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PANDORA'S BOX

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Louise Brooks, Fritz Körtner, Franz Lederer, Carl Goetz, Alice Roberts
Director: G.W. Pabst
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo sound
Subtitles: German and English intertitles
Video: Black & white, 1.33:1 original aspect ratio
Studio: Criterion
Features: Commentary, four musical scores, Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu, Lulu in Berlin, interviews,
stills gallery, 96-paged book, essays
Length: 133 minutes
Release Date: November 21, 2006

"We must put you on the stage for all the world to see."

Film ****

Within the Pandora's box of mythical lore lies is the theodicean root of all evil.  Before Pandora's manifestation, the young earth knew nothing but arcadian bliss.  In those days of creation, the Gods on high ruled with sovereign might and bestowed gifts upon the mortal foundlings and fauna wrought of their own august magic.  The titan Prometheus, in crafting the first men, desired a gift worthy of elevating his progeny above the level of the common animal - he stole fire from the Gods that humanity might warm itself and learn the enlightened ways of civilization.

In the eyes of an enraged Zeus, the theft of fire was utterly damnable.  For his sin of hubris, Prometheus was ordered chained to a rock face and condemned for all eternity to have his liver eaten out by a ravenous eagle.  As suffered the father, so would suffer the children, sentenced to an eternal judgment of damnation for the sins of the father.

To ensure Mankind's strife, Zeus commissioned the creation of the first woman - Pandora.  She was be his harbinger of doom, his vessel of ills to bestow upon Mankind.  Pandora, meaning literally "all gifted," was charmed with the grace and beauty of Aphrodite.  She also bore with her a lethal pithos never to be opened, a jar-shaped container within which were concealed all the evils of the world.  Fashioned to be mischievous by Zeus, made inquisitive by Hera, Pandora was not long before her curiosity compelled her to open the mysterious jar, thereupon unleashing plague and famine, pestilence and death upon the world.

Some modern translations consider the Pandora's box, with its jar-shape configuration, less a physical construct than a symbolic representation of a woman's uterus.  In this light, Pandora herself could be construed as the unwitting origin of the evils unleashed upon the world.  This interpretation perhaps suggests that the very concept of sexual promiscuity, with all its inherent passions, desires, and aggression, lies at the root of many of humanity's woes.

Indeed, this concept would inform the central theme of German playwright Frank Wedekind's early twentieth-century stage play Die Büchse der Pandora.  Using the mythology as an allegorical foundation for his play, Wedekind recounted the story of an immoral woman who lured men to their deaths.  With its critique of bourgeois sexual attitudes, Die Büchse der Pandora proved popular with the common masses, serving as the eventual inspiration for composer Alban Berg's opera Lulu and a silent film adaptation, Erdgeist (1923).  This early film starred acclaimed Danish actress Asta Nielsen as Lulu and portrayed the man-killer as just that, an unrepentant femme fatale who "devoured her sex victims...and then dropped dead in an acute attack of indigestion."  Such lurid sensationalism firmly impressed upon German audiences the image of Nielsen's Lulu as the definitive cultural icon of unadulterated sin and depravity.

But by whatever burlesque twist of fate the cinematic gods might accord, Asta Nielsen would not embody the body of Lulu for long.  Instead, her portrayal of the famous seductress, now forgotten, would be supplanted by that of a hitherto obscure American actress in an entirely different interpretation for the Georg Wilhelm Pabst revisionist adaptation, Pandora's Box (1929).

Pandora's Box would prove to be a highly controversial film, although G. W. Pabst was certainly no stranger to controversy.  During the mid-1920's, Pabst enjoyed a reputation as a widely-admired, if provocative, film director.  His socially conscious films included works such as The Loves of Jeanne Ney and 1925's The Joyless Street, the latter a realistically bleak portrayal of street life in war-era Vienna.  Although considered scandalous for its time and subsequently heavily censored, The Joyless Street has over time acquired prestige as one of the finer examples of the New Objectivity movement then in vogue in German cinema.  Ironically, the film starred Asta Nielsen as a desperate woman ultimately driven to a life of prostitution, a theme likewise shared by Pandora's Box.  Today, The Joyless Street is best remembered as the film that catapulted young Greta Garbo to stardom.

