Before he made this 1920 version, director Paul Wegener, who also stars as the monster, had already adapted the Jewish folk tale about the Golem in 1915 and 1917. Individual moments of this third incarnation are great, but in a decade filled with fantastic movies, they’re somewhat few and far between. You know the story: the Rabbi breathes life into a clay statue to protect the ghetto, but he doesn’t read the fine print, and the Golem exacts a terrible price. 1920 was a long time ago (especially in movie years), and the film is worth appreciating as a museum piece and early horror classic more than something you’d watch for kicks. Some of The Golem prefigures Frankenstein and so forth, but from our vantage, most of it doesn’t feel terribly inspired. For one thing, it’s much too slow, and you could be excused for setting the DVD player to double speed and providing your own soundtrack. I do wish there were more movies with Rabbis who cast spells–and I don’t mean Matisyahu.
Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam. Paul Wegener, 1920. ***
After the jump, the entire movie via Google Video. It’s ok for taking a look, but if you’re serious about watching it, you’re much better off with the Kino DVD–it’s a restored version with better intertitles and tints.