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Pandora's Box

The Criterion Collection's Special Edition DVD of the classic 1929 German melodrama.

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Die Bücshe der Pandora

  • Dec 22, 2008
-This review pertains to the Criterion Collection's 2-disc Special Edition DVD of Pandora's Box-

Georg Wilhelm Pabst's 1929 film Pandora's Box is a masterful melodrama. Based on Frank Wedekind's character Lulu, Pandora's Box is a classic of German cinema detailing the life and downward spiral of a sexually vivacious yet innocent young woman. The original plays (Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box), which served as inspiration, were vast and rambling accounts of Lulu's many relationships. G.W. Pabst felt that theatregoers would lose interest in what would have been for the time a terribly long film, so screenwriter Ladislaus Vajda greatly edited the original stories. Rather than focusing on Lulu's multiple relationships, Vajda uses those with Dr. Schön and his son, Alwa as the principal examples of Lulu's unintentionally destructive sexual appetite. However the eroticism of the film isn't ever directly shown, rather it is implied through longing glances, physical gestures and even in the costume design.
Louise Brooks

The film tells the story of Lulu, an irrepressible and irresistible young woman, who inadvertently uses her naïve sexual charms to seduce men into giving her what she wants. Though, she is clearly aware of her affect on men (and women), Lulu is oblivious to the disastrous consequences that her unrestrained affection causes. At first her flirtations help her to get ahead and Lulu is given a part in a musical revue, but when one of her lovers, Dr. Schön, tries to kill her in order to keep their affair a secret, he is accidentally killed instead. Lulu must flee the country or else suffer the legal penalty. She spends time on a gambling barge where Dr. Schön's son looks after her, but he has developed a serious gambling habit and they are being blackmailed. A man who knows of Lulu's identity says that he will inform the German authorities of her whereabouts if they do not pay him. After Alwa is caught cheating in a card game, trying to win the money, there is a riot and the boat catches fire and all aboard are evacuated. Alwa and Lulu end up in London where she becomes a prostitute and on Christmas, out of charity, she offers herself to a handsome stranger. This man turns out to be a conflicted killer (Jack the Ripper, in fact) and he murders Lulu. The irony being that Lulu in life was selfish in giving herself away to men and accepting their tokens of affection, all the while their lives fell apart and now Lulu gives herself away out of charity and she pays the price. But it is ultimately this final act that redeems her.

All dances must come to an end...
When the film was released it was unfairly criticized. German audiences were outraged that an American actress was playing the quintessentially German Lulu, and most critics felt the film to be emotionally shallow and the story to be disjointed. Only recently has Pandora's Box become so beloved by critics and film historians. The main reason for its current success is the rediscovery of Louise Brooks' naturalistic performance. One must remember that during the silent age many actors were stiff and gave forced performances while Louise Brooks was effortless and breezy, a true breath of fresh air.
Lulu and the Killer...

The 2006 Criterion Collection edition is spectacular. The film has never looked so sharp nor sounded so good. Included are four different musical scores* and an excellent audio commentary. Also included is a fascinating book about Louise Brooks and the making of the film, a documentary by Hugh Munro Neely, a lengthy interview with Brooks, an interview with Pabst's son and a photo gallery. Overall this 2-disc Special Edition set is a must-have for fans of silent cinema.

* = The six audio tracks are:
1. & 2. Orchestral Score by Gillian Anderson (in both stereo and surround)
3. Cabaret Score by Dimitar Pentchev
4. Modern Orchestral Score by Peer Raben
5. Piano Improvisation by Stéphan Oliva
6. Audio commentary with film historians Thomas Elsaesser and Mary Anne Doane

Criterion Collection 2-disc Special Edition DVD
Here's a link to the Criterion Collection website:
Die Bücshe der Pandora Innocent flirtation. Experiencing love. The Seductress. Lulu in Mourning The woman in black. The fall from grace.

