16 AUGUST 1930, Page 12

The Cinema


IT would be hard to find a theme with greater cinematographic possibilities than that of the adventure of mountain climbing. In The White Hell of Pitz Palu4a silent film which has already been shown at various cinemas in London and can now be seen at the Rialto, the directors, Dr. Arnold Franck and Dr. Pabst, have made the very most of their opportunities, and the result is a beautiful, exciting and satisfying production.

In the Engadine, the Pitz Palu invites adventurous souls to climb its perilous slopes. Some years ago, from the time when the story opens, Dr. Krafft (sympathetically played by Gustave Diess1), who had accepted for his bride and himself the challenge of the mountain to climb its most dangerous overhanging rather than perpendicular North Wall, lost his wife in the attempt. The White Hell of Pitz Palu—which was filmed actually on the Palu mountain—tells the story of Dr. Krafft's second attempt to conquer the North Wall, accom- panied by Maria and Hans Brandt. Full of enthusiasm and joie de vivre the three mountaineers set out for their climb. In an exquisite setting of dazzling snow, sunshine, occasional cloud shadows and endless peaks stretching away in the dis- tance, the climbers slowly make their ascent. Sometimes I could hardly bear to watch them gripping the icy surface with their alpenstocks, cutting a foothold in a sheet of ice, so precipitous that one could scarcely believe it could be surmounted. The tension was terrific. It was with a sigh of relief that I watched them pause for a few moments on a ledge about a yard wide. Just as they are setting off again, the young foolhardy husband, who insisted on leading them, is knocked down the mountain by a snow slide which falls thunderously from the summit. We see' him hanging from the rope in mid air. With courage and skill Dr. Krafft succeeds in rescuing him—at the cost of a broken leg. The party are stranded on their miserable ledge. The wind rises, causing the loose snow to blow like a blizzard in their faces ; the sun sets ; and a full moon shines on the unhappy trio.

But the people living at the foot of Palu, well used to this sort of situation, set out with torches in the dead of night to search for the victims of the mountain. There were some most effective shots of the torchbearing rescue parties winding their way slowly up the slopes. After a night and a day of searching, Dr. Krafft and his friends are eventually spotted by a pilot from an aeroplane, who loops the loop over the spot where they are waiting, almost dead with cold and hunger. Eventually the young couple are rescued.

The film, as I said before, was actually made on the moun- tain of Palu, and so there is no studio faking about the moun- tain climbing feats. Because of its reality, it is as exciting as any film I have ever seen. The photography is excellent. This silent Universal Picture should do much to encourage the revival of public interest in the silent film.

The first German talking picture which has been shown in London is as interesting as I had hoped it would be, but not as good a film as it should have been when one considers the intelligence which was obviously put into its direction. It is not that The Blue Angel tells such a very original story —its theme is a hackneyed one, of back stage life. But the story has been artistically treated as a talkie picture. The plot of the story again and again depends on sound ; the blowing of a nose, the singing of a song, a musical box in a doll, and the imitation of the crowing of a cock.

Emil Jannings's performance as a German Professor, and later as the pathetic clown in a third-rate music hall company, is marvellous. Certainly he should help to develop the talking picture to at least a stage of adolescence. Lola, the successful star, is charming.

It is a great pity that The Blue Angel, which begins so promisingly (I have seldom seen a better scene than that of the Professor with his class) should have ended in the most absurd and unconvincing melodrama. But this is the first German talkie we have seen, and it has certainly the germs of something good in it.