(1927, Ger, 156 min original (44 min surviving), b/w) Dir Lupu Speyer. Cast Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Wera Engels, Alfred Abel.
The product, like the same years’ Metropolis, of the late twenties film budget excesses and, also like Metropolis, a less than resounding success at the box office. The two film’s paths have diverged since, with Metropolis accumulating praise and restorations while Götz von Berlichingen has never been easily available in any format. This reviewer, for example, has only seen it by virtue of the shockingly truncated copy held as part of the collection of a wealthy aficionado (whose name must remain anonymous). Loosely based on Goethe’s play of the same name, the surviving film includes the most famous parts of von Berlichingen’s life such as the loss of his arm by cannonball (rendered in full gory glory) and its replacement with one made of iron. In a move typical of the liberal national mood of the time, von Berlichingen’s famous statement during the siege of his castle at Jagsthausen – “…sag’s ihm, er kann mich im Arsche lecken!” – is included in full as a title card, something unthinkable before or after. It is perhaps this, in addition to the films irreverent attitude to a person who had both submarines and a Panzergrenadier division named after him by the Nazis, that meant that it was suppressed in the years that followed as ‘degenerate art’. It’s not a perfect film – at least as far as can be judged in its current form – but its well shot, well acted and deserves to be seen by more than the occasional dedicated hunter.