There are a couple remarkable things about this film.

One category has to with how well it is made. In its day as now, it was a remarkable story. Its simple but full of richness, in the story itself, its subtle embellishments, cinematic vocabulary and expressive photography. These are things we share across the ages, now about 80 years.

Louise Brookes would have stunned then as now, but there's an additional dimension now. What I would call an external fold.

She's luminous, virtually unique and probably never to be bested, because silents were better suited to exploit a dancer's grace, bodily freedom and physical beauty. That would have registered then, and did. But we now know about this special woman.

We know she has an openness, a sexual openness and trusted casualness with fate on screen because that's the way she was in life. We know this. We know its why she is an effective Lulu. And we know what happened to her. We know she WAS the mistress of a powerful man, and at the same time played freely. We KNOW that though she may have been among the smartest minds to blow through Hollywood, she was addicted to passion, and bored with Hollywood. Bored with Hollywood!

That she suffered. That she indeed became a prostitute and drunk. We know that the Louise we essentially fall in love with suffers because of how we fall in love with her. And that makes this an entirely different experience that no one in the 30's could have had. Its an experience full of tears. And shame of passion that makes this one of the deepest films you'll see.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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5/10
Before there was GILDA there was Lulu and Louise Brooks...
Doylenf17 October 2006
I'm really not a big fan of German expressionism in film, nor silent movies for that matter, so I regard PANDORA'S BOX as an interesting but highly flawed study of female perversity embodied by Lulu, as played by LOUISE BROOKS. She seems to be a woman without a conscience--and rather than compare her to Greta Garbo or any other screen greats I would say her Lulu character resembles Rita Hayworth's amoral nature in GILDA--a woman of mystery with loose morals.

The story is just plain awful, heavy-handed stuff about an amoral girl during the Jazz age in Europe who seems to attract men like moths around a light. And women too. LOUISE BROOKS has a very natural way of expressing herself and even in close-ups does not give in to that stylized way actresses had in silent films. She is reminiscent of the very sexy CLARA BOW but she's an even better actress.

Interesting to see FRANCIS LEDERER as the young man (he died only a couple of years ago at 100) and he too does a nice job of natural acting as the son of the wealthy man she marries. The story has each man she forms a relationship with meet an unhappy fate, while her own life takes on a tragic turn when she is accused of murdering her husband but manages to escape after a guilty verdict. From then on, she is a woman in hiding and her fortunes take a downward spiral until she is living in poverty in the London slums.

During the latter portion of the film she takes up with a man who, unknown to her, is the man who has been terrorizing London with a series of brutal murders, played with appropriate menace by GUSTAV DIESSL. Her demise at his hands is apparently supposed to be the price she pays for a life of sin.

It's about as downbeat as any of the expressionist films of that era, including those by Fritz Lang, but the weakness lies in a storyline that is weak and a lack of subtitles for many wordy scenes so that the viewer is never sure just what is going on between characters heavily engaged in conversation. This is a huge mistake.

Summing up: Notable only for watching the screen presence of LOUISE BROOKS. Otherwise, quite a dud dramatically and not likely to appeal to contemporary audiences except as a vehicle in which to view the actress who today has quite a reputation as a screen siren of the '20s.
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9/10
A masterpiece of German Expressionism
preppy-328 April 2016
Movie chronicles the rise and fall of Lulu (Louise Brooks) a naive but sexually uninhibited woman. She just oozes sexuality and drives men around her crazy. She uses them for sex and most of them come to a bad end. She's not doing it on purpose--it just happens. There's even a lesbian countess who falls for her!

Mesmerizing movie. It runs a little over two hours but is never dull. Beautifully directed by G.W. Pabst but its Brooks film all the way. She's incredible in her role. She just radiates sexuality unlike any actress I've ever seen. However she also manages to show the innocence of the character. Actually all the acting is great. Also this is probably the first film to have a lesbian character. Alice Roberts plays her a little over the top but not too much. By all accounts she didn't want to do it but her boyfriend talked her into it. I love the film but the gambling sequences can get a little tiresome and I find the ending with Jack the Ripper a little OTT. Still this a truly great film.
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8/10
She has a Childish Charm of Calming Cuteness
LeonLouisRicci11 November 2012
One of the last great silent films this is a German movie that is surprisingly short on cinematic expressionism and long on the glamorous, sultry, hypnotic beauty of Louise Brooks. It is her dynamic performance and fallen Goddess looks that makes her, and by attachment Pandora's Box, a wonder to behold.

