The Loves of Pharaoh

1922 [GERMAN]

Drama / History

IMDb Rating 6.5 10 518

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September 27, 2021 at 02:42 PM



912.16 MB
German 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 39 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by F Gwynplaine MacIntyre 9 / 10

Fascinating Egyptian epic

I viewed an incomplete print of 'The Wife of the Pharaoh' that was reconstructed (from several sources) by Stephan Droessler of the Film Museum in Munich. Even in remnant form, this is a phenomenal film: an epic piece of film-making, with 6,000 extras and elaborate sets. 'The Wife of the Pharaoh' is the nearest Ernst Lubitsch came to making a film like 'Metropolis'.

'The Wife of the Pharaoh' was released in 1922, the same year that Englishman Howard Carter unsealed Tutankhamen's tomb ... but at this time, much of the most important work in Egyptology was being done by Germans, and German interest in ancient Egypt was high indeed. This film is set in dynastic Egypt (Middle Kingdom, by the look of it) ... and the sets, costumes and props are vastly more convincing than anything done by Hollywood in this same era in films such as 'King of Kings', "Noah's Ark" and the Babylonian sequences of 'Intolerance'.

There are of course a few errors in this movie: the elaborate Double Crown symbolising the two kingdoms of Egypt is the proper size and shape, yet the actors heft it about so easily that it's clearly a prop made from some improbably light substance. The pharaoh receives papyrus scrolls bearing messages written in hieroglyphics; this is wrong (the messages would have been written in hieratic, and the king would probably require a scribe to read them on his behalf), yet somebody made a commendable effort to use the proper hieroglyphics ... which is more than Universal Studios bothered to do in any of those 1930s mummy flicks.

Emil Jannings gives an operatic performance as the (fictional) king Amenes. The king of the Ethiopians (Paul Wegener), hoping to make peace with Egypt, offers his daughter Theonis to become the wife of Amenes.

But Theonis falls in love with Ramphis, the handsome son of the king's adviser Sothis. (Ramphis wears a hairdo stolen from Prince Valiant: one of the few really ludicrous errors in this film.) Amenes sentences the lovers to death, then offers to spare Ramphis from execution (sentencing him to hard labour for life) if Theonis will consent to love only Amenes.

There are some truly spectacular scenes in this film, very impressive even in the partial form which I viewed. Paul Wegener gives a fine performance as Samlak, king of the Ethiopians, but he looks like he escaped from a minstrel show: to portray an Ethiopian, Wegener wears blackface and body make-up, and a truly terrible Afro wig. And since his daughter Theonis is presumably also an Ethiopian, why is she white?

There are fine performances by Lyda Salmonova as a (white) Ethiopian slave-girl (the nearest equivalent to Aida in this operatic story) and by Albert Bassermann as the adviser who is spitefully blinded at the pharaoh's order. Theodor Sparkuhl's camera work is superlative, as always, and the art direction is brilliant. Although I viewed only an incomplete version of this film, I've read a surviving screenplay; the script (with some lapses in logic) is definitely the most ridiculous part of this film. But the favourable aspects of this movie very definitely outweigh its flaws. I'll rate 'The Wife of the Pharaoh' 9 out of 10.

Reviewed by wes-connors 7 / 10

Epic Lubitsch

As he is erecting a new treasury building in ancient Egypt, iron-fisted Pharaoh Emil Jannings (as Amenes) receives an offer of a pact with wild-haired rival Paul Wegener (as Samlak). The Ethiopian king brings along his desirable light-skinned daughter to offer as a wife for Mr. Jannings. Instead, Jannings is smitten with demure Greek slave girl Dagny Servaes (as Theonis), who has escaped from Mr. Wegener and his jealous daughter Lyda Salmonova (as Makeda). Later, Jannings catches Ms. Servaes smooching with stout Harry Liedtke (as Ramphis), the treasury building worker who snatched her off the shores of the river Nile...

Jannings is so madly in love with Servaes, he spares Mr. Liedtke a death sentence in order to win Servaes' hand. You can safely predict Liedtke seeks out his lost lover. Meanwhile, Wegener is miffed at Jannings for rejecting his daughter and understandably irate when he discovers their missing Greek slave girl has taken her place in the palace. You can safely predict this means war...

This silent epic led Ernst Lubitsch's entry into Hollywood, where his films, particularly those with Pola Negri, were wildly popular. The director had a stunningly successful career. Partly preserved silent films by renowned directors are often declared lost masterpieces. Like many, this film does not live up to those lofty description, but it is still an excellent spectacle. It's also incredibly restored. There are reportedly only about ten minutes missing, with stills and title cards filling in the blanks. The bulk of the film appears to have been digitally restored to pristine condition, by Thomas Bakels and his crew. Art/set direction is outstanding.

******* Das Weib des Pharao (2/21/22) Ernst Lubitsch ~ Emil Jannings, Dagny Servaes, Harry Liedtke, Paul Wegener

Reviewed by creightonhale 8 / 10

THE LOVES OF PHAROAH Stunning Reminder of Lubitsch's Masterly Handling of the Epic

TCM presented a beautiful print of Ernst Lubitsch's Egyptian epic THE LOVES OF PHAROAH (1922). Released by Paramount in the US, the film was Lubitsch's last feature in his home country of Germany before setting up camp in Hollywood. (That's another story all together.) The "Lubitsch Touch" in his historically-based epics, such as CARMEN, MADAME DUBARRY, SUMURUN, or ANNA BOLEYN, is the director's ability to present us with the overwhelming sight of the plight of the crowd and then gradually direct our attention to a personal drama taking place within the epic sweep of time and destiny. (He does so more genuinely than DeMille, who seemed to have imitated this approach.) Then, of course,there are the sexual situations, the uncontrollable attractions, and the inevitable rejections that determine the fates of the characters, a theme continued into the director's sophisticated comedies and, later, witty musicals that followed this film. LOVES OF PHAROAH has stunning visual moments both large and small: the crowds working, revolting, being manipulated by rulers to the turning of Emil Jannings to a wall and dropping an outstretched hand, showing his reluctant realization of the futility of his affections. The film is deliberately paced but never draggy. Though there are moments of regret (the depiction of the Ethiopians is particularly stereotyped and inconsistent), this foray into Arabian exotica is a dramatic improvement over the stilted presentations seen in SUMURUN from a couple of years before. With THE LOVES OF PHAROAH, Lubitsch reaches the apex of his epic years (though THE PATRIOT may have reached greater heights, though we'll never know until a print is found).

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