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Blue Angel, The

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Der blaue Engel
Release Date: 
World Cinema
Dual Format BD/DVD
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Directed by: 
Josef von Sternberg
Emil Jannings
Marlene Dietrich
Kurt Gerron
Rosa Valetti
Karl Huszar-Puffy
Bottom Line: 
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Josef von Sternberg’s “The Blue Angel” (“Der blaue Engel”) was one of the very first German-made pictures of the post silent era, produced during that transitional period in cinema when actors and directors alike sometimes struggled to define the new parameters and conventions of an initially cumbersome but now forever altered medium. It was a work conceived at the time as a star vehicle for someone who had been one of German cinema’s biggest and most prolific performers during the silent era -- Emil Jannings. The actor invited Sternberg over to Berlin on loan from Paramount to have him direct him in this Erich Pommer produced talkie for Germany’s prestigious Ufa Studios – home of the great masterpieces of German Expressionism, although it had recently almost been bankrupted by the excesses of the inflationary budget required in order to complete Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”. Pommer was forced out of the studio as a result of the financial mess he’d found himself presiding over while managing Ufa during this period, and ended up in Hollywood for several years working on a handful of pictures for Paramount, before being re-called to Ufa by its replacement management board, at which point he set about utilising his contacts in Hollywood to  begin German cinema’s necessary change-over to sound, forging a deal with Paramount Pictures that resulted in “The Blue Angel” being one of the first German sound films to be shot twice simultaneously, for both German language home markets and English language export.

The film itself is a curious crossbreed, that feels and looks like an Expressionist silent film of the twenties, but which also displays, thanks to von Sternberg’s self-assured feel for the new medium, a remarkably mature approach to the implementation of sound design, despite Jannings’ larger-than-life and out of fashion silent era style of performance. Emil Jannings was a big deal in ‘20s cinema: he was the first actor to win an Academy Award for best actor and the first person to be presented with an Oscar in 1928 for his part in von Sternberg’s “The Last Command”. The relationship between the two men was by all accounts strained, but after Ernst Lubitsch turned down Jannings’ planned film version of the life of Rasputin, Josef von Sternberg agreed to oversee what Ufa hoped would be the great actor’s triumphant conquering of the new sound medium. But the director threw out the ‘uninteresting’ Rasputin project and settled instead on an adaptation of Heinrich Mann's novel Professor Unrat ("Professor Garbage") -- although so much of the original story was eventually thrown out (including the whole of the second half of the novel) and major character names changed after von Sternberg’s redrafting with Robert Liebmann (which was also credited to German screenwriters Carl Zuckmayer and Karl Vollmöller) that the adaptation of  Mann’s work ended up being somewhat ‘loose’ to say the least, although the author was supposedly alright with the changes.

Ironically, though, given the reason for its coming into existence in the first place, no-one today talks that much at all about Jannings in relation to the film, although his performance still ranks as a striking and often mesmerizingly bold one, steeped in a mode of expressionist nightmare exaggeration that especially comes into its own with the film’s final hallucinatory twenty minutes. But the star’s subsequent role as a leading and enthusiastic propagandist for the Nazi regime during the ‘30s resulted in his forced retirement from the acting profession after the war -- his Oscar wins notwithstanding -- and he disappeared from view, only to unexpectedly crop up again recently in fictional form as an example of the mercurial vagaries of (alternate) history portrayed by Quentin Tarantino's “Inglorious Basterds”, where he’s introduced as ‘the greatest actor who ever lived’. Instead, “The Blue Angel” gets to go down in cinema history because it was the first of what became seven collaborations between its Austrian-American director and a German-born twenty-eight year old bisexual performer of previously minor stage and screen roles, who was born Marie Magdalene Dietrich in Berlin in 1901.

