aka Woman in the Moon
Director – Fritz Lang
Starring – Willy Fritlch, Gerda Maurus, Klaus Pohl, Fritz Ralp, Gustav von Wangenheim
Run Time – 160 minutes
Language – Silent, English subtitles
Black & white
Release date – Monday 25th August
Label – Masters of Cinema/Eureka!
Professor Mannfeldt (Pohl) is being ridiculed by his peers for his theories that the moon is full of precious metals, mainly gold. Helius believes him however and is a rich man who is very interested in space travel. They plan to make a visit to the moon for its ‘resources’ a reality.
But Helius’s home is ransacked by some henchmen of an evil American businessman named Walter Turner. He discovers Helius and Mannfeldt’s plan to go to the moon and he wants in, due to his greed. Walter tells them they either let him go with them or he will have his men ruin their rocket. They have no choice but to comply.
The massive rocket is finally built and Mannfeldt, Turner, Helius and his assistant Windegger (von Wangenheim) and partner Friede (Maurus) board the vessel as they head to the moon to discover is the Professor’s theory is true or not. They make some startling discoveries.
Hailed by many as the last ‘epic of the silent era’ Frau Im Mond could rightly be just that. Frtiz Lang is known for cinematic brilliance like M and Metropolis but Frau Im Mond can be classified as a classic too. Made in 1929, a staggering 85 years ago, a lot of the methods used within make the film were decades ahead of its time.
The idea the moon contain tonnes of gold is laughable now but a very real belief back then. Fritz Lang was a big advocate of space travel and desperately wanted a mission to the moon to happen. He invested his own money in research and early attempts at creating a rocket to send into space. He was so confident that it would become a reality in 1929 he had planned for the ‘real rocket’ to be launched the day of Frau Im Mond’s première. Obviously this did not happen as space travel was decades away from happening.But it highlights how much the film and its subject matter meant to him.
The sequence in which the rocket to the moon is launched is stunning for its time. The direction, lighting and miniature models used are all light-years, no pun intended, ahead of anything in cinema of that era. Lang’s eye to detail, due to his knowledge on possible space travel, is seen the most during the sequence. The moon having no gravity was just a theory back then but Lang depicts the moon as being zero-gravity. Although he rather frivolously has the characters wear big boots with a massive lump of lead attached to each sole so they don’t ‘float away’. Also, no helmet and suit are required on the moon – they can breathe! It has an atmosphere.
The performances are all noteworthy as, due to the film’s silent nature, all actors involved use more facial expressions and body language to express emotion. Pohl, who would go on to appear in several other Lang features, is outstanding as the gurning Professor.
They discover that the moon really does have plenty of gold in it. This causes certain characters to become greedy and decide to sabotage the journey back to Earth for their own financial ends. Lang depicts this greed has being something that will corrupt man and something that is to be feared. Although the end of Frau Im Mond will leave no one in doubt as to what the director think’s is the true driving force of the human spirit.
Master’s of Cinema’s HD transfer is strong and limits any remaining imperfections that are on the movie. Occasional lines and scratches appear onscreen but thankfully don’t detract from the film. Colour does seems a little faded in places although as it’s black and white it just make’s certain scenes seem a little grey in places.
The sole extra is a 15 minute documentary, in German with English subs, which reveals a lot of information not just on the film but also Fritz Lang’s previously mentioned belief in sending a rocket into space. The documentary compares Fritz ideas of how to travel into space to how close they were to when man final did go into space in 1968.
He certainly knew his stuff. Frau Im Mond encouraged people to try harder in getting a rocket to the moon such was the films impact. It also was suppressed by the Nazi’s once they started their mission to get a rocket into space, they feared it was too realistic. A 36 page booklet is included and is full of photographs and study of Lang’s work by Michael E Grost.
Frau Im Mond really is a silent era epic that was a serious attempt at sci-fi before the genre became more widespread. The picture enhances Lang’s reputation as being a revolutionary and a master of cinema.
7 out of 10.