Pabst's new adaptation of Die Büchse der Pandora would give vent to the director's fascination with tales of the human psyche.  Unfortunately, the search for the right actress to portray Lulu proved difficult and fruitless.  At a late stage, an unhappy Pabst nearly resigned himself to offering Marlene Dietrich the role, despite his misgivings that the profane Dietrich could scarcely be expected to embody the veritable innocence he envisioned for his new Lulu.  Hope dwindling, Pabst recalled publicity stills of an unknown American actress of some potential.  He had even seen one of her film performances in Howard Hawks' A Girl in Every Port.  Pabst determined to pursue her.  That actress was Louise Brooks.

While known at the time in Hollywood circles as a rising star, the ravishing Louise Brooks was hardly a marquee name in Europe.  German filmgoers disliked the idea of an American actress who could not speak a single word of German portraying their beloved Lulu.  Not surprisingly, Pandora's Box, in its initial release, was a dismal failure.  Disdained and misunderstood by German audiences, deemed too scandalous for American sensibilities, the film was heavily censored and then largely forgotten.  Louise Brooks appeared in a few more films after Pandora's Box before disappearing into near-obscurity.

Time, however, has a way of rectifying past errors of judgment.  After revival theaters of the 1950's started to screen Pandora's Box, new generations of filmgoers quickly began to recognize the film for what it truly was - a cinematic masterpiece by any definition of the term.  Louise Brooks' sensual and mesmerizing performance was hailed as one of the greatest and most naturalistic of the silent era.  Today, Louise Brooks is so closely-identified with the character of Lulu that few who see Pandora's Box can discern where the screen persona ends and the true actress begins.

To fully appreciate the lasting allure of Pandora's Box then, one must grasp the allure of Louise Brooks herself.  Ever the penultimate flapper girl, from her uninhibited passion to her startling beauty, her svelte figure, and that distinctive pageboy coiffure, so very eponymous of the Roaring Twenties, Louise Brooks was simply born to play Lulu.  Brooks was also a lithe dancer who held a remarkably low esteem of her own acting talents.  She was judgmental of others, too, frequently to her detriment.  Her free libido created a long trail of discarded lovers in her wake.  At first glance, her provocative screen persona and promiscuous private life seemingly mirrored the erotic sensibilities and ultimate tragedy of Lulu.  The inevitable downfall of Louise Brooks was as ignominious as that of Lulu's, but where Lulu had failed, Louise Brooks would rise again from the ashes of a tattered career. 

As a Hollywood debutante, Brooks was as worldly as they come.  She rubbed elbows with the likes of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies in their stately pleasure palace of San Simeon.  She humored the swooning attentions of enamored celebrities, much to the chagrin of a forgotten husband (the marriage, suffice it to say, was quite short).  She nurtured an unlikely reputation as an intellectual, the paradox of a well-versed Hollywood actress who read the likes of Schopenhauer, Tennyson, and Darwin.  She even had a comic strip character, Dixie Dugan, based upon her.  And at the height of her promising Hollywood career, she shunned it all, impulsively walking away from certain fame and fortune.  Such an act of career suicide might well have doomed many an aspiring actress, but Louise Brooks would instead become immortalized among the greatest stars of the silent era - not bad for a country girl from small-town Kansas.