Having thrown herself into the Weimer era’s thriving cabaret circuit in the 1920s, becoming a chorus girl who occasionally’ forgot’ to wear her undergarments on stage; and after cutting her teeth on stages in Vienna and Berlin, with appearances in a series of musicals and revue slots that helped her hone her acting and singing skills, Dietrich was ‘discovered’ by von Sternberg and given the lead female role in “The Blue Angel”. It was a role  that saw her catapulted to worldwide fame and which led her to leave Germany for the U.S. soon after von Sternberg returned to New York, where she joined him to become under his guidance, one of the leading exponents of 1930s Hollywood glamour. The role (which had in fact already been cast by Pommer with a different actress) was that of the film’s Teutonic cabaret stage seductress Lola-Lola. She got the part as a result of filming an equally iconic screen test for von Sternberg that encapsulates her attractively sadistic persona as a sexually charged destroyer of men, spot-lit in a shining burlesque halo of nascent allure soon to be polished to perfection by Hollywood’s finest stylists and lighting technicians. Singing in English ‘You’re the Cream in my Coffee’ to piano accompaniment, Dietrich alternates beguiling smiles with lacerating scowls – ‘hit a wrong note again and I’ll give you a kick!’ she chides her pianist –  these are scowls that feel as though they’re meant to be just as seductive to the viewer as the flashes of fleshy thigh she displays as she hoists herself onto the piano top, defining her instantly as a perfect, fetishized totem to male masochism: built to be worshiped by those who’s adoration she so meticulously cultivates and inflames and then crushes during the course of the movie; she’s the embodiment, here, of a female sexuality that’s at once ambiguous yet resolutely forceful and upfront in her assertion ‘I’m made for love’.

Jannings and Dietrich were certainly both made for their roles in this film: he was a respected master of the silver screen, soon to be reduced to nothing by a combination of historical circumstance and his own misjudgement. While Dietrich’s earlier private life and her rise to stardom sound like the template  for ‘naughty’ Lola’s own backstory, her teenage years apparently draped in scandal and littered with the ruined careers of a former professor and a violin tutor, both of whom she is alleged to have had affairs with by the time she’d hit sixteen.  “The Blue Angel” captures the decadent sexual glamour of a raucous Wiemar Berlin and imagines it in the style of a swirling vortex of black coffee Expressionism lived under a veil of night. Many of Ufa’s greatest craftsmen, whose names will be familiar to those au fait with the work of Fritz Lang or F. W. Murnau, were active in bringing this vision to life: cinematographer Günther Rittau previously shot the sumptuous “Die Nibelungen” and “Metropolis” for Lang and the great Otto Hunt’s art direction was similarly prominent in the latter work and in the detailed shadow-laced sets for Fritz Lang’s “Doctor Mabuse: The Gambler”. The work of his partner on this film, Emil Hasler, was also about to bring a grittier, darker tone to the art direction of Lang’s “M” and “The Testament of Dr Mabuse”.

Though Dietrich’s iconic involvement in the film and the cabaret setting in which she makes her most memorable appearances encourage us to think of the work in terms of its influence on the creation of the artifice of glamour and Hollywood theatricality, the heavily stylised and resolutely expressionistic character of the aesthetics which inform most of “The Blue Angel” are in fact so rooted in the imagery of works such as “The Cabinet of Dr Galigari” and “Nosferatu” that visually the film more accurately can be said to rival the burgeoning horror genre across the Atlantic in its use of painted shadows, looming, sparsely key-lit sets and an often somewhat outré content which culminates in the film taking a uniquely macabre approach to its portrayal of Emil Janning’s character’s tragic downfall. The imagery inspires comparison with Pre-Code horrors like “Frankenstein” or Robert Florey’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” more than it does mainstream musicals of the period, especially as Jannings effects a transformation by the end of the film which is the equal of and as disturbing as that which was to be seen being made a year later by Fredric March in Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” -- except that there are no scientific potions involved in this process of change ... only some frilly bloomers, an extravagant flash of thigh and Dietrich’s coquettish smile directed toward her target from the illuminated cabaret stage. The connection to the horror genre applies to the intent behind this story of one man’s ruination at the hands of an unfeeling, sexually amoral woman, and it is made that much more blatant when we consider from whence the title of the film (chosen by von Sternberg himself) derives: The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe, near Ravenna, was built in the 6th Century and contains a mosaic that many art historians consider to be the first representation of Satan in Western art, pictured in this Byzantium era work depicting the Judgement Day, standing to the left-hand side of the figure of Christ, in the form of a blue angel.

