Mysteries of India, Part II: Above All Law

1921 [GERMAN]

Adventure / Fantasy

IMDb Rating 6.8 10 347

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Conrad Veidt as Ayan III, the Maharajah of Bengal

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Horst_In_Translation 4 / 10

Similar level like the first

"Das indische Grabmal zweiter Teil - Der Tiger von Eschnapur" or "The Indian Tomb: Part II, the Tiger of Bengal" or "Mysteries of India, Part II: Above All Law" is a German movie from 1921 and this one is almost 100 years old already. it was written by Lang and von Harbou, but as the director is Joe May, it is probably not one of Fritz Lang's more known works really. At least, it is somewhat difficult to get a hand on it. Of course Langb also made his own version several decades later at the end of his career (and life) that has little to do with this one here though as technology has considerably moves on in terms of color and sound by then. So this one here is a black-and-white silent film still. It is a follow-up movie to "The Mission of the Yogi" and it is actually shorter, runs for roughly 1.5 hours (the version I saw) compared to the two hours of the one I just mentioned. Story-wise, it is pretty similar to the previous one, so if you enjoyed that one, then maybe you will also like this one here. I personally felt that this film is not really on par with the best of this era, especially if we are looking at the United States as well. A bit of a pity, but the only area where the film somewhat delivers is the visual side in terms of costumes for example. I also felt that it really needed way more intertitles than it actually had to help audiences in understanding the story. All in all, I am not impressed, even if I will admit that I am slightly biased because I have never been amazed by black-and-white silent films. Still I believe it is for good reason that this one is not on the same levels of popularity compared to the likes of "Metropolis" and others. However, like I said, it's highly unlikely you will consider checking this one out if you have not seen (and perhaps enjoyed) the first, so it's up to you to decide if you are in it for another 90 minutes.

Reviewed by Ron Oliver 10 / 10

Sensual, Exotic German Silent Epic Concludes

The jealous & vindictive Rajah of Bengal continues to manipulate the fates of his three English captives in his mad scheme to punish his faithless wife.

THE Indian TOMB: THE TIGER OF BENGAL is a perfect example of the grand German cinema epics created during the silent era. Berlin film mogul Joe May turned the full resources of his modern 50-acre Maytown studio near Berlin over to the production, using 300 workmen to create the lavish sets necessary to tell such an exotic tale.

May contracted with authoress Thea von Harbou to write the script for THE Indian TOMB, based on her 1917 novella, assigning young Fritz Lang as her co-writer. Lang, who married von Harbou after starting the writing project, desired to direct the films himself, but he was deemed too inexperienced for such an important project by the financiers and May enthusiastically became the director. Furious, Lang left May's employ; it would be more than 35 years before he was able to direct his own Indian TOMB films. (After their divorce, von Harbou became Nazi Germany's official screenwriter; because of his Jewish ancestry, Lang felt it wisest to settle in Los Angeles.)

THE Indian TOMB: THE TIGER OF BENGAL was an artistic triumph, presenting wonderful vistas & sequences to delight the viewer's imagination. The eerie Yard of the Lepers, for instance, with extras sporting real deformities, offers moments of terror & suspense as chilling as anything Hollywood had to offer. Further scenes - the Tiger Arena, the Suspension Bridge - add intricate strokes to the broad canvas which is THE Indian TOMB.

Conrad Veidt is mesmerizing as the troubled Rajah. With large, hypnotic eyes set in a bony face, he seems forever contemplating terrible memories. Veidt gives a measured, stylized performance, moving very slowly and deliberately, almost somnambulistic in his actions. The scene where he suddenly appears masquerading as an androgynous temple deity underscores the subtle sexual ambiguity of his nuanced portrayal.

Today, Conrad Veidt is remembered in America almost entirely for his villainous Major Strasser in CASABLANCA. This is a shame, as there was so much more to his life. Cultured & sophisticated, Veidt was considered to be one of the best (and one of the most handsome) actors in Germany, and he was a tremendous matinée idol in the 1920's. Later, he became courageously outspoken in his anti-Nazi sentiments and he found it safer to relocate to England and eventually to America. In Hollywood, Veidt continued to denounce the evils of the Third Reich. Tragically, he was not to live long enough to see the inevitable defeat of Hitler. Completing only one further film after CASABLANCA, Conrad Veidt died of a heart attack while playing golf on April 3, 1943. He was 50 years old.

