18 March 2013 | marcslope
You've got to see it to believe it
And I don't know where you'll see it. Just saw it at Cinefest in Syracuse, and literally watched with my mouth open. A pseudo-Ruritanian musical romance, and kind of a 1931 cross between "Song of Norway" and "Playboy After Dark," with traces of Lubitsch in it and an odd international cast (it was a French-British-German co-production) that looks lost. Filmed on some French island, which doubles here as a mythical kingdom where King Emil Jannings has 365 wives, and Sidney Fox wants to neutralize the other 364. So there are numerous sort-of- Berkeley-style musical numbers consisting of maidens in filmy garments running and giggling across the frame and singing some unintelligible Clifford Grey lyrics. It seems this kingdom is a happy one despite the presence of slaves and no discernible economy, and while all the wives are young and nubile and adore their porcine patriarch (Jannings looks a little like Karl Rove), women over 35 don long dowdy garments and severe tight-jawed expressions and become mistresses to the maidens. (One is punished by being hoisted on a crane and ridiculed by everyone, which the film regards as innocent merriment.) There's also a pilot from the outside world played by a rather dashing young Spaniard, and very little plot. This thing cost $2 million in 1931 dollars and made none of it back, and the producer committed suicide. Jannings, who evidently learned his lines phonetically, conveys no acting genius here, and it's meant to be whimsical and delightful but it's just incredibly odd. Still, it looks like no other movie, and it's fascinating, if not exactly competent.