The thematic sexual content is handled with reverence rather than raunchiness and it is her glorious, giddy, and sincere playful naive nature that is compelling. She not only, just by proximity, seduces any man in close contact, as well as the audience with a childish charm of calming cuteness but unleashes primal desire as well as a protective desire manifested by her magnetism.

The film is long and deeply depressing but it carries us through to her inevitable descent and destruction with so much pathos that it is hard to detach oneself from her destiny and want this obviously playful, not prey-full, soul to live happily ever after. But this is not a fairy-tale and she is not Snow White. This is Greek tragedy.
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7/10
Throughly watchable romantic drama.
CinemaSerf5 March 2021
Louise Brooks is Peter Pan-esque in this stylishly depicted story of "Lulu". She is beautiful and sexy, and she uses her gifts to effortlessly ensnare the wealthy "Dr. Schön" (Fritz Kortner). When it comes to marriage, however, she is tainted goods and so he becomes affianced to the more suitable "Charlotte" (Daisy D'Ora). He's still the jealous type, though, and is determined she will love no other. To that end he facilitates her joining the theatrical show of his adult son "Alwa" (Francis Lederer), who is none to immune to her charms either! Predictably, this plan only serves to throw oil on the fire and soon the now completely compromised, but smitten, doctor must make a decision he is loathe to - with tragic consequences ensuing for him, and for "Lulu". The performances ooze charisma and personality, the light and shade cleverly create atmospheres of passion, frustration and even some menace as the woman and her life rise and and fall before us. Carl Goetz is quite effective as "Schigolch" - one of her previous examples of collateral damage - as is Krafft-Raschig as the muscle-bound "Quast". By any modern day standard, this is a soap - a very good, well photographed and charming soap - but a soap nonetheless and it stretches the bounds of serendipity and plausibility just once too often for my liking. That said, Brooks turns her hand to just about everything here and is superb - and I did rather enjoy this.
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9/10
Lulu the femme fatale of the '20's.
Boba_Fett11383 September 2008
In 1929 it of course also wasn't really something usual yet to have a female as the main lead of the movie. Lulu is an incredible character, played magnificently by Louise Brooks, who is also one of the most beautiful, pure looking, actress that ever lived. She had to endure lots of criticism from the Germans prior to the filming of this movie, purely because of the fact that she was an American who had gotten the main lead in a German movie but she silenced all of them with her performance.

She is a seductive and erotic character, who causes chaos around her by manipulating lots of man (and even a woman) with her sexuality. She is a naive, though yet strong individual, sexual independent woman, who seemed to be ahead of her time with things. Just as modern as her haircut. A real femme fatale so to speak and man, married or not, would do anything for her, even acts of violence.

As it always goes with characters like Lulu in movies, her character does not end up well. It's about the rise and eventual inevitable fall of the character. It causes the movie to take on some great, strong, dramatic proportions.

It above all is also a greatly shot movie, that is beautifully looking and till some extend also an example of German expressionism, particularly with some of its 'modern' sets, with some great and modern looking camera-work from Günther Krampf, who also worked on "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens". The movie is real skilfully and strikingly directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst who also provided the movie with a lot of pace, which of course isn't always something usual to say for a silent movie from the '20's. With its just over 2 hours of running time it luckily also isn't among the longest silent movies. Some silent movies of similar proportions from the same time period (especially French productions) are closer to 4 hours rather than 2 hours long, which makes them needless to see hard to watch at one straight viewing.

As light as the movie begins, as dark it ends. The movie tends to become more and more dark and dramatic as it heads toward its ending. It perhaps makes the movie a bit heavy handed but on the other side is also a reason why this movie feels like such a dramatic epic, without ever taking on the running time of an overly dramatic silent picture.

