Thursday, 20 December 2012

DIE NIBELUNGEN joins Greg Klymkiw's 10 Best List of Blu-Ray/DVD Releases of 2012 - Today's Accolade is a newly restored Blu-Ray of Fritz Lang's epic masterwork via Kino-Lorber

Siegfried bathes in Blood. Hell, who amongst us has never done likewise?

The Best Blu-Ray and DVD Releases
of 2012 as decreed by Greg Klymkiw
This was a stellar year for Blu-Ray and DVD collectors that it's been difficult to whittle my personal favourites down to a mere 10 releases. So hang on to your hats as I'll be presenting a personal favourite release from 2012 EACH and EVERY single day that will comprise my Top 10. At the end of all the daily postings, I'll combine the whole kit and kaboodle into one mega-post with all titles listed ALPHABETICALLY. My criteria for inclusion is/was thus: 1. The movie (or movies). How much do I love it/them? 2. How much do I love owning this product? 3. How many times will I re-watch it? 4. Is the overall physical packaging to my liking? 5. Do I like the picture and sound? There was one more item I used to assess the material. For me it was the last and LEAST area of consideration - one that probably surprise most, but frankly, has seldom been something I care that much about. For me, unless supplements really knock me on my butt, their inclusion is not that big of a deal. That said, I always go though supplements with a fine tooth comb and beyond any personal pleasure they deliver (or lack thereof), I do consider the educational value of such supplements for those studying film and/or those who might benefit from them in some fashion (film students or not). So, without further ado, here goes.


Die Nibelungen (Siegried/Kriemhild's Revenge) (1924) *****
Dir. Fritz Lang Written By: Lang & Thea Von Harbou
Starring: Paul Richter, Margarete Schön, Hanna Ralph,
Bernhard Goetzke, Theodor Loos, Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Review By Greg Klymkiw

In a perfect world, you will ALL (I hope) have the experience of someday seeing Fritz Lang's silent masterpiece Die Nibelungen on film in a real cinema. Even better, you will have the experience of seeing it in the stately 1300-seat San Francisco picture palace The Castro Theatre accompanied by live music on the cinema's majestic hand-restored Wurlitzer organ.

I did.

Almost one quarter of a century ago, I saw IT with one I did love with all the heart and soul one would dare give to another human being (which, to my mind, is the only real way to see IT.) We sat together in the balcony of the Castro, silently contemplating the enormity of what would be our first dose of this famed epic of Aryan Supremacy. Nursing hangovers, we luxuriated in the splendour of the Castro, using the atmosphere as a fluffy blanket of forgetfulness to erase the sordid memories of the chippies we caroused with the night before at Harry Smith's Club Morocco in Winnipeg. Ashamedly we had, in a fit of mad inebriation, dragged these beguiling guttersnipes with us and took a crazed cab ride from Harry's to the airport and loaded them onto the airplane after drunkenly managing to secure two more tickets to San Francisco. Thankfully, once reaching the Bay Area, the brazen harlots, still reeking of cheap toilet waters and even cheaper booze abandoned us. Most shockingly, they displayed no interest at all in seeing Die Nibelungen at the Castro and chose instead to see the sights of San Fran (which, we surmised would actually be bottles of cheap gin on the waterfront). We, however, had all the sights we needed and not even the promise of ingesting more Mother's Milk with these scarlet damsels was enough to tempt us from the purpose of our pilgrimage to the city named in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. We huddled close in the balcony as the lights dimmed on the gargantuan deco chandelier. The Wurlitzer rose to the centre of the orchestra pit, the pipes intoned their notes of portent, the red velvet curtains parted and as the celluloid flickered, two lads from Winnipeg dove headlong into the maw of the Castro Theatre and conversely, its silver screen beckoned like some massive glory hole - stuffed with a treat to fill their greedy, supplicating mouths. Fritz Lang, some 65-or-so-years after he first made Die Nibelungen, would be responsible for changing their lives forever.

Where young men meet.
Where lives change forever.

If you're unable to experience Die Nibelungen in the aforementioned fashion, Kino-Lorber and Mongrel Media (in Canada) will provide the next best thing. In fact, the latest Blu-Ray version of Lang's classic is probably the most complete and satisfying version yet as it derives from a meticulously-restored print financed and supervised by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung (the German government's Wiesbaden-based foundation dedicated to the preservation of German cinema). And much as I cherish my first taste of Die Nibelungen on film, I have to admit that the orgasmic experience was maintained, if not exceeded, with the Kino-Lorber release.

Lang is without question one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived and I've often looked upon him as the German amalgamation of such great contemporary talents as Spielberg and Scorsese. His visual aplomb was matched only by his almost peerless ability to tell stories with the sort of virtuosity matched only by the aforementioned American directors. Lang's movies crackled with the sort of intensity and excitement that one expects from the bigger-than-life medium of feature film.

Die Nibelungen is not a masterpiece for nothing. Lang had every available resource tossed his way by the great German studio UFA and with complete artistic control (and yet another great script from his wife Thea Von Harbou), he rendered this classic German tale over two feature length tales. The first part of the epic spins the magnificent tale of the title character Siegfried who, borne of noble lineage, apprentices as a blacksmith and eventually forges the mightiest sword in all of the Aryan Kingdom.

He is bound and determined to win the hand of the beautiful Queen Kriemhild and on his way to her kingdom, he does battle with one mega-kick-ass dragon, bathes in its blood to give him greater powers, and hacks his way to the apple of his blonde-haired, blue eyes; doing über-battle with a variety of odd creatures who all have some manner of magic power that he acquires.

Siegried becomes the ultimate all-powerful German Titan and Kriemhild is more than moist for this gorgeous hunk of manhood. Alas, she's saddled with a loser weakling brother, Gunther, who's got to give her his blessing for the union to take place. The weakling baby brother demands that Siegfried assist him in winning the hand of the warrior princess Brunhild. (Yup, Django's wife is her namesake in Tarantino's recent ode to Mandingo.) Siegfried uses all his magical powers to deceive Brunhild into marrying Gunther (including a wedding night stint).

Siegfried might be all powerful, but just like Superman has Kryptonite to fuck with him, our Teutonic Hero has his own Achilles Heel. Though we've had a great roller coaster ride, things turn decidedly dusky and we genuinely shiver in our drawers for Siegfried's safety.

Siegfried has, for much of its running time, been fun and games of the highest order, but Part Two of Die Nibelungen leaves the breathtakingly exciting Boys' Adventure Fritz Lang behind and yields his darker qualities in Kriemhild's Revenge. Hell hath no fury like a gorgeous German Ice Queen who seeks complete and utter decimation of her enemies to right a considerable wrong. A darkness descends upon the land and we board a much different roller coaster - plunging us into a noir-like precursor to the Fritz Lang of post-war America.

Here, Die Nibelungen turns into that pot of scalding coffee Lee Marvin tosses in Gloria Graham's face in The Big Heat and Kriemhild's Revenge is one nasty, dark, vicious blow to us after another.

And, I kid you not, we get to meet Attila the Hun.

Carnage runs rampant as do the rivers of blood emanating from Kriemhild.

All four and one half hours of this gargantuan epic are a marvel to behold. Lang keeps the engine fuelled with his storytelling prowess, matched only by his sumptuous visual splendour. Die Nibelungen is ultimately Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in Teutonic garb and crossed with the most noir film noir imaginable.

This new gorgeously transferred and extras-packed Kino-Lorber/Mongrel Media release will have you and those you love reeling with the thrills and spills of a great cliffhanging serial and populated with more than enough steely Aryan lore to warm the cockles of Hitler's heart.

And if that's not chilling, nothing is.