Edward Karam
November 19, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

EW reviews the ”Fritz Lang Epic Collection”

The German director’s extraordinary visual flair is on display in the Fritz Lang Epic Collection, a set of five splendid silents. The renowned Metropolis is here, as well as the two parts of Die NibelungenSiegfried and Kriemhild’s Revenge — Germany’s intense folk epic, complete with dragon slaying, blood-letting, and forward fashions in women’s helmets. But there’s more sheer fun — and that includes spurts of overacting — in two films newly restored for DVD. In Spies, a crime czar tries to acquire a secret treaty with Japan, while his chief agent (Gerda Maurus) falls for her opposite, known only as No. 326 (Willy Fritsch). The feverish plot churns up as much adventure as any James Bond movie —assassins, sex, hara-kiri — but Lang also details the mechanics of espionage, showing a clever spy sabotaging the writing carrels at a post office to snare a copy of a secret telegram. The Fritsch-Maurus chemistry carries over to Woman in the Moon, in which a space expert (Fritsch) is forced to lead a moon expedition to find gold. Though the plot eventually turns melodramatic and some of the science is silly, those drawbacks are offset by vivid, layered characters and action. The frank sexuality, gender equality, and Lang’s confident direction make both films feel surprisingly modern.

Woman: B+
All others: A-

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