Born in Cherryvale and raised in Wichita, Louise Brooks from an early age harbored a clear fascination with the world of motion and dance.  Taught to appreciate literature and song by her mother, Brooks as a child would exhibit the indomitable vivacity and zeal that would be both her blessing and her bane later in late.  When the influential Denishawn dance troupe performed near her hometown, the young and enthralled Brooks, after fully absorbing a performance, knew the path of her future vocation.  At age fifteen, Brooks left Kansas for New York to pursue a career with the Denishawn Dancers, among them a young Martha Graham, a strong influence on the young Louise Brooks.  In later life, Louise Brooks would say that she learned to act from watching Martha Graham dance, and she learned to dance from watching Charlie Chaplin act.

However, Brook's sharp tongue and brassy cheek eventually led to her dismissal at age seventeen from the Denishawn group for having a "superior attitude."  Hardly deterred, Brooks quickly joined the George White Scandals as a dancer and chorine.  This stint was followed by even greater celebrity with the Zeigfeld Follies.  Louise Brooks would soon find herself surrounded by a plethora of regular suitors, among them Charlie Chaplin.  Her other admirers during this prosperous period included George Gershwin and even W.C. Fields, star of the 1925 Follies.  Brooks considered the jocose W.C. Fields a gracious mentor, even working with him later on a film, 1926's It's the Old Army Game.

By the mid-1920's, the capricious Louise Brooks was ready for a change, and the film industry represented that change.  A screen test in 1925 quickly led to a contract with Paramount Studios.  At age eighteen, a radiant Louise Brooks made her film debut as a gangster's moll in The Street of Forgotten Men, now lost.  Over a dozen films would follow in the next several years, culminating with 1928's Beggars of Life, featuring Louise Brooks in her first serious dramatic role.  Brooks would later claim this film as one of her favorites, and the film certainly hints at what might have been for Louise Brooks.  Had not a pivotal meeting with a Paramount Studio head turned sour, Louise Brooks might well have carved a comfortable niche for herself in American film as a fine dramatic actress.

Of course, in one of life's many ironies, Louise Brooks would achieve far greater fame and film immortality by abandoning the studio confines of Hollywood.  For that, we have B.P. Schulberg to thank.  With the advent of sound cinema and the unexpected success of Warner Brothers' The Jazz Singer, many Hollywood studios began scrambling to set up their own sound productions.  However, the new sound technology was expensive, and most silent film stars were asked to accept a cut in salary as a concession.  Louise Brooks, with her contract up for re-negotiation, was brought into Schulberg's office one day for the expressed purpose of extracting such a submission.  However, to Schulberg's great surprise, Brooks refused to acquiesce to his demands, and rather than remain in an unhappy relationship with Paramount and the degenerate Schulberg, later unfavorably characterized by Brooks as a "coarse exploiter who propositioned every actress," she snubbed the studio head, impulsively quitting on the spot.

The incensed Schulberg would later release a statement attesting to the fact that Brooks had an unsuitable speaking voice for the new talkies.  This deception was purely vindictive rubbish, as Brooks had a very refined and cultured voice, but nonetheless the damage to her reputation was irrevocably done.  Thereupon, Louise Brooks would be blacklisted, her film career in Hollywood effectively finished.

Pabst, however, had different plans for the actress.  Emerging as an eleventh-hour hero, he arranged for Brooks to come to Europe for his film and even greeted her personally at the train depot upon her arrival in Berlin.  And, as had so many men before him, G.W. Pabst soon fell upon the spell of the bewitching American actress, who unfortunately was accompanied at the time by her current beau, George Marshall (the future owner of the Washington Redskins football team).  Pabst disapproved of Marshall and rightfully convinced himself that the young suitor's presence was a hindrance and distraction to Brooks.  Pabst was similarly displeased with Brooks' wild after-hour tendencies, often attempting to curtail her partying habits, although his dissatisfaction dispersed with inestimable expedition soon after the departure of Marshall from the scene.  Thereafter, Pabst's firm control over the reckless actress would help Louise Brooks to focus on the craft at hand, ultimately resulting in one of the most remarkable screen performances of the silent era, both for its eroticism as for its naturalism and innocence.

