Waxworks

One of the last and most extreme of the German expressionist films (1923)—a perfect example of the strengths and limitations of the form. The director, Paul Leni, wrote, “I have tried to create sets so stylized that they evince no idea of reality.” He succeeded. Throughout this three-part film (different episodes center on Haroun al-Raschid, Ivan the Terrible, and Jack the Ripper), the images are wild and evocative, swelling with hidden threats. In the end, however, the relentless stylization renders the film emotionally sterile—it's something to be appreciated from a distance. With Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, and Emil Jannings.

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