The film opens on early morning imagery displaying city rooftops that include Professor Immanuel Rath’s (Emil Jannings) rented rooms, looking like some of Paul Gustave Doré’s 19th century illustration work portraying suburban London: the roofs sag, arranged all higgledy-piggledy at warped, bizarre angles that cause them to look crooked and cartoonishly misshapen, immediately imbuing the film with an atmosphere of almost fairy-tale-like unreality. The Professor is one of Jannings’ typically elaborate creations – a bumbling, unworldly middle-aged bachelor schoolmaster of English and Literature, who imagines himself an upright moral citizen of impeccable honour, but who lives in a state of perpetual untidiness. Books are piled up in a clutter in dusty corners and on every available shelf or table; an unsightly metal pipe connected to the stove that dominates one side of his dingy room runs at head height across the entire breadth of what is ostensibly a bleak and unprepossessing little hovel. The professor is oblivious to the unattractiveness of this fusty, damp-looking apartment, lit by a giant hissing overhead gas lamp and accessed via a spiralling staircase that leads to an unkempt landing with a low ceiling where others presumably also live in similar circumstances of semi-squalor. A plaque placed on the wall at the head of the schoolmaster’s bed (not seen by the viewer until some way into the film) is inscribed with the motto: ‘Do Right and Fear no Man’. It sums up the little Professor’s harmlessly priggish self-image, but von Sternberg identifies Rath as an object of ridicule from the beginning and yet begins by being fairly gentle to start with in his initial portrait of the character’s absurdity: with his untamed whiskers and owlish wire-framed spectacles, Jannings cuts a befuddled, rather adrift figure who nevertheless affects an authoritarian stance towards his rebellious and distracted students at the second division college he’s employed to teach in.

One of the more unruly of them scribbles some graffiti on the cover of the class register before the Professor arrives, which is translated in the English subtitles of the German language version of the film as ‘Professor Garbage’. There is a play on words here that derives from the German word also having associations with uncleanliness or filthiness. At this point in the narrative the insult refers to Professor Rath’s drab appearance only, but the jibe is to acquire another dimension later in the film which has already been hinted at visually when a poster for a visiting cabaret act, featuring Dietrich’s bold, scanty-clad image, is displayed in a shop window that’s being scrubbed clean by a washerwoman who becomes distracted in her work by attempting to imitate the sexually aggressive pose it makes a spectacle of. The first indication the upstanding Professor has that there even exists such a twilight world of vice comes when he confiscates a saucy postcard of the same performer from one of his own students – signed with the name Lola-Lola -- then finds a sheaf of similar signed cards that have earlier been planted in the belongings of his star pupil, the timid school principle Angst (Eduard von Winterstein) who gets bullied by all the other pupils because he idolises the Professor and dutifully stays behind to study instead of attending the Blue Angel cabaret club with his boisterous peers. 

Outraged at the unruly behaviour this sinful venue has apparently unleashed in his classroom, the Prof sets off through shadow-haunted alleyways and narrow, winding cobbled lanes, crowded with leaning buildings that throw out all-encompassing blocks of jagged blackness, to seek out the very dockside establishment that has such a clear potential to be the cause of his pupils’ moral ruination. What he discovers there is, of course, initially a source of a rather apoplectic mixture of distraction and blustering befuddlement on Rath’s part, which Jannings and von Sternberg exploit for comic effect as the Professor is shown frantically charging round the busy backstage areas trying to round up his errant students, but ends up stumbling into a half-dressed and bemused Lola’s makeshift dressing room. This closeted little schoolteacher, whose entire world has previously consisted of nothing but his classroom and his boxy, ill-lit flat in town, and whose past experience of women appears to have been rather negligible to put it mildly, is all of a sudden presented with more stimulation in the latter department than he has ever before even dared dream of -- and he simply is quite unable to function in its presence. An earlier scene, which took place just before Rath set off to confront the indignant proprietor of the Blue Angel club (Karl Huszar-Puffy), saw him gazing at one of the previously confiscated postcards of Lola-Lola (now being sold to the punters here, between their rounds of beer) and repeating the actions of his students, furtively blowing at the feathers that have been attached to the photograph to make a skirt that lifts up to facilitate an illicit peek at the performer’s stocking & suspender-clad legs! Now he has the very same person in front of him -- in the flesh -- flirting with him for her own amusement. Bashful, inarticulate confusion is his only available response, and it’s a reaction that infantilises him in her presence, again for comic effect at this stage.  Her close proximity induces a nervous sneeze which only facilitates even closer unsought contact with Lola later on, after one of his students substitutes the hankie normally that is kept in his back pocket, for a pair of Lola’s undergarments, which had earlier been dropped on his head during the bustling confusion of the dressing room.

