Science Fiction Films discussion

WOMAN IN THE MOON (Fritz Lang 1929)

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message 1: by Tom (last edited Jan 18, 2009 05:40PM) (new)

Tom | 166 comments Another interesting piece of silent science fiction. I watched the new Kino DVD of WOMAN IN THE MOON, and had mixed feelings about the film. I much prefer WOMAN IN THE MOON to SPIES, the other Lang silent released by Kino. WOMAN IN THE MOON has a much more coherent plot and more interesting characters.

Part of the problem is the fact that the film spends a lot of time setting up a lot of stuff in its first hour (the film is nearly three hours long) and then pretty much does nothing with it. The film centers on the character of Wolf Helius, who owns an aeronautics business and not coincidentally has plans to build a ship to go to the moon. There's a lot of complicated and energetic stuff about
industrial espionage, involving a Master Criminal who is of course a Master of Disguise. It seems that a band of industrialists want to make sure that they control access to the moon for devious financial purposes (they want to make sure that all the gold in the mountains of the moon doesn't ruin the world's finances). There's also a lot of time devoted to creating a wonderful character, Dr. Manfeldt, whose ideas about space travel and the moon have gotten him kicked out of the academic world. There is also a triangle established between Helius, his Chief Engineer Hans Windegger, and Windegger's fiance Friede who seems to have deep feelings for Helius as well as for Windegger. This is a lot to establish, and it is all done with style and energy and some good devious wit, and a very effective stately pace, closer to DIE NIBELUNGEN than the frantic anything-goes quality of SPIES. Good fun overall.

But once the characters get to the moon, almost all of this falls by the wayside, and the story winds up concentrating on the tired and frankly unlikely love triangle. There's not a lot of interest there, unfortunately, as it becomes clear about halfway through the film that Windegger is a near-total twit, such a twit in fact that one wonders what on earth Friede ever ever ever saw in him in the first place.

The acting is good, for the most part. The Master Criminal/Master of Disguise is beautifully played by Fritz Rasp, who veers from being sleekly sinister to outright farcical and back with ease. Helius and Friede are played by the actors (sorry, I just can't remember their names) who had the male and female leads in SPIES, and they are much better, I think, in WOMAN IN THE MOON than in SPIES. The woman playing Friede especially has some very nicely underplayed moments. The man playing Helius is still rather stiff, but he unbends in one
nice little moment. A specific character is unconscious, and a supporting character suggests that the specific character might be dead. Helius can't suppress a tiny smile at the idea. The actor playing Dr. Manfeldt does especially good work in creating a sympathetic and interesting character. Indeed, he is so successful that the film's perfunctory treatment of him in the later sequences is probably the film's biggest disappointment.

There are some unfortunate moments involving what any 21st Century audience will immediately recognize as scientific inaccuracies. I won't spoil them, as I think they are a part of the interest of watching the film. A lot of the special effects are very impressive, and the film's design alone would make the film worth watching. The titles are interesting, and Lang has some very interesting tricks up his sleeve.

All in all, the film is very very much worth a look. It doesn't have the mad energy of METROPOLIS or the incredible tension of DIE NIBELUNGEN or M, but then very few movies do.

message 2: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 144 comments Coincidentally I saw this film yesterday. I happened to be channel surfing and landed on our German language channel.

What an interesting film. I thought the story line was ridiculous, but the look and style of the film kept me hooked.
I had never heard of this movie, suddenly today I find Tom's thread about it.

Life is too strange and full of coincidences.

message 3: by Phillip (last edited Jan 18, 2009 10:22PM) (new)

Phillip i saw this quite some time ago in the late 80's. a friend made a tape for me, i watched it once, someone borrowed it, and i never saw the tape again. i couldn't begin to sum it up as nicely as tom's examination above - nice work. i do remember liking it quite a lot - it was on a tape with spies and metropolis - and i remember also thinking i liked it more than spies. it might be a film worth revisiting. i've been wanting to go back and watch a bunch of lang lately (hmm, future director of the month?....but not all are sci-fi...), so pehaps i'll queue up several of his classics and revisit. i have vague memories of the hangman also dies (isn't that also lang?)...been thinking about seeing that one again too. and it's been way too long since i watched M. some folks were discussing that a few months ago - i forgot to queue up that one. i remember the big clock with mixed feelings - do you know that one tom?

message 4: by Tom (new)

Tom | 166 comments Philip, I don't think Lang did THE BIG CLOCK, imdb says it was John Farrow.

I'm not really a big fan of Lang's work after he left Germany, there's just something missing.

Good old M. It never gets stale.

message 5: by Phillip (new)

Phillip yeah, between peter lorre's performance and the whole angle that gets addressed once they catch amazing filmmaking.

message 6: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 342 comments Mod
Thanks for writing about this one Tom! I hope many in this group realize that science fiction pre-dates THE MATRIX and I ROBOT...or even the golden era of the 50's atomic age mutation/invasion films.

message 7: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) Manuel wrote: "Coincidentally I saw this film yesterday. I happened to be channel surfing and landed on our German language channel.

What an interesting film. I thought the story line was ridiculous, but the l..."

I caught the very, very end of it on the Arts channel when I was in the hospital Saturday. I thought it was a cool-looking silent film era science fiction film. I wasn't surprised at all that it was Fritz Lang. The few minutes I saw definitely had the same Art Deco look as "Metropolis".

message 8: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 39 comments I did an article on this a few years ago. I like it and think it's one of Lang's neglected films, overshadowed as it is by his masterpiece "Metropolis."

I don't think anyone has mentioned one of the things the film is most famous for. Believe it or not, this is the film that invented the countdown. It is believed to be the earliest example of counting down the final seconds before a launch.

Lnng brought in some space and rocketry experts to advise on the film, including Willy Ley.

message 9: by Phillip (new)

Phillip sandi,

i hope everything is ok with you. take care of yourself.

message 10: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) Phillip wrote: "sandi,

i hope everything is ok with you. take care of yourself."

I'm okay. I just needed some orthopedic surgery. I feel pretty good, but I'm home for two weeks and I can't do much of anything other than read, watch TV and web surf.

message 11: by Phillip (new)

Phillip well, your convelescence sounds great. enjoy it while you can. i hope you're feeling better and up around soon!

in the meantime, enjoy some movies and books!

i'm actually home sick today with a cold...guess what i'm doing?

message 12: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) Ummmmm. Web surfing?

message 13: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 342 comments Mod
Hope both of you feel better:) But now I'm hoping for a cold so I can snuggle and watch films...

message 14: by Phillip (last edited Jan 22, 2009 09:37AM) (new)

Phillip sandi - yeah, but also lots of watching films and reading!

alex - it's the life (although i HATE being sick!). i HAVE to go in today to teach, but just for two hours....thursday is my short day. i can't wait to get back home and finish reading Let the Right One In...i have about 100 pages left...definitely going to try to finish it today.

message 15: by Tom (new)

Tom | 166 comments Just a heads up, this DVD of WOMAN IN THE MOON is now available for $9.99 on Kino's website. Well worth it!

message 16: by Phillip (last edited Apr 15, 2009 10:06AM) (new)

Phillip that's a great deal, thanks for the lead.

p.s...yesterday the castro presented "my little chickadee" on it's $5 tuesdays! series.

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