Coming to Bluray from one of the titans of cinema director Fritz Lang and Film Movement Classics are two films the set with THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB.
THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR
Harold Berger (Paul Hubschmid) is an architect that has been asked to India by the Maharaja Chandra (Walter Reyer). His plan for the city is to build hospitals and schools for his people. On the way to Eschnapur, Berger meets a beautiful temple dancer (Debra Paget) and almost immediately the two connect. Further along the road, Seetha’s wagon is attacked by a tiger and Berger jumps into action to save her.
Maharaja Chandra is ever grateful to Berger and gives him a token of his appreciation. Now that Seetha is near, the Maharaja becomes even more infatuated with Seetha than the first time he saw her. None of this sits well with the Maharaja’s brother Prince Ramigani (Rene Deltgen) who was stepped over as ruler of Eschnapur.
So much so is the resentment that he goes to Padu (Jochen Brockmann) who’s sister was once married to the Maharaja before she passed and others who aren’t happy with Seetha’s arrival. Standing up for the Maharaja is General Dagh (Guido Celano) and standing up for tradition is the temple leader Yama (Valery Inkijinoff).
Helping Berger put plans together for the Maharaja is Asgara (Jochen Blume), an engineer who knows the palace very well. What he doesn’t know is that whispers are going on behind the palace walls about the relationship he has with Seetha. As he learns more of her story, the more he finds himself falling for the beautiful dancer. That sets in motion a plan that the Prince has against his brother.
The Maharaja tries to capture the heart of Seetha but knows there is something she is keeping from him. When the palace whispers get to him, he holds a banquet to test his new friends loyalty. When it all goes horribly wrong, he starts to believe that Berger and Seetha are betraying him. Sensing they are in danger, the two plan to get away as fast as possible as the palace soldiers take chase. What they don’t know is that Berger’s brother-in-law Walter Rhode (Claus Holm) and sister Irene (Sabine Bethmann) have arrived.
Now the Maharaja is playing a game of his own, lying to the Rhodes’ and making Walter an offer that is beyond anything he could have imagined. Berger and Seetha are caught in a sand storm and overtake the couple in their end – or is it?
THE INDIAN TOMB
Irene and her husband suspect that foul play is afoot in the palace and don’t trust anyone but Asagara but he isn’t getting any answers either. In the middle of the desert, a caravan has found Berger and Seetha taking them to a local village for help. Everyone is afraid because the palace soldiers have already made it known that any village helping will be dealt with.
Berger and Seetha make a run for it again but are caught! Seetha is taken back to the palace and Berger disappears. The Maharaja has taken to asking the town seer for help in dealing with his anger and after only moments is gently told what he must do but to no avail. Back at the palace, the leader of Eschnapur begins plans to marry Seetha and isn’t about to let his brother, religious leader or anyone else tell him what to do.
The Prince tries to bide his time in an attempt to make a coup. Irene has made her way to Seetha to discover what has happened and how they are all going to escape the palace. She tells Walter what she’s discovered and the two begin to make their own plans using the problems of the palace to work in their favor.
The Maharaja is facing enemies from the palace and below it as it all comes to a finality that is as beautifully epic as it could only be.
Paget as Seetha is absolutely stunning from the first films frame to the second films last frame. There is no doubt that she is beautiful and a stunning dancer, but Paget is calmly strong in her portrayal of Seetha. Her performance is mesmerizing and as a fan of Lang I would have expected nothing less in his choice of actress to play this role. She carried herself with such grace and covered in the lavish sari’s just made her character more breathtaking.
Hubschmid as Berger is an equally calm character. He has a gentle nature and a humble spirit that makes it easy to like him. Even when he realizes his feelings for Seetha, he doesn’t outwardly act on them until he feels there is danger for both of them. Their great escape led to the second film where, shall we say, he finds out that not everyone is as forgiving as the viewer might be. Hubschmid is tall, handsome and the hero women fall for so I can see how he was also the right choice to portray Berger!
Reyer as the Maharaja is grieving the loss of his wife but finding happiness once again in Seetha. He tries over and over to make it clear that he just wants a life with her. Not thinking his brother could ever be an adversary was the beginning of his problems and unrequited love turned the tide in his good nature. Reyer has a crazy look in his eye at times and I saw even before THE INDIAN TOMB that I’d be running to get away from him way before Seetha did! Well done performance in both films with an ending that had to happen.
Deltgen as Ramigani is a brother who has been stepped over (or maybe even stepped on) to become Maharaja of Eschnapur. The plotting and planning is easy when you have everyone around you rubbing salt on an royal open wound. Torn between wanting to support his brother and wanting to be Maharaja, his choice is taken away by his own hurt feelings. Brockmann as Padu has a bone to pick with the Maharaja feeling that his sister’s memory is being cast aside for Seetha. When his words are ignored, he doesn’t mind jumping on the revenge band wagon for a round or two.
Bethmann as Irene sense from the moment they arrive in Eschnapur that something is amiss. In her mind there is no way her brother would take off without communication to her. Irene is just as clever as I’d want a sister to be and doesn’t take no for an answer. Holm as Walter is outraged at the Maharaja’s request to stay and even more so when told why. He is absolutely frustrated, as Irene is, that they are not being told the truth. Holm paces so much I’m surprised there isn’t a path ground into the marble! Even Blume as Asagara is confused by the stories being told but again is loyal to the Maharaja and would never question his intentions.
Other cast include Luciana Paluzzi as Bharani, Helmut Hildebrand as Ramigani’s servant and Richard Lauffen as Bhowana.
Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide. It’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries and foreign art house titles. It’s catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. Film Movement Classics features new restorations of films by such directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marlene Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, King Hu and Ettore Scola. For more information please visit www.filmmovement.com.
The Bluray Bonus Features include Audio Commentaries by film historian David Kalat, The Indian Epic documentary, Debra Paget, For Example a video essay by Mark Rappaport and 20-page booklet with an essay by film scholar Tom Gunning.
Director Lang returned to Germany after a 20 year exile and created a two-part film leaving the first with a cliffhanger to create THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB. Leaving Germany before the war and going to Paris then to the United States, Lang is also responsible for the 1927 film METROPOLIS and WOMAN IN THE MOON in 1929. In the U.S. he made FURY in 1936 with Spencer Tracy and THE BIG HEAT in 1953.
He returned to Germany to create what he called his “Indian Epic” with THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB. The later was a story created by his estranged spouse Thea von Harbour in 1920 which he helped to develop. Lang was close to ending his career in 1963 because of health problems but made it into the film CONTEMPT.
THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB are epics by my standards and those of 1959 and I think it would be stunning to see on the big screen but I’ll certainly take it in my own home. The interesting part of the film is that the language is in Germany (no worries, subtitles!) but watching the film it’s easy to forget it. That’s how you know the film has captured my attention! I am a super fan of period pieces and an even bigger fan when the costuming in absolutely stunning.
These films are given so much richness by the costuming, the colors, the attention to detail and the cast carry themselves well in them. Speaking of the cast, they are impeccable in their character portrayal. Doing two films, they flow one into the next and it feels absolutely seamless. The good guys are trying hard to keep their head out of the tigers mouth and the bad guys are poking the tigers from behind.
It’s a well thought out story of family, royalty, jealousy, revenge, love, passion, exoticness, richness, and a clear message that love and jealousy cannot co-exist for brothers in the same palace.
In the end – this is an exotic Indian epic worthy of every frame!