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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
This version is indeed not at all like the 1935 John Ford film and, while it is far less faithful to the book than Ford's version, it has rather more atmosphere in many ways. However there is a real problem with the version that most reviewers here have evidently seen.....
The character of Gypo Nolan in the book is a lumbering giant of a man who is however a bit simple. The story was probably rewritten because of the available stars. Victor Mclaglen in 1935 was perfect for a lumbering simpleton but this would hardly have been possible for Lars Hanson. Te fact too of having Pola Negri required a passionate love-relationship which is not there in the book.
There are disadvantages to these changes. The original story revolves almost entirely around Gypo and the fact of his being simple and not really knowing what he is doing accounts for the relatively motiveless betrayal but also provides the element of redemption. Here other motivation has to be provided and different grounds for redemption and the result (the railway station scene for instance)seem rather contrived.
But Gypo's simplicity in the book is what makes the story sentimental(and even more sentimental in the Ford film), so, by altering the story, Robison has made his version rather more like a German thriller of a period. Since I am personally not a great fan of sentimentality (especially when combined with religiosity), I rather appreciate these changes and, in terms of atmosphere and cinematography, I much prefer the Robison film although it is true that the story here is rather less coherent or believable than in the 1935 film which follows the book.
The Informer was made both as a silent film and as part talkie and for a long time the part-talkie version was thought to the lost. Now it has been rediscovered and, in the original version of this review, I was concerned that the silent version seems to have disappeared. It is interesting (historically) to have the part-talkie, but the dubbing of the voices is so atrocious that it completely spoils the films. What one really wants to watch is the silent version.
However, the good news is that I was over-pessimistic. Not only does the silent version still exist but it has been well restored and is readily available. By all means have a look at the part-talkie out of interest but for goodness' sake watch the film for real in the silent version (it can be recognized as being a little longer than the part-talkie on account of additional titlecards).
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