Germany, 1920 / 91 Mins
Director: Carl Boese, Paul Wegener
Starring: Henrik Galeen, Paul Wegene
Set in the Jewish ghetto of medieval Prague, the film opens with the Jewish community being threatened with removal from the city. Responding to this crisis, Rabbi Loew, the head of the city’s Jewish community, begins to construct a monstrous figure out of clay – the mythical golem of the title. Calling upon ancient, mystical powers, the Rabbi brings this creature to life, hoping to protect his people.
With its foreshadowing of the Jewish persecution that was to come in Europe, DER GOLEM is a powerful and poignant piece of film-making – capped by inventive special effects, and exhilarating lighting and cinematography from the film’s photographer Karl Freund. Wegener himself stars as the titular creature, and he cuts an imposing and impressive figure in his tactile, clay like costume and make-up – an extraordinary bit of physical special effects.The film is also one of the earliest examples of the horror movie, and a clear precursor to the classic monster movies produced by Universal in the 1930s – Freund went on to work in Hollywood on classic horrors such as DRACULA (1931) and THE MUMMY (1932).