The Horror and Fantasy Films of Paul Wegener"
by Henry Nicolella and John T. Soister (BearManor
Media, 2012, 423 pages)
John Soister and Henry Nicolella continue to amaze
with their fascinating books (read our reviews of "American
Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films 1913-1929,"
"Up From the Vaults: Rare Thrillers of he 1920's and 1930's,"
and "Conrad Veidt On Screen" - all first class!) Their
latest, "Many Selves: The Horror and Fantasy Films of Paul
Wegener" (are you seeing a trend here?), is another superb entry in their documentation of the
films and actors that are not necessarily in the mainstream of
cinema history (they admit to an affinity for the horror genre,
particularly silent horror). Silent movie fans will know Wegener
from his most famous role as "The Golem." This reviewer,
however, first encountered Wegener as the weird Oliver Haddo in
Rex Ingram's "The Magician" (1926). No one could have
evoked the chills that Wegener's Svengali-like character sends
down the viewer's spine more than Wegener did in this excellent
tale based on a W. Somseret Maugham story. But, to learn more
about this and all of Wegener's other films, one only need to
read Soister and Nicolella's essays on each film - 17 of them,
to be exact. These are prefaced by an intriguing 24-page biography
that reveals a man whose life contains a certain level of surrealism,
as well. Multiple marriages and his determination stay in Berlin
right up to the very end when the city fell at the end of World
War II, provide intriguing reading. Interestingly, the authors
were able to locate Wegener's son, Peter, who professed that his
father's films "are not close to me," and, therefore,
offered little help for this epistle - yet, undeterred, their
research is impeccable, and the hurdle of deciphering so much
information in German was facilitated by two of Wegener's countryman
to whom Soister and Nicolella give much credit. The authors state
in their introduction that "Our intent in writing this book
was not to provide yet another 'The Films of . . .' volume, but
rather to spill some ink (in English) in concentrating on Wegener's
participation in Le Cinema Fantastique." Readers will find
each film entry to be an in-depth analysis with many tidbits,
facts and trivia to maintain interest. The reader will also learn
more and more about this incredible actor through each film's
commentary and find that he was truly one of the greats . . .
to some, on a par with Emil Jannings. Of course, there is a detailed
filmography and many interesting photographs, ad reproductions,
etc. Definitely on the "recommended" list - and thanks
to John Soister and Henry Nicolella for another "must have"
for any silent film library.
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