October Review – “The Golem”

In the early days of cinema, the horror film was almost exclusively the product of Germany. This 1920 film is one of the prime examples of early innovation in cinema’s most time-dependent genre.


In a retelling of the classic Jewish story, a rabbi creates a man out of clay to protect his community, but things do not go as planned.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Paul Wegener as the Golem
Albert Steinruck as Rabbi Loew
Lyda Salmonova as Miriam
Otto Gebuhr as Emperor Luhois

Screenplay by Henrik Galeen and Paul Wegener, based on the Gustav Meyrink novel.
Directed by Paul Wegener.

Full information is available at this IMDB page.

High Point

Stoking the fire.

Low Point

The counter-intuitive ending seems to contradict the intended lesson.

The Scores

This isn’t terribly original, given that it is simply an adaptation of a classic story. Now, given that this was done in 1920, that wasn’t such a problem. It hadn’t been adapted before, and dedicated screenwriters were just starting to appear. I give it 3 out of 6.

The effects, though good in their day, are quite dated and laughable by today’s standards. They just don’t age as well as those in some other titles. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story was effectively told, conveyed effectively even for silent movie audiences. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting was overdone by all involved, as was the case in 1920. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response was unimpressive. This isn’t a thriller, it’s a horror film. As such, it depends on the shock value it can impart on a desensitized audience. 87 years after the movie was made, audiences are unlikely to have a strong response to what we see here. I give it 2 out of 6.

The production was good for the day, and holds up well today. The careful editing and pacing, as well as the set design work well. Film technology limited what they could do with lighting, though. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a major piece of horror movie history, but it’s not going to scare anyone today. You can be entertained if you watch it as an adaptation of the classic story, though. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, The Golem receives 27 out of 42.

One reply

  1. Der Sequels

    It may be of interest to some readers to learn that Wegener directed and starred in three different Golem films: the 1915 present-day version, a 1917 comic send-up, and the big-budget adaptation reviewed here.

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