ALS ICH TOT WAR [1916] [short review]: on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD 22nd September [HCF REWIND]

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,

HCF REWIND NO. 240: ALS ICH TOT WAR [WHEN I WAS DEAD] AKA WP IST MEIN SCHATZ [WHERE IS MY TREASURE?], [Germany 1916]

ON DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD: 22nd September as a special feature on MADAME DUBARRY from EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT

RUNNING TIME: 35 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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Ernst and Louise Lubitsch live with Ernst’s mother-in-law who doesn’t think much of Ernst. When Ernst stays out all night playing chess, the mother-in-law locks him out of the house. She poisons Louise’s mind and she eventually divorces him. Ernst writes Louise a letter saying that he’s about to kill himself, and she thinks him dead, but in fact Ernst has seen an advertisement with his wife’s address: she wants to engage a manservant…

 

Though this film certainly isn’t Ernst Lubitsch’s first film, it’s the oldest one which survives. It’s a considerable tragedy how so few pictures from the silent era we are actually able to see. Als ich tot war, running for not much longer than half an hour like most films of its time, is an enjoyable, if slight, confection. The premise is actually not that different from Mrs. Doubtfire, though Robin William’s character wore a heavy disguise so he was unrecognisable. All the hero of Als ich tot war, who is not only played by the writer/director but  also has the same name, does is wear different clothes and a wig, yet nobody recognises him, though Louise takes a shine to him immediately. So, actually, does the mother-in-law, and the way Ernst finally gets his own back on her is probably not something a hero in a more modern family comedy would do it. There aren’t really any scenes which are hysterical, but certainly a few that are amusing, such as when Louise’s suitor eats from a leaky spoon that Ernst has put a hole in, a sequence which ends with, as usual for those days, an old man actually being chucked down some steps for real.

Louise seems rather too easily convinced to divorce Ernst, though it’s possible that Ernst has been visiting the den of iniquity that is a chess club for some time now. This player of chess noticed how he moves a piece, takes his hand off it, then moves another piece, which is against the rules, though nobody notices. The three major cast members often glance at the camera, in fact they’re introduced coming from behind a curtain. The acting is as over-the-top as you would expect, the way Louise swoons over the new manservant being especially amusing to modern eyes. Lanchen Voss seems to be having the most fun out of the three main cast members, playing one of the most formidable examples of that species who strikes fear into the hearts of newly wedded husbands everywhere. “In my house I’m the one who wears the trousers”: she states, and you certainly believe it. There’s little of the sophistication of the later comedies that made Lubitsch’s name, and it’s probably quite forgettable after a while, but Als ich tot war is quite fun to watch and certainly worth its inclusion with Madame Dubarry in Eureka Entertainment’s set.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1985 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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