Josef Von Sternberg directs Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich and Kurt Gerron in this tragedy where a stuffy professor becomes enthralled by a nightclub singer, risking his reputation to be with her.
What starts as mild farce slowly descends into a torturous passion play. The slight comedy gives way to a finale that is genuinely unpredictable and gripping. Emil Janning’s pitiful professor has the mirror held up to how low his lusts have dragged him down; will he murder, suicide or snap out of his madness? All while clucking like a chicken for his hometown crowd. The film is famous as the break-out performance of Dietrich… she’s absolutely gorgeous in it, remaining an unfathomable enigma and a siren on which men will believably wreck themselves.