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May 09, 2011
Not quite sure why but I've always like the name Pandora. As for Lulu, for some reasons I don't think anything good out of this name. It's illogical, or is it? 1929 movie? Oh wow, they are certainly advanced back then!
May 09, 2011
It's somewhat odd that you happened to comment on this particular review since I've been thinking about watching "Pandora's Box" when I get the chance to this week.
May 09, 2011
April 09, 2011
Another excellent review and while I have seen this film I actually had no idea it caused some problems with people.
April 09, 2011
Almost every film has upset someone I guess. LOL!
January 10, 2011
Wow, she is GORGEOUS! I've never heard of Louise Brooks- what else has she been in? This film sounds like a good addition to Netflix. Thanks, Sean :)
January 10, 2011
Her film career was cut short by public scandal and studio politics, but she did star in a few films. The only other two I know of that are available of DVD are "Diary of a Lost Girl" and "Prix de Beaute". If you do rent the DVD of this, see if you can rent it along with the second disc of special features as the documentaries and interviews of Louise Brooks are fascinating. She led such an eventful and troubled life.
By the way, it's funny you just happened to read this. I re-watched the film just the other night. I've been in the mood for silents lately. : )
January 11, 2011
I need to start my silent revelry! I'm sure a lot of other actresses shared her fate back then, they were slaves to the studios and treated horrifically. I'll be sure to get both discs cuz I'd love to learn more about her!
January 11, 2011
One of the things that's interesting about Louise Brooks is that she dished out as much as she took from the studio executives and directors. She was fiercely independent and if she didn't get exactly what she wanted then there was hell to pay.
January 11, 2011
I'm liking her more and more :) Maybe you can do a review on her?
January 11, 2011
That would be tricky since there would be so few films for me to discuss and also since a lot of the details of her from between the early '30s up until the '70s are unknown to me. Maybe, though. It would be fun.
August 17, 2010
Great review, I have to see this movie! What an alluring actress.
August 17, 2010
Oh, definitely. If you're a fan of silent films, this is essential viewing. It's easily one of my top five favorite silent films.
August 17, 2010
I have beena fan of Chaplin, (check my review of Modern Times) and Eisenstein, (I will be writing some reviews of his work soon). I am beginning to appreciate the medium more and want to expand my viewership.
August 17, 2010
Well, I could recommend a few titles as well as DVD companies that produce high quality restorations of films for you...
August 17, 2010
Please do so. Thanks
August 17, 2010
Okay, well I highly recommend Kino International's silent film restorations, The Criterion Collection's silent films, and some of Image Entertainment's silent films as well. Personally, I find Kino and Criterion to be the highest quality, but they're also the most expensive. In terms of actual films, I recommend anything with Chaplin, Lon Chaney, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, or directed by Tod Browning, F.W. Murnau, G.W. Pabst, and Fritz Lang. I've reviewed a number of DVD sets here if you want to see some of my highest recommendations.
August 17, 2010
Thanks for the recommendations. I will check out the reviews later tonight.
March 28, 2009
nice review, Count. I have got to get myself the criterion collection, the import I have wouldn't compare to it. I do understand why it caused the outrage of having an American actress play the role of a German role.--much like the Chinese playing Japanese roles in Memoirs of a Geisha.
March 30, 2009
Yeah, thanks. It's one of the older ones that I was telling you about that I might go back and add more in-depth analysis to. And I agree about the casting in "Memoirs of a Geisha". It just didn't work in that case, though I don't see why people of one ethnicity shouldn't play people of another. If they're a good enough actor, no one will know anyway and that's certainly the case in this film, which is silent so no one's gonna complain that she's not pronouncing the German correctly. Are you a Louise Brooks fan, as well?
January 31, 2010
Will you ever be answering that question? LOL!
February 01, 2010
oh that question...of course. I see you've uploaded a new pic on your review; awesome!!
February 01, 2010
Yeah, I've added a few new photos to most of my older reviews. Have you seen what I did to my review of "Watchmen", the graphic novel that is? Lots of new images. : )
February 01, 2010
of course I sicced Ulalume to your review...
February 01, 2010
I noticed. She seems cool. Not many vegans are into Poe and comic books. LOL!
By the way, when can we expect your review for "Watchmen". You haven't even given it a rating yet, I don't think.
February 01, 2010
Ulalume asked me the same question....maybe if my move goes smoothly I'll be back sooner. Off work starting tomorrow till Monday whoo-hoo!
February 01, 2010
Sweet. I'll have unlimited access to the net from about noon tomorrow until Thursday, so I'll send you a message around that time. I have some ideas that I think you may be interested in... Trashie too.
More Pandora's Box (The Criterion C... reviews
Quick Tip by . March 28, 2010
posted in Reel Overseas
The most important film of director G.W. Pabst & an all-time classic of German cinema. A silent film lover's feast!
review by . April 19, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
One of the last great works of the silent cinema, G.W. Pabst's PANDORA'S BOX was cruelly-ignored and dismissed by both audiences and critics upon it's original release in 1929. It wasn't until the George Eastman House revived the movie in the 1950s' that it finally started to receive it's full recognition--and resurrected it's luminous star Louise Brooks from an impoverished, destitute existence in New York in the process.    Based on two separate German plays written by Frank …
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About this movie



Film Still

Pandora’s Box
Georg Wilhelm Pabst



133 minutes

Black and White





One of the masters of early German cinema, G. W. Pabst had an innate talent for discovering actresses (including Greta Garbo). And perhaps none of his female stars shone brighter than Kansas native and onetime Ziegfeld girl Louise Brooks, whose legendary persona was defined by Pabst’s lurid, controversial melodrama Pandora’s Box. Sensationally modern, the film follows the downward spiral of the fiery, brash, yet innocent showgirl Lulu, whose sexual vivacity has a devastating effect on everyone she comes in contact with. Daring and stylish, Pandora’s Box is one of silent cinema’s great masterworks and a testament to Brooks’s dazzling individuality.

Lulu Louise Brooks Dr. Schön Fritz Kortner Alwa Schön Francis Lederer Schigolch Carl Goetz Rodrigo Quast Krafft-Raschig Countess Geschwitz Alice Roberts Dr. Schön's fiancee Daisy d'Ora Jack Gustav Diessl

Director Georg Wilhelm Pabst Based on a play by Frank Wedekind Screenplay Ladislaus Vajda Cinematography Gunther Krampf Producer Heinz Landsmann Editing Joseph Fleisler Art direction Andrej Andrejew and Gottlieb Hesch
Disc Features


  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the definitive Munich Film Museum restoration
  • Four musical scores, each offering its own interpretation of the film
  • ...
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Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, Gay & Lesbian, Romance
Release Date: 1929
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: November 28, 2006
Runtime: 133 minutes
Studio: The Criterion Collection
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