A must-see, at least for the lovers of silent cinema.

9/10

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8/10
Translating the character names back to their literal German meanings . . .
oscaralbert13 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
. . . PANDORA'S BOX is the story of upstanding newspaper mogul "Dr. Beautiful" and his son "Air Warden," who get mixed up with a "Lulu." Released during a crucial turning point in Prussian History, PANDORA'S BOX became a de facto referendum on Germans who have menorahs in their flats, such as Lulu. Dr. Beautiful has a perfectly good blonde fiancée of his own Class, but Lulu throws a hissy fit to get him to marry HER instead. Their wedding reception is the most decadent event imaginable, leaving the groom dead. Lulu is condemned at her subsequent trial, largely on the basis on inherited guilt dating back thousands of years, according to the state prosecutor. Lulu THEN entices Air Warden to forget that she's just murdered his Pops, and trots him all over Europe amongst her black-mailing friends and relatives, who turn Air Warden into a card cheat. Lulu finally decides to open PANDORA'S BOX for "Jack the Ripper," tearing Air Warden's heart in half. Most of the Fuhrer's Base of Core Supporters saw PANDORA'S BOX, which led them to rally in Nuremberg. World War Two came next, but that's a whole other chapter in PANDORA'S BOX (which is faithfully depicted in the first "Indiana Jones" flick).
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Torrid, yet over so slightly dull
JoeytheBrit17 June 2011
Louise Brooks, eh? What a woman. She illuminates the screen in this lurid cautionary tale about the dangers of having a good time, to the point where any other actor sharing the screen is simply forgotten by the audience. Strange that she ended up working in a department store…

This film is typical – albeit a superior example - of silent movie story-telling. The visuals take precedence over the dialogue, meaning frequent long sequences during which director G. W. Pabst carefully builds up the atmosphere or simply invites us to dwell, like the male characters in the film, on Ms. Brooks' luminous beauty. It means many people today will find the slow pace difficult to handle, even though the plot reads like something out of a cheap pulp novel. Here we have murder, avarice, greed, infidelity, slave-trading, serial killers, gambling addiction, incipient alcoholism, unrequited lesbian love and blackmail – a potently torrid mix by anyone's standards, but it all seems a little dull.
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9/10
A great film, but it loses a little steam early on
zetes8 October 2001
I had been hearing about this film for years now, and I have finally seen it. I must say that I was enormously impressed with the first third, up until the courtroom sequence. After that, it gets a little random. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that - none of those episodes is less than great - but if it were a little more solidly structured, it would probably be more powerful and thus a masterpiece.

The theme that the film explores is the difficulties of life for a beautiful woman. Sure, you might think they're luckier, but this movie argues that it can be hellish. Lulu (Louise Brooks, luminous in one of the best performances of screen history) cannot help being attractive. Without even trying, she leads men (and women, too) along, eventually driving everyone crazy with jealousy and lust.

I'm a bit disappointed, having heard it built up so often, but I have to say that it's no less than great. 9/10.
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10/10
Opening Pandora's Box!
Sylviastel8 October 2006
I have to say that Louise Brooks is one of those unforgettable actresses from a generation where actresses were trained to be actors. This film is probably the most famous film including Louise Brooks in collaboration with German director Pabst. Anyway, this film is done at a time in Germany before Hitler's rise to power and the second World War. The film itself is always worth viewing because the story of Pandora's Box is about Louise Brooks' character and the fate that awaits her. I saw this film in college for a Women and film class over ten years ago and I still would love to see it again. Louise Brooks should have been an Academy Award nominee for her performance.
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3/10
Louise Brooks Wasted As "Lulu The Slut"
StrictlyConfidential25 September 2018
At a grueling running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes - I thought that this overlong, silent-era, German film seriously cried out for some major editing. It really did.

I also found that Louise Brooks' character of "Lulu", the low-life hooker (who radiated nothing but the purest, sweetest innocence imaginable) to be such a preposterous contradiction that she soon came across to me like the parody of a pathetic clown.

