Kino Lorber continues its exemplary series of home video releases of rare German films with this Blu-ray of the 1929 silent THE WOMAN ONE LONGS FOR. This movie is notable for being an example of Marlene Dietrich in a starring role before THE BLUE ANGEL.
Many assume that Dietrich had a negligible screen career before her breakout role in THE BLUE ANGEL, but she had already appeared in a number of features. One may not be able to hear Marlene's voice in THE WOMAN ONE LONGS FOR, but her sultry, entrancing beauty is well in evidence here, along with her ability to dominate the scene without apparently doing much. THE WOMAN ONE LONGS FOR proves that Dietrich had full command of the attributes she would be legendary for before she ever met Josef von Sternberg.
THE WOMAN ONE LONGS FOR is another of those German silent melodramas where a mysterious, alluring woman drives a man (or men) to madness and/or personal ruin. There were plenty of these stories at the time, starring such ladies as Brigitte Helm, Louise Brooks, and Lya de Putti. (The original German title of this film is DIE FRAU NACH DER MAN SICH SEHNT, and it was released in America as THE THREE LOVES.)
The story is set in France. A young man named Henry (Uno Henning) agrees to marry the daughter of a businessman who will financially help the company his family is in control of. While boarding the train to take him and his new wife on their honeymoon, Henry sees a gorgeous woman (Marlene Dietrich) and is instantly smitten with her. The woman, named Stascha, encourages Henry's attentions and begs him to save her from her older "companion", an intense-looking fellow named Dr. Karoff (Fritz Kortner). Henry is so infatuated with Stascha, he abandons his bride, gets off the train, and follows the woman and Karoff to a swanky resort hotel. Stascha tells Karoff that Henry is her cousin, while Henry makes plans to take her away....but Stascha is more than just a damsel in distress, and Karoff won't let her go so easily.
It's understandable if one thinks that THE WOMAN ONE LONGS FOR was made after THE BLUE ANGEL, or that it was directed by Josef von Sternberg. Marlene Dietrich gets several exquisite close-ups here, and there's even a couple shots of her legs, which were already famous in Germany. Dietrich's acting is not as stylized as it would be when she worked with von Sternberg. She's not exactly a vamp or a temptress, but she's someone who can't exactly be trusted. Director Kurt Bernhardt (who would later go to Hollywood and work under the name Curtis Bernhardt) makes full use of Dietrich's captivating beauty.
Bernhardt also gives plenty of visual spice to what is a simple story by injecting many unusual shot compositions and making use of a constantly roving camera. Uno Henning is quite nervy as the besotted Henry, while Fritz Kortner is grandly mysterious as the chilling yet tragic Karoff.
The disc cover for this Blu-ray states that the transfer used here is from a recent restoration. There's a few scant moments of print damage, but overall the picture quality is excellent. The intertitles are in German, but English subtitles are available. The running time here is 77 minutes--I had never seen this film before, so I can only assume it is the most complete version. This is a Region A release.
Kino has provided a fine new score for THE WOMAN ONE LONGS FOR by Pascal Schumacher, and it can be listened to in either 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo. There's also a brand new audio commentary by Gaylyn Studlar, who goes into various aspects of the production, and discusses the lives of members of the cast and crew. (Surprisingly, she spends more time talking about Fritz Kortner than Marlene Dietrich.)
Kino has been releasing rare and obscure silent films on home video for years, and they've also gotten a lot of my money by doing so. What makes this release special is the chance to see Marlene Dietrich as a silent film actress. (As far as I know, none of the other silent films Dietrich appeared in have ever been released on disc--at least not in the U.S.) This Blu-ray will be a must for Dietrich fans.