The Blue Angel is a rowdy, crowded, smoky cabaret club that uses thigh-slapping titillation and sexual innuendo from the stage to sell booze to its clientele of sailors on shore leave (there’s an always busy bar situated directly in front of the footlights); it is home to a selection of seasonal, itinerant travelling revue shows that host conjuring acts and include performing animals, a plump line of chorus girls and bawdy musical song and dance burlesque routines enacted in front of animated backdrops that are illuminated by an electric arc light that gets periodically swung to face the audience at stage front so as to pick out a target for the performers’ brace of racy songs, such as the one which first introduces ‘naughty’ Lola-Lola to the film’s viewers. Von Sternberg conceived his image of this temptress of the stage in a form heavily influenced by the work of the 19th century Belgian artist Félicien Rops, whose paintings often invoked a mishmash of eroticism and death, with the explicit brew frequently couched for good measure in feverish satanic imagery. And Dietrich is seen here, on stage and off, dressed in a series of striking, semi-indecent costumes that emphasise her pelvic region in a series of cutaway hitched-up skirts designed by the film’s costumer Tihamer Varady. In Mann’s novel, the female cabaret artist had been named Rosa Fröhlich, but the director renamed her Lola-Lola, intending a reference to Lulu -- the tragic character from G. W. Pabst's recent film of “Pandora’s Box”, starring Louise Brooks. In that work, the uninhibited sexuality of the story’s female lead eventually brings about the character’s own ruin as well as that of her admirers, but “The Blue Angel” is candid in emphasising the fact that no moral punishment will be forthcoming for Miss Dietrich’s meticulously orchestrated destruction of the bumbling, romantically naive schoolmaster who is ostensibly the hero of the story. There’s never really any overt suggestion that Lola-Lola particularly intends to so completely crush this poor old fool -- but she’s not that bothered about the idea of bringing it about either. There is a clear warning to any likely suitors made transparent in her act, with its iconic songs penned by Friedrich Holländer that Dietrich famously performs while patrolling the stage like a dominatrix in a sparkling top hat, taking swigs from a large jug of ale between verses: if a title like  “Nimm dich in acht vor blonden Frau’n” (“Beware of Blonde Women”) isn’t a heavy enough hint, then the sentiment of the lyrics (at least in their German translation) for “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt” highlights the disarmingly stoic attitude Lol- Lola seems to have internalised regarding her capacity for predatory vice: ‘from my head to my toes, I’m all about love. That’s my whole world: there is nothing else.’

Drawn inexorably back to the club the following night (‘I knew you’d come back for me. They all come back for me’), Professor Rath’s callow affections bring with them a sense of honour which obliges him to step in and come to his maiden’s defence when a drunk ship’s captain makes a fumbling attempt to molest Lola between performances, in the backstage corridor between the stage and the chorus girls’ changing room -- a space which serves as her dressing area. Rath ends up having to be hidden from the police when the outraged captain brings a complaint against him, and finds himself sequestered in the same basement also used as a place of concealment by his own students when they’ve had to hide from him in the past via its trapdoor access point (‘we’ll have to start renting room down there!’ exclaims Lola to the show’s manager). In fact he finds several of them there on this occasion as well while waiting for the police to leave, and can’t resist giving himself away in order to expose them.

Already thoroughly smitten and overcome by Lola’s coquettish smile, Rath is also tricked into imbibing a large amount of alcohol by Kiepert (Kurt Gerron) -- the portly manager of the revue who is also its house magician and who spots an opportunity to exploit another emotionally defenceless sucker, and sets about facilitating the necessary conditions for bringing about the unfortunate Professor’s social fall from grace with the liberal distribution of the contents of his cabinet of ‘medicinal’ beverages. Rath is further seduced by Lola’s stage presence when, now rather merrier than when he first arrived, he’s given a prime spot front of house, seated in the raised balcony, with every song now directed straight at him.