Louise Brooks (who actually had quite a likable screen presence) was one of those unfortunate actresses who I think the movie industry really wasted by casting her in tiresome junk like 1929's "Pandora's Box".

Is it any wonder - In 1938 - Louise Brooks (who was so fed up with being a film actress) retired from the business (at the age of 32) - Never to return?
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9/10
Great actress, great film
gbill-7487711 December 2018
Things I love about this film:

  • Louise Brooks gives an extraordinary performance, as unaffected and natural as any I've ever seen. She's seductive, but has such a buoyant simplicity about her, and it's not the simplicity or innocence of a girl as in other screen stars who channel this as part of their allure, she's more like an elemental force of nature.


  • The scene in act three when she's backstage with the newspaper publisher (Fritz Kortner) who has decided to end their affair and marry someone else is one example of this. She's refused to go onstage for them, and while arguing, turns her back to him and eventually lies down, the metallic strap of her outfit making a large thin Y on her otherwise bare back. We can just feel his desire to kiss the back of her neck, and after some tussling around, soon he is kissing her. It's at this moment that his son (Francis Lederer) and fiancée (Daisy D'Ora) walk in, and the look that Brooks gives them is just mind-blowing. I cannot imagine better acting; she's defiant and yet bemused, passionate and yet detached.


  • Another great example is in act four, when the son tells her he can't live without her. Her eyes are captured so perfectly by Pabst, who adds a sparkle in their reflection which is almost demonic, and yet she has such tenderness as puts his head in her lap.


  • On the surface it may seem to be a morality tale, but it's not with the way Pabst directed it, and this includes the wise casting of Brooks over Marlene Dietrich (who was apparently literally in Pabst's office when Brooks finally agreed to take the part). Lulu, Brooks's character, is never judged for pursuing pleasure. During her trial it's the prosecutor who likens her to Pandora, but the comparison is hollow, and we don't really believe it. The sexuality of the character is so natural it's presented as a sort of purity, which is a very rare thing in films of the period (or any period).


  • By contrast, it's the male characters who are portrayed as evil, and it's because their pleasures are all tainted by exploitation, greed, or violence. There's the hypocrisy of Kortner's character who carries on with Brooks but tells his son, she's not the kind of girl one marries, and then later asks her to kill herself. Her first 'patron', an old man (Carl Goetz) who likely took advantage of her when she was a child, and who has no moral qualms about her prostituting herself late in the movie. The son, who starts off pure (so much so that Brooks comments "Alwa is my best friend, the only one who never wants anything from me. Or do you want nothing from me because you don't love me?"), but who we later see addicted to gambling, despondent, and not defending her. The trapeze artist (Krafft-Raschig) who blackmails her, and in one scene leans over her ominously with a giant alligator appearing over his head, mounted to the wall in the background. Another acquaintance who tries to sell her to a creepy Egyptian brothel owner, claiming that he's "looking out for her" because the authorities won't think of searching for her in Cairo. And then of course the final man she encounters, who initially is so stunned and touched by her kindness that he shows her real tenderness, though ultimately he can't control himself. It's all pretty damning, and more an indictment of the male of the species.


  • Pabst has lots of great moments too, getting the most out of this story and telling it in a pretty creative way. The scene of the Kortner confronting Brooks on their wedding day when he finds her old patrons and his son playing around with her has the camera drifting ever so slightly in and out of focus, just as we can imagine him reeling from all of his emotions. The accidental shooting, with that beautiful work of art we see first on the left at a dramatic angle, and then in the background. And lastly, the handling of Brooks in that scene at the end, starting with her flashing that radiant smile with a sparkle in her eyes on the way up to her room, then later gazing at the candle with her chin on her hand and looking upward, and finally a remarkable restrained murder scene with just her hand falling away. It's brilliant, and Pabst continuing on with this to see the celebration of Christmas and people singing 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' really adds contrast and heightens pathos. The feeling conveyed is not one of well, she deserved it for her wantonness, it's sadness that such a pure creature has been so abused and snuffed out.


