Pandora’s Box

In DVD/Blu-ray by Paula Hammond - Features Editor

G.W. Pabst’s melodrama, Pandora’s Box remains as impressive today as it was when it was released in 1929. Reviled and bowdlerised for decades, if you’ve seen the film at all, it’s likely that you’ve viewed one of the heavily cut editions, which sanitised much of Pabst’s daring narrative and Louise Brooks’ erotically-charged performance.

Adapted from work by playwright Frank Wedekind, Pandora’s Box follows the tale of prostitute, Lulu, whose free spirit frequently leaves chaos in its wake. When Lulu’s latest lover, the newspaper tycoon, Ludwig Schon (Fritz Kortner) tries to leave her for a respectable marriage, Lulu sets out the wreck Schon’s plans — with devastating results. As Lulu stands trial for murder, her former pimp and a besotted lesbian countess (Alice Roberts) step in to help.

The role of Lulu was originally intended for Marlene Dietrich, but this was the role that made Brooks an icon — and she still sparkles in every scene, with a performance that forms the focus and emotional heart of the film. 

Despite working in Europe, Brooks was an American. She was also a feminist, a flapper, outspoken, and talented, in an era when so many actresses were just pretty faces. Ironically, with her stylish bob and her elfin features, she did become one of the faces of the ‘20s. Yet, her light faded long before it should have, thanks to her determination not to bow to the pressures of studio bosses, who were used to using and abusing young stars as they saw fit. It’s to be hoped that Eureka’s new release will reestablish her rightful place in the canon of early cinema.

Daring, hypnotic, erotic, and surprising … Pandora’s Box is all these things. It also makes for a fascinating glimpse into a pre-Hay’s Code cinema, where directors and screenwriters were free to explore, experiment, (and, yes, occasionally exploit) in a way that wouldn’t be seen again for generations.

This 2k restoration is available on blu-ray for the first time, in a limited release of 3000 copies— making it a must-buy for fans of silent cinema.

Special features include:

  • Limited Edition Hard case featuring artwork by Tony Stella.
  • Limited Edition 60-Page Book featuring new writing on the film by critics Alexandra Heller Nicholas, Imogen Sara Smith, and Richard Combs; alongside archival stills and imagery.
  • 1080p HD presentation on blu-ray from a definitive 2K digital restoration.
  • Optional English subtitles.
  • Orchestral Score by Peer Raben.
  • New audio commentary by critic Pamela Hutchinson.
  • New visual appreciation by author and critic Kat Ellinger.
  • New video essay by David Cairns.
  • New video essay by Fiona Watson.