The second half of the film details the Professor’s complete downfall with disconcerting efficiency and in just a handful of telling scenes. At first, full of unreasonably optimistic feelings of romantic devotion, Rath is happy to relinquish his assiduously cultivated reputation at the college in a single moment of rashness, giving up his job in order to be able to marry Lola and travel with the revue, which is just about to up sticks and move on to the next city in its itinerary. His decline is rapid thereafter: the very next scene, after Rath finds a suitcase full of the saucy postcards of his new wife in her underwear (the same cards confiscated earlier from the students) and demands that she stop selling them at the show, is one in which he himself is seen -- now dishevelled, drunk and forlorn, and completely dependent financially on the travelling cabaret’s trade and his wife’s central part in it -- offering the same postcards from a tray to the clientele of a succession of smoke filled clubs, unhappily selling them for pennies. The film positively revels in the annihilation of Rath’s unravelling identity, both in physical and in moral terms. Despised by Kiepert (who still calls him the Professor, as a taunt that serves as a reminder of just how far he’s fallen) and ignored and patronised by Lola, this shabby, shuffling shadow of a man is eventually forced by his wife and her manager to ‘earn his keep’ by dressing up in a humiliatingly grotesque clown costume and playing the stooge in Kiepert’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice comedy magic act. His humiliation is made complete when Kiepert takes the show back to the Blue Angel in Rath’s home town and all his former colleagues and students turn up to gloat at his  final downfall -- making of his ultimate disgrace as big a star attraction as the delights of Lola-Lola herself!

Despite the physical comedy which animates Emil Jannings’ larger than life portrayal of his character’s disintegration, and the exquisitely photographed sexual glamour that marks Dietrich’s every appearance on the screen throughout the entirety of the film, it is its shadow play of Expressionism that defines this work; and the film’s preoccupation with areas of psychological torment and incipient madness bind it still more closely to earlier expressionist works like Caligari  or the horror genre now emerging from the States in its Pre-Code guise. An early image, repeated several times in the film, of the town clock-face, which chimes out a melody while a circle of revolving figurines representing the apostles rotate around it after having first emerged from little doorways in the side of a clock tower encircled by fluttering doves, seems to connote the idea that there is a deterministic biology of earthly desire that’s constantly battling it out with the more elevated, lofty concerns of the soul. Mechanised cycles of movement such as this are returned to again and again throughout the picture: Lola having her makeshift dressing room in the backstage corridor, for instance, means that there is a constant passage of bodies  behind her, moving to and from the stage during portions of her first encounter with Rath, which instigates a clockwork marching rhythm within the scene; but even more suggestive of such matters is Von Sternberg’s use of music, which stops and starts as doors are opened or closed to create a rhythm timed to the performance of the actors. One of the most noticeable instances occurs when a drunken Rath becomes discombobulated with confusion backstage while waiting for Lola to get dressed: Jannings’ comic stumbles occur in perfect alignment with the tempo of the music drifting in through an open door from the stage area. It’s as though Rath’s eventual fate as a ridiculous sideshow clown is being prefigured by his tipsy comic bumbling here, suggesting the seeds of his disillusion and decline are contained already within his essential character, and are just waiting to be sown to cataclysmic effect by the emergence of just the right circumstances. As though to emphasise this idea, the scene ends with a muzzled dancing bear being led through the backstage area, also in time to the music.

One clear signifier whose meaning only becomes readable later on is the sad-faced clown who haunts the backstage area of the Blue Angel throughout the first half of the film, interacting with no-one and being acknowledged by no-one apart from Rath. The film itself is structured as a series of acts which also repeat the same motifs  in cycles, but with variations: Rath’s pinched life in his drab flat is summarised by a dead songbird being found in the bottom of its cage in the corner of the room (it gets unsentimentally tossed in the incinerator by the housemaid) and a similar but contrasting scene occurs later when he wakes up from his debauches of the night before to find a healthy songbird chirping away merrily in Lola’s bright and airy room,s and a table loaded with an abundance of breakfast materials -- as opposed to his own meagre breakfast which he was seen taking earlier. The doves which soar about the revolving mechanism of the clock tower are but one instance of the frequent bird imagery that figures prominently throughout almost every part of the film. Exotic bird feathers play a part in Lola’s stage costumes of course, but the poultry seen being caged up to be sent to market in the opening scenes are also an omen that warn of Rath’s eventual fate -- especially with his tendency to cluck like a hen when drunk, which is made into part of the stage act by Kiepert and which is eventually used to indicate his final descent into gibbering madness after he sees Lola in the arms of Masepa the Strong Man (Hans Albers) from  the stage wings, and can only respond to her flaunting of her infidelity with an inarticulate, bird-like squawk of raw pain. Rath’s subsequent lumbering attack on Lola and her would-be lover, with its bizarre avian characteristics combining with the macabre imagery of Jannings’ clown makeup, brings Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the ill-treated Monster to mind in James Whale’s film of “Frankenstein”. In Jonathan Rigby’s survey of horror cinema of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, “American Gothic”, he even draws a parallel with Olga Baclanova’s surreal, bird-like and language-less fate at the end of Tod Browning’s “Freaks”. Whatever the connection, Rath’s subsequent escape from the club dressed in flowing cape and a wide-brimmed hat, crouching and skulking through the shadows by night, is highly redolent of the imagery that would soon become familiar in Hollywood’s horror cinema. But the circle of light that seems to hound Rath through these dim, cramped cobbled streets in the final moments of this extraordinary film, following him back to his old schoolrooms and his old college desk, reminds us too of the electric spotlight that first dazzled him from the stage of The Blue Angel, when the woman who still sings there (seemingly as alluring and confident as she ever was) turned it on him for the first time, and in doing so sealed his fate.

