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DVD Review: THE BLUE ANGEL (BLU-RAY)
2-DISC ULTIMATE EDITION



Studio: Kino Classics
Year: 1930
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti, Hans Albers, Reinhold Bernt, Karl Huszar-Puffy
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:47m:29s
Genre(s): drama, foreign

"I presume you are the artiste Lola-Lola?" - Prof. Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings)

THE BLUE ANGEL (BLU-RAY)

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The film itself is a classic, but here's a Blu-Ray "ultimate edition" release that lives up to the hype, as it includes a restored German-language version as well as the once long lost English-language version.

Highly recommended.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Grade: A-

Like many I always find it fascinating to see a film where a particular actor/actress is "made", the role/performance that puts them on the star map forever, regardless of what came before or after. For Marlene Dietrich it is without question her starmaking run in director Josef von Sternberg's 1930 production of The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel), a sexually daring and bold story - for the time - of one man's complete ruination as a result of falling under the spell of a captivating femme fatale. Shot in both German and English simultaneously The Blue Angel showcased the brazenly sultry Dietrich perfectly, making it simple to understand why every male in the film is falling all over themselves just to be near her. Dietrich's Lola-Lola is not like the other girls, and from the first time we see her character - crooning a bawdy tune while smoking and swigging a beer - it is clear that she (both Dietrich and Lola-Lola) have that very special something extra that can cloud men's minds.

The interesting thing is that despite Dietrich's compelling star power The Blue Angel is really the story of Professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings). Rath is a straight-laced and unmarried literature professor at a local college, and when he finds out some of his students have been visiting the shadowy nightclub The Blue Angel he decides to investigate. It only takes one visit before the magnetic appeal of Lola-Lola takes hold, and from there it is an uphill-then-downhill-then-sort-of-uphill-then-really-downhill experience for Rath, leading to a disturbing and heartbreaking final act where the emotional wheels come completely off the bus. Jannings contributes a wonderfully multi-faceted performance during the course of The Blue Angel, and it is unfortunate that his career veered into the making of Nazi propaganda films during the period of the Third Reich, because that ruined his mainstream chances of stardom for good. And that is despite having earned a Best Actor Oscar in 1929.

But Dietrich - no matter how strong Jannings is here - is the real "star" of The Blue Angel, and it is the sort of performance that would have gotten her noticed in any decade, but for 1930 the overt sexuality she conveys and portrays had to have been even more striking. When she sings the famous Hollaender/Liebmann song Falling in Love Again with such foreshadowing lyrics as "men cluster to me like moths around a flame and if their wings burn I know I'm not to blame" it is essentially her letting everyone know the way she plays the game. She may be alluring and forbidden, but her character is not particularly likeable - though she is very upfront about her ways so that anyone with half a brain would know that things will probably not end well long-term when it comes to a relationship with Lola-Lola. Yet men rarely think that far in advance, and that is why poor Professor Rath forsakes his career for a shot at his fantasy, which works out well for short time before the inevitable tragic fall from grace.

Kino Classics has issued this two-disc "ultimate edition", containing both the German and the lost-for-decades English versions (available here for the first time on Blu-Ray), as well as some watchable supplemental content.

IMAGE/AUDIO
The AVC-encoded 1:19:1 transfer of the German-language version was restored in HD from archival 35mm elements by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. Though not as extensively restored as other titles handled by the institute this new 1080p presentation is certainly now the definitive treatment of the film, and it is easy to look past the obvious age-related elements (minor flicker and specking, for example) to appreciate the overall caliber of the transfer. Blacks/greys/whites are balanced cleanly, with no evidence of excessive oversaturation or crush. There is a fair veneer of softness throughout - especially in the nightclub sequences - but that doesn't diminish a reasonable level of clarity on elements such as fabric textures. Given the vintage this is a terrific transfer.

Audio is PCM 2.0 mono in German. There is some light hiss throughout, but voice quality is rarely a concern. The thin presentation is to be expected, but there aren't any elements of the mix that I would consider detrimental. Easy-to-read optional English subs are available.

EXTRAS
This slipcovered two-disc Blu-Ray set features the German-language version (01h:47m:29s) on disc one while disc two carries the English-language version (01h:44m:47s) and the additional supplemental content. Kino doesn't provide any details on the restorative work done on the English version, other than mentioning it is "on Blu-Ray for the first time." It was considered a lost film for decades until a print was discovered in a German film archive and restored, with its U.S. premiere at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in January 2009. This particular AVC-encoded print runs about three minutes shorter than the German version, and image-wise is in excellent condition, at times on par with its counterpart. Contrast levels are managed well, with clarity and detail quite strong for an 80+ year old film. Oddly enough there are no subtitle options for the English version.

Additional supplements on disc two consist of a side-by-side German vs. English screen comparison (03m:18s) of a single scene, Marlene's Screen Test (03m:38s) from 1929 in which she makes smoking look sexy, a pair of trailers for The Blue Angel - one from the 1930s (03m:42s) and one from the 1960s (03m:02s) - and an extensive image gallery. Also included is a collection of Dietrich Archival Footage, which is made up of an excerpt from a 1971 interview (01m:26s), a 1963 television performance of Falling In Love Again (03m:27s) and a pair of 1972 television performances: You're The Cream In My Coffee (03m:31s) of which 01m:38s is her introducing the tune and a sultry version of Lola (02m:15s).

Posted by: Rich Rosell - December 28, 2013, 9:27 am - DVD Review
Keywords: marlene dietrich, josef von sternberg, emil jannings, the blue angel




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