G. W. Pabst (director)
133 min (length)
30 October 2023 (released)
05 November 2023
One of the great masterworks of silent cinema, G. W. Pabst’s sordid and brooding melodrama stars the iconic Louise Brooks in this adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s play ‘Erdgeist’. Dismissed by critics upon its initial release in 1929, PANDORA’S BOX has since gained cult status as a classic Weimar German cinema.
Lulu (Louise Brooks) is the kind of woman who attracts trouble wherever she goes though usually, she attracts all sorts of men before trouble ensues. Despite her flirtatious and free-spirited nature, she hopes to marry Dr. Ludwig Schön (Fritz Kortner), a much respected, middle-aged newspaper publisher. However, due to his social status, Schön keeps Lulu merely as his mistress and not as his official girlfriend. One day, completely out of the blue, a dishevelled old man by the name of Schigolch (Carl Goetz) knocks on the door of her luxurious apartment (paid for by Schön, natural) though when her lover arrives, she urges Schigolch to hide outside on the balcony. Lulu’s delight over spending some precious hours with Schön is cut short when he announces that he is going to marry Charlotte von Zarnikow (Daisy D’ora), the daughter of the Interior Minister and thus someone better suited for his own station. Angry over the news, Lulu challenges Schön, who in turn storms out of the room upon discovering Schigolch without giving Lulu any chance to explain who the stranger is. Urging her to forget about Schön, Schigolch, who has taught Lulu some important dance moves in the past, promises to introduce her to a certain Rodrigo Quast (Krafft-Raschig) who is keen on hiring her for his new variety act.
The following day, Lulu visits her best friend Alwa (Francis Lederer) who happens to be Schön’s good looking and artistically inclined son. Decidedly disgruntled about seeing Lulu, Schön comes up with a genius idea: why not offer Lulu a star role in his son’s musical production? That way, he’s sure to get rid of her and will be free to marry Charlotte. Unfortunately, the plan misfires when Lulu refuses to perform on stage when Schön (rather stupidly) schlepps Charlotte along to the revue. Taking Lulu aside to have a word with her about her stroppy behaviour, she wastes little time and seduces him…at the very moment when Charlotte barges in! It goes without saying that the wedding is cancelled and Schön marries Lulu instead, however, the wedding reception turns out to be a fiasco: discovering his new bride in the bedchamber, where she apparently cavorts in a playful manner with Schigolch and Quast, Schön threatens the two men with his pistol despite Lulu finally revealing that Schigolch is, in fact, her father. Feeling humiliated nonetheless because earlier on, Lulu had the gall to dance with the openly lesbian Countess Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), Schön hands Lulu his pistol and demands she shoot herself. In the ensuing quarrel, the gun accidentally goes off and Schön collapses fatally wounded.
Now on trial for murder, Schigolch and Quast trigger a fire alarm in the High Court building, which enables Lulu to flee and lay low for some time. Without realising it, Lulu, Schigolch and Quast have opened Pandora’s box as fate takes its course, bringing her together once again with Alwa. She furthermore encounters the Marquis Casti-Piani (Michael von Newlinsky) who blackmails her, as indeed does Quast. After another murder, Lulu, Schigolch and Alwa flee in a boat and end up in squalid conditions in London where Lulu, now forced to prostitution, picks up a client who turns out to be… Jack the Ripper (Gustav Diessl). Seeing how the real Ripper murders were committed in London’s East End in 1888 and the notorious serial killer was never found, the film’s grim conclusion certainly took some artistic licence.
Slightly overlong, PANDORA’S BOX really is Louise Brooks’ movie as she commands practically every scene with her presence, despite her relative inexperience as a dramatic performer. Nonetheless, director Pabst was clearly smitten with her and cast her in another lead part in his DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (also made in 1929). According to Pabst, Brooks really was a ‘lost girl’ (an observation which was partly true).
Released for the first time on 2K Blu-ray in the UK, this limited edition set (3000 copies only) will be presented in a hardbound slipcase plus 60-page Collector’s book.
The generous bonus material includes optional English subtitles / Orchestral score by Peter Raben / Audio commentary and Video Essays.