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In the Jewish ghetto in 16th-century Prague, the community leader and astrologer Rabbi Low (Albert Steinruck) foresees doom for his people written in the stars. A short time later, the Emperor Luhois (Otto Gebuhr) issues an expulsion order to the people of the ghetto and they are to leave the city. In an attempt to save his people, Low creates a forbidding clay golem (Paul Wegener) that he brings to life with the assistance of a demon spirit and an amulet placed in the centre of the creature's chest. Subsequently the Golem saves the Emperor's life and order is rescinded.
Initially the Golem does nothing but good, but changes after Low's assistance Famulus (Ernst Deutsch) uses the creature to ward off Count Florian (Lothar Muthel), who is competing with him for the affections of the Rabbi's daughter, Miriam (Lyda Salmonova). Famulus tries to remove the amulet and to return the Golem to rest, but fails as the enraged creature embarks on a trail of destruction, burning Low's house and making off with Miriam, the whole community is threatened.
The third film by actor and director Paul Wegener to feature the Golem, this is the most accomplished. Its influence can be seen in many later films, but in particular James Whale's Frankenstein. It is an excellent example of German Expressionism and an important contribution to the golden age of Weimar Cinema
With his third version of THE GOLEM, director, writer, and actor Paul Wegener is credited with creating the first horror movie series, and historians consider THE GOLEM AND THE DANCER (his 1917 follow-up to the 1914 original) to be the first sequel in cinema history. Based on a legend in Jewish mysticism, in 16th-century Prague community leader and astrologer Rabbi Loew (Albert Steinruck) foresees doom for the Jews. When the emperor decrees a pogrom of the Jewish ghetto, Loew molds a forbidding clay golem (Wegener) to save his people. Loew invokes a demon spirit to retrieve a magic word that he places in an amulet on the creature's chest. Once the word is positioned, the giant wedge-haired automaton lives. Danger ensues, however, when Loew's assistant, Famulus (Ernst Deutsch), uses the golem to settle a score with Florian (Lothar Muthel), a knight who has stolen his sweetheart, Miriam (Lyda Salmonova). THE GOLEM's influence on future horror films was significant, particularly James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN. Wegener's distorted sets and chiaroscuro lighting, complemented by Karl Freund's expert photography, make the film an excellent example of German Expressionism and an important contribution by German mega studio UFA to the golden age of Weimar cinema.
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Eureka! - Masters of Cinema Index
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