One might wonder how so base and vulgar a creature as Wedekind's Lulu of the stage could ever subscribe to an interpretation emphasizing her purity and good-heartedness.  Indeed, previous incarnations of Lulu had always stressed the character's unscrupulous lack of morals.  Lulu was an irremediable and unconscientious siren who enjoyed dragging men to their doom, and that was that.  However, Louise Brooks, under Pabst's guidance, presented a different vision of Lulu as a luminous and innocent young girl seemingly unaware of the power she wielded over the men of her world.  This paradoxical blend of sensuality and naïveté, a Madonna-and-whore ideal, resulted in a portrayal of Lulu so affecting and moving that its power to enthrall still resonates today.  In the film, Louise Brooks does not simply play a part, she becomes Lulu.  There remains little incongruity between Louise Brooks and Lulu.  They have melded into the same person yet as one transformed - Lulu infused with a sense of purity and grace hitherto absent in her character, Louise Brooks confronted with a disquieting glimpse into a potential future of despair and destitution for her unless she accommodate change.

Pandora's Box, a morality tale of eight chapters, opens with a short scene in Lulu's apartment.  A jilted suitor, or perhaps merely another in a long line of failed admirers, is shown the door by Lulu even as she warmly greets a much older man and pulls him without hesitance into her private chambers.  The old man, Schigolch (Carl Goetz), is a jovial and pawning rounder, and his immediate familiarity with Lulu suggests that Schigolch is more than a simple customer.

Is Lulu perhaps a "kept woman" or something more?  She hardly registers surprise when Schigolch pilfers money from her purse.  She dances willingly for him upon command, and later, when confronted in the presence of company, introduces the old man as her "first patron."  Schigolch's relationship with Lulu is a complex and somewhat filial one, but symbolically he is the embodiment of sin, an affliction and contamination of Lulu's conscience.  His lust will always supercede Lulu's own wish for quiet happiness.  His sloth will force Lulu down a path of self-destruction to please him.  His wrath will ensnare her in the trappings of a murder not of her volition.  And his gluttony, which Lulu attempts to satisfy, will spell her ultimate doom.  Lulu, however, does not recognize the threat that Schigolch represents.  He is her father figure, her mentor.  After all, it was under Schigolch's tutelage that Lulu developed into a charismatic dancer.  If this troglodyte is her lover as well, then such speculation is left to the lurid imagination.

For now, Lulu's current keeper and paramour is the much-conflicted Dr. Schön (Fritz Körtner).  Blinded by an addictive and insatiable desire, Schön vacillates haplessly between his unfaithful affair with Lulu and his impending marriage to the respectable daughter of a cabinet minister.  The final choice, of course, in never truly in doubt.  Lest Schön should falter, his own son, Alwa (Franz Lederer), is secretly smitten with Lulu, too, harboring a variant Oedipal complex, the consummated lust for the mother, the willful (if not murderous) intent against the father.  Under his father's instructions, the young composer promises to feature Lulu prominently in his upcoming musical revue.  Alwa's friend and costume designer, the Countess Augusta Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), must be counted among Lulu's inamorata as well, her rabid if unrequited love for Lulu concealed within cinema's first depiction of a lesbian character.

At the center of this salacious three-ring circus stands Lulu.  Rather than the instigator of the misdeeds of her own demise, Lulu is one acted upon, not the actor.  She plays a passive role, her sole truly forceful display of self-will being a temper tantrum on the opening night of the revue, a deliberate act designed to ensured Schön's faithfulness to her, and her only.  All other circumstances and crimes for which Lulu is found culpable are the work of the deviant men about her, their lust and desire urging them to immoral actions for the benefit of currying her favour.

Lulu's fatal foible is her indiscrimination, her unconditional love provided without consideration for class or social status.  Lulu does not belong in this patriarchal world of bourgeois persuasion, where her very presence excites men to primal desires.  Her mercurial superficiality, disposed to living with carefree abandon for the moment rather than to planning for the future, belies Lulu's true nature as that of the archetypal woman-child, innocent and uncorrupt yet also worldly and all-corrupting.  Heedless, Lulu has passed the adolescent threshold of sexual maturity but remains incognizant of her allure to men.

