Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1959 - THE TIGER OF ESCHANPUR, part 1 of Fritz Lang's Indian adventure film.

Probably one of the oddest things I've seen.  Fritz Lang, towards the end of his career returned to Germany to film this exotic adventure story that he was to have originally shot in the early 1920's.  Lang and his wife Thea Von Harbou, prepared the film but for whatever reason Lang was removed from the project.  Forty years later Lang was hired to remake The Tiger of Eschanpur based on Harbou's original script.  Lang's approach was to have his actors play the material absolutely straight with no campy stuff allowed.

The result was an old fashioned pulpy adventure story without a sense of irony.  The critics were completely dumbfounded and gave the film very poor reviews.  However audiences in Europe ate it up and film was a big success.  Lang's decision to treat the material seriously instead of with his tongue in his cheek paid off. 

You probably have to be an admirer of Fritz Lang to fully appreciate this film.  All of his themes are present in this film.  Characters fighting against an unseen destiny.  A central figure, in this case the ruler of Escanpur, who is not unlike Lang's famous criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse, controlling the fate of the main characters.  A strange eroticism also runs throughout the film.  The overall result is one really weird piece of cinema.

Filmed in bright rich colors, one can only conclude that Fritz Lang knew exactly what he was doing when he made The Tiger of Eschanpur but was very deep into his only psyche particularly the adventure stories he wrote and grew up on.  The Tiger of Eschanpur has a lot in common with Lang's silent classics with it's deliberate pace and somewhat stilted performances.  A fascinating film.

101 minutes

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