Ernst Lubitsch’s The Wildcat on Blu-ray

This is not one of Ernst Lubitsch’s best works. In fact, without the beautiful and talented Pola Negri, and the very strange scenery, it would barely be worth watching.

This German film was made and released in 1921.

Negri plays the leader of a gang of very nice outlaws. She appears to the only woman in the gang, and she has a very strange way of keeping her goons in check. She spanks them. They seem to like it. All of them want to marry her.

There’s a military fort, of course. This is where Lubitsch gets a chance to make fun of the military. A lieutenant (Paul Heidemann) falls in love with the leader of the gang, or maybe he’s pretending to love her, as part of his job.

While the gang’s camp looks relatively normal, the fort resembles something out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, replete with strange and seemingly impossible sets. The furniture looks extremely uncomfortable. Also, like Caligari, parts of the frame are almost always masked.

Unlike Caligari, the movie is basically a comedy. But for the most part, this is not the film to show off Lubitsch’s comic genius.

How It Looks

Like almost any silent movie, the film was shot – and was intended to be shown – at the 1.33×1 aspect ratio. But with all that masking, the concept of aspect ratio seems pointless.

The image quality is amazing for a film that is more than a century ago. There are no tints (or at least I didn’t notice them).

How It Sounds (and reads)

Marco Dalpane provided a very good musical score that fit the movie like a glove. Kino presents the recording in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0ch 48kHz.

Kino used the original German intertitles, with English subtitles. That works most of the time. But sometimes you get written English on top of written German, making it difficult to read.

And the Extras

  • Audio commentary by film historian Anthony Slide: Moderately interesting. He tells us that this was one of Lubitsch’s few flops.
  • When I Was Dead: This earlier short is much better than The Wildcat. It was made in 1916 and runs only 37 minutes. It’s also titled Where Is My Treasure. An unhappily married man (played by Lubitsch, who also directed) tricks his awful wife and mother-in-law. This marriage comedy is much better than the full feature. The music is by Aljoscha Zimmermann.
  • Commentary for When I Was Dead from Joseph McBride: Excellent commentary.