Lulu is ultimately a sexual creature, whether of her own volition or not, and as her mere presence brings ruination to others, so too will her own end be met by the hands of another sexual predator.  Lulu's fanciful statement to the elder Schön - "You'll have to kill me to get rid of me." - proves prescient in its calculation.  Louise Brooks herself once remarked that Lulu was fated to "death by a sexual maniac."  If Lulu is to remain merely a passive spectator in the spectacle of her own life, then her poignant demise, when it arrives as it inevitably must, may at least be in a time or setting of her choosing.

Lulu's auspicious debut in Alwa's revue merely serves to drive the men of her life into further rapturous seizures of irrational behavior.  Schön's carnal yearning becomes his inevitable destruction, for when caught in a compromising position with Lulu (merely a game for Lulu, but an irreparable scandal for Schön), the man is forced to abandon any hope of a secured future with his former fiancée.  Instead, a tempestuous marriage with Lulu awaits him, chaos defeating order, a triumph of sexual liberation over the institution of traditional marriage.  The union is short-lived, naturally.  When Schön discovers Lulu in the clutches of the trickster Schigolch on the wedding night, his rage cannot be contained.  Schigolch and his strong man Rodrigo are chased away, and Schön thrusts a loaded weapon, his pistol, into Lulu's stunned hands, demanding that she kill herself.

A struggle ensues.  The firearm is discharged.  The woman-child Lulu persists.  Unscathed, the virginal white fabric of her wedding gown unmarked by the curling fumes and settling dust of Schön's weapon, Lulu stands in alarmed silence, eyes wide and transfixed upon the slowly crumpling frame of her soon-to-be-late husband.  Schön will prove but the first of several victims dispatched after an encounter with Lulu.  With Schön's departure, we sense that Lulu has embarked upon a path beyond redemption, regardless of her innocence of premeditated murder or, for that matter, inappreciative notice of the gravity of the forces mounting against her.

Certainly, while events continue to spiral out of control about her, Lulu persists in her unmindful naïveté.  Her unfailingly poor judgment, an inability to grasp the consequences of deeds acted upon through such judgment, even her unawareness of the duplicity of her companions - through these evils of ignorance, Lulu will fall far from grace and redemption.  This suggestion - that Lulu, passive and unremorseful, is woman-as-victim, not woman-as-survivor, the sinned upon and not necessarily the sinner - is inherent to Louise Brooks' portrayal of Lulu.  In a court of law, Lulu smiles at an opposing prosecutor who demands the death penalty for her.  After affecting an escape from certain persecution, Lulu nonchalantly returns to the very scene of Schön's death, her home, for if not home, then where is she to stay?  Later fleeing to London, she is reduced to living in a decrepit garret, deprived of warm decorum, mercilessly fleeced by cold London winds, yet still in attendance to the wanton desires of her male companions.  Walking the streets, a trollop at last, she advertises herself not for personal benefit but that her unworthy companions Schigolch and Alwa might enjoy a warm Christmas meal.  There is a poignant purity in these actions belying the ludicrous position in which Lulu finds herself.  One senses that had Lulu only been allowed a release from the world of men in which she is enslaved, she might have found a simplicity and happiness sought long.

But the time for peace is past.  An inexperienced cocotte, Lulu fails in procedural etiquette in even a simple gesture; she invites a stranger, penniless and dark in mood, to her room whole-heartedly with little thought to the consequences.  Pandora's Box will conclude with Lulu's fateful encounter with this London fellow, by name of Jack the Ripper.  Here at last will be that "sexual maniac" so described by Louise Brooks.  Here at last would be the instrument of Lulu's demise.  There will be no hope here, no just retribution, no final redemption.  The Pandora's box is empty.  If any consolation remains, it must be that the bonds are finally broken, the men of Lulu's life vanishing away into the mists of the London fog, dispersing like the lost souls they have become.

