31 January 2017



I love a good old love triangle, whether it's in a book or a film. Furthermore, if it's well done, it shouldn't matter if the book or film is newly-released or a hundred years old. In the case of the movie VARIETÉ, well, it's almost a full century old but the love triangle and the revenge story are as fresh as newly-cut daisies.

Men and women have engaged in saucy adulterous shenanigans since the time of Neanderthal Man, and the results are always of interest to the voyeuristic movie-watching/tabloid-reading public. Everyone loves a nice juicy sex-scandal...!

This is such a timeless story. Famous German actor Emil Jannings takes the lead role here as a man called Boss Huller, a former trapeze artist who's stuck living in a poky circus caravan with his frumpy wife and crying baby. Well, it was his choice to get hitched, so don't go feeling sorry for him!

And his missus has only let herself go because she has a husband and baby to look after now, so don't be blaming her for the frayed state of the marriage. Don't forget that it takes two to tango, people...

Anyway, into this stressful situation comes a cuckoo in the nest. Boss takes a beautiful young orphaned dancing girl into his home and under his wing, much to the disgust of his spouse. Bertha-Marie, the dancer, wastes no time inveigling herself into the affections of Boss who, let's face it, is positively ripe for a little sexual distraction right about now.

Before long, he's forgotten that he ever had a wife and child. He sets up home with Bertha, a comely 'Twenties beauty with the doe eyes and the lissom limbs of the period. She's a bewitching little hussy, in other words. Boss feels so young and invigorated that he even takes up the trapeze again, with Bertha as his partner of the air as well as on the ground. Isn't it amazing what a bit of how's-your-father can do for a bloke's self-esteem? He thinks he can do anything once he's getting some, haha.

There's a little thing called karma, though, which you might have heard of, that has a habit of getting involved in situations like this one. What goes around comes around, in other words. Into the snug wee love-nest of Boss and Bertha comes their very own cuckoo, or viper, more like, in the form of Artinelli, a virile young trapeze artist.

He wants the three of them to perform together. What heights they'll scale, there under the spotlight in the Big Top with all eyes glued to them! The sneaky Artinelli has an ulterior motive, however. He has his beady eye on one half of the cosy newly-formed couple he wants to separate. And I can tell you categorically now for nothing, it ain't the burly, hulking Boss whose form he's warm for...

This is such an exciting film, with revolutionary camerawork that captures the terrifying trapeze sequences to absolute perfection. The circus would always be a great setting for a film anyway, but there's something so dangerous and reckless about the trapeze that your heart's literally in your mouth every time someone does something scary, such as letting go of their own trapeze to grab hold of another one, or even to grab at a passing flying person...! 

It's the perfect milieu, as it were, for a crime of passion and a nice little spot of revenge. Hold onto your hats, folks. High levels of tension and peril will ensue...

The film's been digitally restored, anyway, and it's available now in a 2K Dual Format Edition as part of the MASTERS OF CINEMA SERIES in conjuction with EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT. 

It's a silent film, as you know, in German with English subtitles, and you have a choice of three musical scores: scores by Stephen Horne, The Tiger Lilies and Johannes Contag all feature. They're all excellent, but the score by The Tiger Lilies would be my personal recommendation. The extraordinary singing complements every action in the film so beautifully, you'll be glad you gave this one a go.

The film features camerawork from the guys who worked on Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS and F.W. Murnau's FAUST, so you know you're in exalted company there. 

Emil Jannings turns in a powerhouse of a performance as the disloyal husband who in turn is forced to wear the cuckold's horns. I think he was a terrific and actually quite handsome actor, but unfortunately for him he was virtually unemployable as an actor after the Second World War because he'd been involved in making several films that were intended to promote Nazism. Yikes, talk about a major ooopsies...!

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister For Propaganda, actually dubbed Jannings an 'Artist Of The State,' and apparently Teutonic sex-bomb and influential anti-Nazi activist Marlene Dietrich detested Jannings for his ties to the Nazis. Two opposing sides of the coin there, as you can see.

He was a great actor though, this Herr Jannings fellow, and he even won a Best Actor Oscar at one point, with the distinction of being both the first recipient of the Award and still the only German to have received it. That's pretty impressive anyway, Nazi connections notwithstanding, haha...!

VARIETÉ is the best revenge melodrama I've seen in a long time. And it's nearly a hundred years old, which I think is rather extraordinary. I think it just goes to show you that a good story is a good story, no matter how ancient. Do yourself a favour and watch it, with the score I personally recommended. It'll blow your mind.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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