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Kino on Video presents
The Doll (1919)

"I will not marry a woman!"
- Lancelot (Hermann Thimig)

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: December 17, 2007

Stars: Hermann Thimig, Ossi Oswalda, Victor Janson, Gerhard Ritterband, Max Kronert
Director: Ernst Lubitsch

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for mild comic violence
Run Time: 01h:04m:13s
Release Date: December 04, 2007
UPC: 738329056025
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-BB+ A

DVD Review

Kino brought us four discs of Ernst Lubitsch material last year covering some of his German films, and they return to that well with this additional disc, coupling 1919's The Doll (Die Puppe) with the feature-length documentary Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin. Kino is also issuing a box set with all five discs, enabling latecomers to grab everything at once; if you already have the previous discs, this title is available on its own as well.

The release of this disc ties in, at least in terms of plot content, with 2007's Lars and the Real Girl, in which, more or less, a man escapes ties to actual humans by pairing up with a life-like doll. In Lubitsch's film, that character is Lancelot (Hermann Thimig), a timid young man who agrees to give the large dowry offered by his uncle (Max Kronert) to a group of shifty monks if they can find him a way out of getting married. Their solution is to visit the dollmaker Hilarius (Victor Janson), who makes lifelike dolls. His latest creation is a copy of his daughter Ossi (Ossi Oswalda), and when Hilarius' assistant (Gerhard Ritterband) breaks the doll, the real Ossi steps in.

This snip of a film (it clocks in at only 64 minutes) is quite slight, but its length keeps its from overstaying its welcome too much. That said, there isn't too much going on here; much of the running time revolves around simple gags deriving from Hilarius' assistant or others reacting to Ossi's behavior as the "doll." In that regard it works, as the movie has several laughs and the performers are game to entertain. As the assistant, Ritterband has a fine time antagonizing Janson's Hilarius. Oswalda plays her usual role for Lubtisch as a spirited, sometimes petulant young woman. It's hard to imagine what she could possibly find attractive in Lancelot, who must be one of the most spineless, cretinous characters you'll ever see. But, as this is essentially a filmed fairy tale, things must end up happily.

Lubitsch livens things up with any number of effects and stylizations, including a lovely beginning in which he underlines the performance aspect by filming himself putting together a miniature of the set on which the film begins, which then segues into the beginning of the story. His mastery of the various techniques at his disposal greatly enriches what is otherwise unexceptional material.

Kino has also included on this disc the full length documentary Lubitsch in Berlin, discussed in the extras section below. If you've already grabbed other discs in the series, this documentary alone makes the disc well worth a purchase.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer comes from a restoration by the FW Murnau-Stiftung, with the German intertitles replaced, as is often the case with Kino, by new English titles. The picture quality is otherwise decent, as much as the materials will allow; the contrast is somewhat uneven on a couple occasions, tending toward being too high, but this is not a constant problem by any means.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0music onlyno

Audio Transfer Review: The piano score by Jon C. Mirsalis comes across fine in the 2.0 track, and it's a lively enough, serving the picture's whimsy suitably.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Documentaries
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Lubitsch filmography
Extras Review: The full-length documentary Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin (01h:49m:20s) serves as the only extra, but it's an excellent one, covering Lubitsch's time in Berlin from his days as a working actor through his rise as a director, which culminated in his move to Hollywood, where he continued to make acclaimed work. Featuring interviews with Lubitsch's daughter and other family members and a passel of filmmakers and critics, this really must be seen if you are at all interested in Lubitsch and his work. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with English subtitles where necessary.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

If this is the wrap-up disc to Kino's Lubitsch in Berlin series, they've gone out well, with the enjoyable feature and a full length documentary covering this period of the master director's career.


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