In real life, redemption would not come easy for Louise Brooks, either, following her return to America.  Her three great European films, mercilessly censored or banned altogether in America, would remain virtually inaccessible for decades, ransoming her film legacy in a haze of uncertainty.  Louise Brooks would decline into a series of forgettable roles in forgettable B pictures.  A later forage into running a dance studio would come to naught.  By the mid-1940's, Brooks would become a recluse and a "kept woman" in New York, reprising the nightmare of Lulu's downfall.

Pabst once predicted that Louise Brooks would someday end up much as Lulu.  Perhaps his omniscient prophecy would have been fulfilled but for hope.  In portraying Lulu and perhaps understanding some of the emptiness of that character's existence, so then Louise Brooks through the illuminating clarity of time would eventually discover within herself the means to exculpate herself of the lasciviousness of a former lifestyle and to emerge at last from the hedonistic shadow and fate of Lulu.

The new men of Brooks' life proved invariably more helpful than those of Lulu's persuasion.  With the encouragement of James Card, curator of film at Eastman House, Brooks re-discovered a lifelong passion for literature, reinventing herself as an accomplished author of numerous articles and well-received books.  Her contributions to prestigious film magazines such as Sight and Sound and Positif regularly offered insightful discourse on Hollywood lore, past, present, and future.  Henri Langlois, director of the prestigious French Cinémathèque, stalwartly defended Brooks' rightful place in the pantheon of major silent film stars.  Legions of new fans would flock to rediscover Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, her two legendary collaborations with G.W. Pabst.  If Louise Brooks could never completely excise her personal demons nor disassociate herself from the image of Lulu, at least she was able to find a harmonic balance to co-exist with the subversive forces of her own psyche.  For Louise Brooks, there was hope after all in her Pandora's Box.  She would live to a ripe old age of 78, passing on as Lulu had not, in control of her own fate, vibrant, content and defiant to the last.

Video **

Pandora's Box is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  The transfer was created from a Munich Film Museum restoration composite print.  There are many instances of minor vertical scratches and some dust marks and speckles.  The emulsion is uneven from time to time, and the grain changes consistency in a few sequences.  The frame jitters ever so slightly.  Sporadically throughout the film, a translucent-black bar is present at the top of the frame.  This suggest an irregular, non-standard alignment of the frame in relation to the position of the sprocket holes, an unavoidable and common issue with old silent films.  The fact that this "defect" only appears on a few rare occasions (and only briefly so during these instances) is a reflection of the composite nature of this print.  The contrast level, however, is quite good with well-defined images; a washed-out picture quality is not a concern here.  Relatively speaking, for such an old film as Pandora's Box, the video quality is generally quite acceptable.

Audio ***

In an unusual move, Criterion has delivered four entirely different music scores for Pandora's Box.  There is a majestic "cinema palace" orchestral score by Gillian Anderson, a whimsical (yet sometimes dark) Weimar-era cabaret score by Dimitar Pentchev, a modern orchestral score by noted German composer Peer Raben, and, last but not least, an improvisational piano score by Stephan Oliva.  After all, what silent film restoration would be complete without a solo piano accompaniment?  Extended samples of each score can be heard on the options menu; a descriptive passage for each score is provided to facilitate selection, although greater details about these individual scores can be found inside the book included with this Criterion release.

The Gillian Anderson score is available in Dolby 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mixes and has a short introductory interlude.  The other three scores are available in Dolby 2.0 stereo.  These scores provide all the reason you need to re-watch Pandora's Box multiple times!

