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Pandora's Box

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

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mesmerizing... magical...

  • Apr 19, 2008
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 Wedekind ("Der Erdgeist" and "Die Büchse der Pandora"), Louise Brooks plays Lulu, a beautiful young dancer, full of life and vitality, and with a special talent in luring respectable men to ruin. Lulu is involved with an older newspaper magnate, Schön (Fritz Kortner), despite his engagement to another woman. Their affair blows wide open when his fiancee discovers them in a very compromising position; and Schön is forced to marry Lulu in order to avoid a scandal. On their wedding night, Schön tries to force Lulu to shoot herself, but in the ensuing struggle it's Schön who ends up dead, and Lulu is sentenced to five years in prison. Her friends create a distraction in the courtroom and Lulu flees the country with a "borrowed" passport. Accompanied by Schön's son Alwa (Franz Lederer), Lulu runs to London where her ultimate downfall is just around the corner...

Louise Brooks, with her shiny black bobbed hair and lithe dancer's body, was the ultimate 1920s jazz baby, a hoofer from the Midwest who never wanted to become a movie star, but unwittingly created one of the most haunting characters in movie history with Lulu in PANDORA'S BOX. Brooks made only a handful of movies (most of her early silents have sadly been lost forever), but we can be thankful PANDORA's BOX is still here, as vibrant and as vital as it was when first released back in '29.

PANDORA'S BOX is filled with lots of haunting imagery, the provocative storyline genuinely shocked audiences of the times (the film was heavily-edited following it's American debut). Perhaps most importantly, it preserves the heady atmosphere of pre-war Weimar Berlin, just a few short years before Hitler took power. According to sources, Pabst was just about to sign a young unknown called Marlene Dietrich until Brooks (in self-imposed exile from Hollywood) became available for the part.

If you're a fan of silent cinema, PANDORA'S BOX will be an essential title. If you want to start exploring the slender catalogue of Louise Brooks films, it's a great place to start.

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More Pandora's Box (The Criterion C... reviews
review by . December 22, 2008
posted in Cinema of Silence
Die Bücshe der Pandora
-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 …
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!
About the reviewer
Byron Kolln ()
Ranked #145
Byron has been actively involved in theatre since the age of 12. He has had a great variety of roles (both on-stage and off). In addition he has hosted the long-running "Show Business" programme … more
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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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