Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hermann Thimig, Ossi Oswalda, Max Kronert, Victor Janson, Gerhard Ritterband, Josefine Dora, Marga Köhler
Written by: Hanns Kräly, Ernst Lubitsch
Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 64
Date: 12/05/1919

The Doll (1919)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Doll' Guy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Kino Video has released this late addition to their superb Lubitsch in Berlin DVD box set, and it's a definite high point. That box was heavy on Lubitsch's dramatic costume epics and not enough comedy, so this snappy, 64-minute gem is most welcome. (The box set is now available complete with all seven titles on five discs.) The Baron of Chanterelle (Max Kronert) demands that his nephew Lancelot (Hermann Thimig) get married to preserve the family line. A skittish and effeminate fellow, Lancelot does not wish to marry, so when his uncle presents him with 40 enthusiastic brides, he hides out with a group of monks. The gluttonous monks learn about Lancelot's potential cash reward for his nuptials, so they cook up a plan: he can marry a doll. Of course, the doll is accidentally switched for a real girl, Ossi (Ossi Oswalda), the daughter of the toymaker Hilarius (Victor Janson), and she must pretend to be artificial. That's a lot of plot for such a short film, and Lubitsch speeds it through with his usual grace. In one scene, the army of brides chases our hero and they insist on following his exact steps, rather than simply doubling back and actually catching him. The film also has a wonderfully consistent tone, as demonstrated by the bizarre, paper cut-out sets. Still, on this film Lubitsch doesn't quite reach his pinnacle of refinement, demonstrated in his masterpiece The Wildcat from two years later. Kino's disc comes with a new feature-length (109-minute) documentary Lubitsch in Berlin, directed by Robert Fischer. It's pretty dry and typical, but it does interview filmmaker Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume), who helped stage a recent Lubitsch revival in Germany.

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