Features ****

"There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks!" - Henri Langlois

Criterion delivers yet another exemplary release in this two-disc set for Pandora's Box.  The film is presented on Disc One, which includes the aforementioned four scores.  There is also an audio commentary by film scholars Thomas Elsaesser and Mary Ann Doane.  They offer a running commentary on the Weimar characterizations of 1920's German cinema, and in regards to Pandora's Box, point out the film's recurring symbols and images, fashion and decor, and importance in film history.  Comparisons are made between the much more verbose stage play, the progressive opera, and this film.  Amusingly, the two commentators do not agree on every point and content themselves to friendly debate over a wide number of topics.  Call it...intellectual tension, if you will.

Disc Two opens with the documentary Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu (59 min.), an absolute treasure for fans of the luminous silent film star.  The documentary provides a biographical sketch of the star from her childhood through her formative years, her Hollywood rise and decline, and eventual re-invention as a columnist and writer.  Clips from many of Brooks' films, as well as early photos and childhood portraits, are included.  Louise Brooks herself appears in rare archival interviews, revealing a rather articulate and endearing personality.  In any era, Louise Brooks would have been a star.

Lulu in Berlin (48 min.) offers a rare 1971 interview session conducted by Richard Leacock with Louise Brooks.  There is a short five-minute introduction by Richard Leacock as he reminisces over the circumstances through which he was allowed to conduct the interview with the notoriously reclusive Louise Brooks.  Lulu in Berlin opens with an impressive clip, a death sequence from Prix de Beauté, arguably Brooks' last substantial film role.  The other main clips shown are from Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, Louise Brooks' two best-remembered films.  Throughout this interview, Louise Brooks is so vivacious, opinionated, and full of life that she very much resembles a real-life version of Harold and Maude's octogenarian dilettante.

The Shadow of My Father (34 min.) is an interview with G.W. Pabst's son, Michael.  He discusses the general arc of his father's film career, his private life, and marriage.  The latter half of the interview focuses on Pandora's Box and Louise Brooks' iconic portrayal of Lulu.  Pabst's comments are accompanied by various stills and clips from his father's films.  Pabst also contrasts the original Wedekind play with its most celebrated cinematic adaptation.

The disc closes with a photo gallery of fifty production stills from the film.  They are presented in sequential order and roughly follow an outline of the film's plot.

Last but certainly not least, a 96-page book comes enclosed in this two-disc set and features numerous production stills and essays.  "Opening Pandora's Box," by J. Hoberman, is an extremely well-written, if quaintly droll, overview of Pandora's Box and a tribute to its director Pabst and star Louise Brooks.  Kenneth Tynan, in his famous essay “The Girl in the Black Helmet,” positively prostrates himself in idol worship before the goddess Louise Brooks, for whom he imagines "being enslaved by,...a dark lady worthy of any poet's devotion."  Truer words were never declared in homage to Louise Brooks' universal appeal, and Tynan's essay is the definitive biography on the silent screen star.  Best of all is "Pabst and Lulu," an entire chapter from the Louise Brooks autobiographical account, "Lulu in Hollywood."  Here at last is evidence of Louise Brooks' gift for prose and anecdote!  She describes her relationship with Pabst on the two films in which they collaborated.  Many of the statements made in this seminal essay have entered film lore (not to mention the myriad essays of appreciative film historians, Tynan and Hoberman, included).  The book "Lulu in Hollywood," assembling eight of Louise Brooks' long essays, is essential reading for any Louise Brooks fan; it may be difficult to track down but remains well worth reading for its fluidity and its revelatory window into the hidden world of that cinematic Babylon known as Hollywood.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Louise Brooks' last film, Overland Stage Raiders (1938) was a western in which she starred with none other than John Wayne!

Summary:

"I have a gift for enraging people, but if I ever bore you it will be with a knife." - Louise Brooks

Spellbinding, provocative, erotic, sacrilegious - a list of the superlatives attached to Pandora's Box over the years would be virtually endless.  Pandora's Box has been lauded as one of the very finest silent films ever made and for good reason.  Criterion presents this silent masterpiece in one of the year's best releases.  Don't miss this one!  Top recommendations!

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