“The Blue Angel” looks very fine in this newly restored high definition transfer, which holds to the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.19:1. You won’t find quite the level of detail here as is sometimes discernible in other films of this vintage but this is certainly a big step up from previous DVD editions, with fine contrast which brings out the complexity of Josef von Sternberg’s foreground, middle-ground and background arrangement of the compositions extremely effectively. The age of the film means that there are inevitably a few blemishes on the print and the primitive sound mix can seem a little muffled at times, but never so much as to cause major distraction. The German language version is rightly the default option here, and is widely considered the better of the two, but the English language edition is also included and is also featured in restored high definition -- although the print is in a noticeably worse condition. Shot at the same time as the German language version, this features most of the main cast members playing their roles in English, while the rather stilted English pronunciation of Professor Rath’s students becomes simply a part of the texture of the film by having Rath be an English language tutor in this version, who demands that his students speak in English at all times! Perhaps the most radical difference between the alternate prints relates to one of Dietrich’s most famous musical numbers: The deterministic stance of the lyric quoted earlier, which seems to suggest Lola-Lola’s wistful acceptance of and connivance in her intrinsically corrupting nature, is turned on its head in the English lyric which has become famous for the lines “Falling in Love Again” (‘Never wanted to. What am I to do? I can’t help it’).    

The German language version features newly translated removable English subtitles, while the English language version includes subtitles for the hard-of-hearing. Also available with the German print is a new audio commentary recorded by Tony Rayns, who fills in biographical details on the stars and the director, and provides lots of scholarly background detail on the making of the film. It’s clearly the result of a great deal of preparation beforehand, making his observations very easy and pleasurable to listen to. There’s also a slightly more esoteric but nevertheless fascinating 28 minute video essay on the film, on von Sternberg and on Dietrich by film critic Tag Gallagher, who takes a more personal and subjective approach to his subject. Dietrich’s original screen test for Josef von Sternberg is here, as is the original release trailer and a later re-release trailer. Finally, the legend that is Marlene Dietrich is paid tribute to with a series of concert clips from 1963 in Stockholm and 1972 in London, during which the icon performs her famous songs from “The Blue Angel” and even talks at some length about her role in the film. Finally, a brief clip from a 1971 interview in which Dietrich talks about the screen test and how she came to be cast for the film is here as well, making this a superlative edition of one of the great classics of early sound cinema and what is also the last great masterpiece to come out of Wiemar Germany.  To round off the presentation, Masters of Cinema have included another great 48-page booklet that includes a lengthy article originally penned in 1968 by Josef von Sternberg for the English publication of the original continuity script of “The Blue Angel” in which he talks in detail about his arrival in Berlin at the behest of Emil Jannings and about the casting of Dietrich, as well as his inspirations for the picture and his general thoughts on acting and directing. There’s also a time line chronicle of the pre-production and shooting schedule of the movie by Werner Sudendorf, and the whole caboodle comes with some beautiful portraits and production stills of von Sternberg, Dietrich and Jannings taken from the film and from behind the scenes.

This dual-format release is indeed a treasure trove that should be made part of every self-respecting film fan’s collection as soon as possible.

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