30 May 2017



This is one of Fritz Lang's earliest films. It pre-dates even METROPOLIS (1926), probably the film for which he's best known. DER MÜDE TOD, a dark and shadowy contemplation of mortality, is said to have influenced or been revered by such iconic directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman and Luis Buňuel.

It wasn't available to view or to buy for a long time but now, after a top-notch digital restoration, it's coming to a cinema near YOU on the 9th of June, 2017. How absolutely unbelievably amazing is that? I for one am hugely looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. It'll be like getting actively smacked upside-the-head with the early nineteenth century, haha.

The story is as follows. A loved-up young couple, possibly honeymooners, give a mysterious hitch-hiker a ride in their carriage. Call it their rotten luck but the tall thin imposing figure in the long black cloak is, in fact, the personification of Death. They might have guessed...!

Death promptly takes away the young man's life. It's a sorry excuse for a 'thanks for the ride!,' if you ask me. The woman is, of course, distraught. Give Death a ride in your wee surrey and he rewards you by killing your beloved bloke. Sod that for a game of soldiers. No good deed goes unpunished, eh?

When the woman confronts him, Death explains that he's not really the bad guy in all this. He was only carrying out God's will. Lives are literally represented in the film by candles which flicker and gutter away before burning out completely. The woman's lover's time was up, that's all. So, it's all God's fault then, is it, Death? Talk about passing the buck...!

Anyway, to demonstrate the fragility and precariousness of life, Death tells the woman three stories. This should earn him precisely three sponge-baths, something which will make sense to you if you've ever watched the singing-hobo episode of THE SIMPSONS. 'Stabbing folks with my hobo-knife...!' is a line in the hobo's introductory song, to which Marge Simpson asks him if he'd mind singing 'something a little less... unnerving...!'

Death's three stories are set in Persia, Venice and China respectively. They are lavish and grandiose and each one illustrates how the lives of three separate pairs of doomed lovers are all hanging in the balance, their 'life-candles' perilously close to burning out.

The three charming and exotic vignettes all feature the four main players. I'm going to leave the stories a secret so that you can enjoy them fully when you see them in the cinema. I'm guessing that you won't want to miss out on a chance like that...!

When the stories have been told, Death makes a deal with the bereaved young woman, who spends a lot of time on her knees to Death in supplication but apparently never once thinks of giving him the blowjob that probably would have softened his heart even while it hardened his... well, his you-know-what. 

Any-hoo, the lack of any oral sex notwithstanding, Death gives the woman one hour in which to find a living being she can exchange for her beloved's life. The woman immediately rushes off to find such a willing, or should I say gullible, soul.

So, let me get this straight. If she can find someone willing to swap their lives for her boyfriend's, she'll get her man back and Death won't be going away empty-handed. Believe it or not, it proves surprisingly difficult to find someone so selfless and giving that they're prepared to lay down their own precious lives for some hysterical chick's dead bloke...!

DER MÜDE TOD (Weary Death: A German Folk Story In Six Verses) allows us some insight into the way Death feels about his job. Apparently, he doesn't take any spiteful pleasure in quenching out peoples' candle-lives or life-candles the way we often assume he does. 

That's as may be, but I still find it kinda hard to feel sorry for the dude. It's still a pretty cushy number if you ask me. You probably get special dispensations and life-extensions for family members and stuff and I presume it's a good safe pensionable position. With tenure...!

When Homer Simpson was Death in a TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS, he had tremendous fun with it. 'So, who am I giving the finger to today?' He misused his privilege shockingly, however, by killing anyone who had better seats than him at a baseball game. 

'Feed the worms! Take a dirt-nap! You're gone!' and so on and so forth. He always maintained that the uniform cloak was nice and roomy and comfy too. 'I finally found a dead guy's clothes that actually fit me...!'

Here's a juicy tit-bit of insider information for ye. Fritz Lang came up with his vision of Death as the tall black-garbed figure in the black hat from dreams he'd had while ill with fever as a child. Ingmar Bergman was influenced by Fritz Lang's vision when he made his own iconic movie, THE SEVENTH SEAL. If you've seen this film, you'll definitely make the connection yourselves.

Anyway, DER MÜDE TOD is in cinemas from the 9th of June and, if I were you guys, I'd rush out now and buy a ticket. This perfect and startlingly dramatic example of Fritz Lang's German Expressionism is a whopping ninety-six years old this year. It's even older than most octogenosauruses...!

It's hard to imagine something that old, isn't it? Much less, something that old that's not only withstood the test of time but could, with careful handling, survive another century or even more. You won't be watching a film so much as viewing a mouth-watering slice of cinematic history. Eat it while it's nice and hot...

A few extra details direct from the horse's mouth...

Der müde Tod will be released in selected cinemas nationwide (UK & Ireland) and Digital HD from 9 June 2017.
Now in 2017, in a new restoration by Anke Wilkening on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, this definitive presentation of Der müde Tod preserves the original German intertitles and simulates the historic colour tinting and toning of its initial release, and is accompanied by a newly-composed score by Cornelius Schwehr as a commissioned composition by ZDF / ARTE which was originally performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel, at Berlinale 2016.


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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