Public Domain Theater (Halloween Special): The Golem

GreetGhoultings and salspookutations, my Children of the Night Avocado.

Welcome to a special, All Hallows’ Eve edition of Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

For an appropriately eerie Halloween offering, Public Domain Theater once again dives into the realm of German Expressionism, with the Gothic fantasy The Golem: How He Came into the World.

Based on the folktale of the Golem of Prague, the film tells how the Rabbi Loew (faced with yet another instance of Medieval monarchs trying to force all the Jews out) creates a living servant out of clay who can wow the court and earn the denizens of the Jewish ghetto some good will. That part of the plan goes well enough. But as the original folktale was an inspiration for the novel Frankenstein (and this film an inspiration for Universal Studios’ Frankenstein) it should come as little surprise that creation eventually turns against creator, with much havoc being wrought.

With the wonderfully expressive yet uncanny makeup on the golem, and other striking visuals (such as the conjuring of the demon Astaroth), this is a sterling example of this breed of Silent Era dark fantasy. Perhaps practice makes perfect, as this was director Paul Wegener’s third effort at bringing the golem to the silver screen. As those previous efforts are now lost films, no living person can say how they stack up against the golem flick we have now. (One wonders if Wegener had kept going with the concept, we might have gotten The Golem 4: In Space and The Golem Takes Manhattan.)

So if you’re undecided on the perfect spooky cinema to enjoy this Halloween Night, help yourself to this classic from the public domain!