  • The openness of the lesbian character (Alice Roberts) is refreshing, and in keeping with the lack of moral judgment present in the film. As an aside, from reading 'Lulu in Hollywood', my understanding is that Roberts refused to look at Brooks with the requisite lust, and Pabst had to shoot her looking at him and then cut that in. Regardless, Roberts and Pabst were breaking new ground here.


  • Lastly, aside from the great acting, Brooks is simply iconic in this film. Her short bob and bangs look had considerable influence at the time, and according to TCM's Ben Mankiewicz, was also studied and leveraged by Liza Minelli for Cabaret (1972). She's also very stylish in her wedding dress, at the trial in widow's garb, as well as when her hair is not in bangs to disguise herself while on the run.


Great actress, great film.
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Fatale beauté
chaos-rampant12 October 2011
Lulu is a social butterfly out for a good time, a femme who is fatale but only because the men lust after her so fiercely.

Normally in film noir the femme fatale appears to us not so much a human being but an agent, a catalyst of some dangerous illusion. She is the wet dream from the private dick's perspective, desire personified. Hollywood probably took this up from Dietrich's persona in another German film, Blue Angel from the following year, the heartless diva who presents herself in a way that will satisfy her capricious whims.

This is different though, and it is more stunning for this, the trick being that we see the world from the eyes of an innocent woman as she becomes shaped into a femme fatale. She is forced into the role and eventually plays it to perfection. The very fact that she is beautiful and sexy turns her into that prize that men would do anything to have. Film noir as we came to know it was about all these desperate efforts.

It is still however film noir in the most incisive, essential way. Dual worlds linked by the turning of karmic wheels; from inside a cheerful, innocent woman who we know to be basically good and trying to live life, but who at the same time appears provocative, alluring, exuding sex, and therefore by her very nature, by the fact that she is the person she was born to be, seems to lull men into the kind of stupor where they can dream only her, a dream so intoxicating that in turn traps her in her image.

The result is that she inhabits a different world than she weaves around her and, almost without exception, it's the jerk from one world to the other that yields the anxieties - from the private to the public, where a person is no longer himself but only the sum total of other peoples' views, and so an object of collective scrutiny or, as in our case, sexual paroxysm.

So from her end life as a series of spontaneous, often inexplicable 'nows' but which we understand to be structured around her and unwittingly powered by herself. But from the other end life organized, and from their own ends again seemingly spontaneous, with the sole intent of having her. Men suddenly crave her - they don't know why, she doesn't - and will do anything, but who she also provokes without realizing, by simply being herself.

This dual perspective that reverberates across the film, as much about the woman herself as both temptress and angelic swan, she can fit in both these roles as well as she actively pursues them, as about the swarm of men who surround her, at first pretending moral uprightness but finally more or less powerless before her charms, is ingeniously rendered in two scenes in particular.

The first is set at the courthouse where she's at trial for murder; upon being pronounced guilty, her admirers quickly stage a commotion by setting off a fire alarm that allows them to extricate her. From the outside a chance emergency, the crowd dashing, clamoring, pushing for the exit, and from her end as well, unwitting, dumbfounded, in the middle of all this crowd being carried outside, but which we know was all orchestrated by the men who'd like to have her. Of course the fire alarm is about the fires of desire.

The other is at a bar or gambling house where she has fled and is hiding for safety. A reward out on her name, various parties conspire to exploit the situation for a quick dime. Here, it is she who is spinning the most dazzling web of deceit - now improvising the role of the femme fatale on the spot, but out of pressing need. The most revealing game concocted by her: she petitions a man to gamble for her fortunes on a card table. He is winning, but of course is revealed that he was cheating all along.

It ends with all these lives finally released from the grip of the karmic energies that have clasped them so tightly, the self- instructed destinies, each according to his own decree. The man who wishes he could eat Christmas pudding one more time gets to.

Pabst orchestrates the finale as a dance of symbolic gestures; the most symbolic perhaps being that the woman had a heart of gold all along. We may had our doubts because she mingled with money, but now we know. The man doesn't to the end, this is the saddest destiny here. Of course at the cost of ever having her.
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