Equally intriguing is Bernhard Goetzke in the tiny role of the mysterious, implacable Yogi. Although his role is unfortunately much smaller than in Part One, he is still a worthy henchman to the Rajah. Olaf Fønss as the architect & Mia May (the director's wife) as his courageous fiancée, present a refreshingly middle-aged view of romantic love. Their defiance of the Rajah & desperate flight to escape gives the film its most exciting sequences. (Joe & Mia May would also flee to Hollywood, where, after the end of his directing career, they would eventually operate a popular German restaurant.)

The story was originally presented as a filmed diptych. THE Indian TOMB: THE MISSION OF THE YOGI (1921) precedes THE Indian TOMB: THE TIGER OF BENGAL (1921). A box office disappointment in Germany & a failure in America, the films quickly passed into obscurity. However, down through the decades their reputations scored a renaissance. After much painstaking effort both films were archivally restored to their original luster. They have been released together on home video & DVD.

If only for the striking performance of Conrad Veidt the films would be significant. But their epic proportions & high adventure set in a remarkable culture are a window into the very best which German cinema had to offer in the 1920's.

Reviewed by chuckchuck21 8 / 10

End to great story

Just finished watching Bob Mays' The Indian Tomb (silent 1921) & Fritz Lang's Indian Tomb (talkie 1960). These movies share the same storyline but are focused on the story in totally different, you may say opposite manners. I enjoyed both movies but tend to favor the silent because of my personal tendencies. Both casts are top rate. Both are wonderfully shot.

The storyline is that of the clash of Indian culture versus Western culture set against the construction of a tomb for an Indian Princess that the Maharajah wants constructed to house the woman he loved. The silent focuses on the Indian cultural differences & seeks to unveil all that is different & unusual to the western viewer. It is backed up by a tale of love lost & the emotional reactions he goes through. Vengeance plays a strong role in this story. There is a story twist but it's revealed very quickly.

The difficulties faced by the married English architect, his wife & the Maharaja's staff due to the total authority of the Maharaja along with the forced subservience of the palace staff is capably portrayed against the background of Indian culture as well as, one of the central themes of the silent, the Eastern mysticism of the Yogi. This mysticism is much more central in the silent than in the talkie. It is also one thing I enjoyed greatly & was surprised at the visuals accomplished in this 1921 film. The outcome is perhaps easily guessed at but the journey is not.

The Fritz Lang (1960) version is much more centered on the love story. The sets & costuming are breathtaking. Perhaps the storyline is not as professionally polished but the change this movie makes in concept is well done. Here you get the fleshing out of the love between an Englishman & an Indian Princess. The life of the princess is more openly portrayed. Debra Paget as the princess is eye-popping both as an actress & a dancer. You'll not find a better serious combination of dance & costume than Fritz shows here. It may be my lack of Paget film experience, I knew she was a raving beauty & had no idea she could dance like this. I'll give a link to one of her dances at the end of this.

I felt the Maharaja was well played in both, but once again, the silent is a stronger portrayal. The wife of the architect in the silent is of an intelligent, strong & resolute woman unusual for this 1921 time period (indeed even in 1960). The part of the Yogi is almost nonexistent in the 1960 version & that loss plays a great deal into my preference for the 1921 silent. There are many wonderful characters in both movies & I suggest that if you are interested in this kind of show then you should skip neither. The inter-cards on the silent are excellent & you don't feel you miss the conversation after reading them. As always the silent acting is more emotive to make up for the lack of talking.

Had I a great magic wand to create movies with, I would combine the themes of these two movies & create a 5 to 6 hour epic using both the revelation of Indian culture & mysticism & the expansion of the love story & dancer's life. Since you don't get this unless you watch both movies I'll give each 4 Amazon Stars with my personal preferential nod to the silent.

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