Three and a Half Tombs: Part Four
Films from an International Consortium (1958-60)

The Third Tomb

Following the Second World War, the motion picture studios in Germany were not idle for long, and one of the people who helped get the industry back on its feet was the legendary Artur Brauner. A Polish Jew who spent most of the war years in Russia, he moved to Berlin in 1946. It’s not clear how much (if any) previous experience he had with motion pictures, but in Berlin’s American sector, he founded the Central Cinema Company and began producing and distributing films. Since starting the company in 1946, he is supposed to have produced somewhere around three hundred films. (As of this writing, he is still alive.)

If he’d had no previous experience as a producer, he’d had plenty of experience watching and loving films. He was familiar with the work of many of the filmmakers who had left Germany because of the Nazis, and he wanted to repatriate them. In particular, so the story goes, he admired the German films of Fritz Lang, and he approached Lang about returning to Germany to do some films. Brauner remembered many of Lang’s great films, particularly his two sound films, M and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. He proposed that Lang consider coming back to Germany to make new versions of these films.
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Cover of Der Spiegel honoring Artur Brauner on the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2008.
At first, Lang resisted. He had been in Hollywood for roughly twenty years, and although critics admired much of his work, he had worn out his welcome at virtually all the studios, and his career was clearly in a downward spiral. Going back to Germany under those circumstances looked a bit like a retreat. In 1956, Lang directed what would be his last American film, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, and had no immediate prospects on the horizon. Still, he declined Brauner’s overtures.

But.


Brauner had been in negotiations with von Harbou’s estate for the rights to The Indian Tomb, and he brought the project to Lang. This was another matter entirely. Lang had collaborated on the first screenplay, but he had not been given a chance to direct the film, to bring his vision to life. Remaking Tomb would not be a retreat—it would be more like a chance to settle an old score. His former nemesis Joe May had emigrated from Germany to America at the same time as Lang. May had worked as a director, too, but without great success. He’d made his last picture in 1944, and then he had partnered with Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch, and Hedy Lamarr to open a Hollywood restaurant called The Blue Danube, which specialized in Austrian-Hungarian cuisine. However, the restaurant was not open long and proved a financial disaster for its backers. May had died in 1954, so Lang could not have had the pleasure of rubbing May’s nose in the idea of Lang at last directing the film that May had taken away from him back in the early '20s, but at least, Lang could have the satisfaction of finishing what he had started.


He agreed.


Brauner had already employed a writer, Werner Jörg Lüuddecke, to prepare a script. Naturally, Lang then set upon rewriting that script. Lang’s biographer McGilligan says that Lang nearly drove Lüuddecke insane by obsessing over every little detail in the screenplay before filming started—and it shows on screen. With this film, we return to the meticulous control that Lang imposes on a film, although the control is not so absolute as before. Details matter here, unlike the loosey-goosey Eichberg film, although not all the loose ends are tied up by the end. Oddly, the story of this film is about one-third Eichberg, one-third von Harbou, and one-third Lang. In fact, the screenplay is credited to Werner Jörg Lüuddecke, from an original “idea” by Thea von Harbou and the “Welterfolg” (“world success”) of Richard Eichberg.

“World success”? Really?


The factor that really differentiates this film version from the others is the way Seetha’s character has been completely reworked and expanded. She doesn’t exist in the novel at all, and in the screenplay Lang developed with von Harbou, Savitri is very one-dimensional, one of Lang’s bad women who destroys good men. We see her openly and wantonly carrying on with MacAllan, and her self-sacrifice at the end is her tacit admission of guilt for her actions. In the Eichberg film, Sitha is just as guilty, but she is extremely passive. Sitha supposedly knew Sascha and had had feelings for him before the prince rescued her from a bad situation. When we meet her, she is happy to be the prince’s intended—it is Sascha’s unexpected appearance that changes everything. She does not initiate anythingcthe prince and Sascha just push her around, and all she does is react to events.  Even her death at the end of the film is equivocal—why does she jump in front of the prince to take the bullet? Guilt? Love for Chandra? Bad choreography?


But in this third film, Lang (or Lüuddecke?) makes a subtle change in the story that makes this character less passive and a lot more sympathetic. At the beginning of the film, Seetha and the prince are not married. He is a recent widower, and she is a devout temple dancer—not a nightclub dancer—whom he has hired for services in Eschnapur. The story is that the prince's previous wife expired unexpectedly, and when he saw Seetha dancing in a temple somewhere, he was emotionally vulnerable and fell hard for her. He hopes to stoke her coals, but as the film begins, they do not yet have a personal relationship. Subsequently, she meets and becomes swept off her feet by Harald Berger, the character corresponding to Sascha Demidoff. But Harald is a nice guy, not a ne’er-do-well, and when she and Harald meet, she has made no commitment to the prince (other than the temple gig), so her feelings for Harald do not represent any kind of infidelity or betrayal. When she fails to succumb to the prince's charms and he finds out that she has feelings for Harald, the prince becomes unhinged and turns into the vindictive rajah from the von Harbou novel. In this situation, she is not passive. She makes Harald her choice and sticks to him. And we in the audience are rooting for her.


​Fritz Lang, 1958.
As in the case of the Eichberg film, the part of Seetha was cast with a real dancer: Colorado-born Debra Paget. Like "La Jana," she was a heck of a dancer, and she had already played a similar role in 20th Century Fox’s 1954 desert epic, Princess of the Nile. In that film she played a dual role, kind of like a female Zorro; she is Princess Shalimar, who is working to protect her people from some bad Bedouins led by Michael Rennie. Evenings, she sneaks out of the palace and dances at a tavern called The Tambourine, where she goes by the name of Taura. (We’re not making this up.) Lang was apparently not too happy with her, but he certainly used her to advantage.

As in the Eichberg film, Udaipur is again used for attractive location photography, so many scenes look strangely familiar—only, in color. Also, the film is again in two parts with a cliff-hanger in the middle, a practice that had all but disappeared by the time this remake was done.


One other odd detail is that the film was not made in a widescreen process as was common for such costume epics at the time. Lang had made some widescreen films in Hollywood, but this film uses the old-fashioned 4:3 aspect ratio. (More about this issue follows the synopsis.)


Part One: The Tiger of Eschnapur (​Das Tiger von Eschnapur)


They don't call Hollywood the "Dream Factory" for nothin', folks!
We open with some establishing scenes that don’t establish much. It’s evening in the desert somewhere, and we find ourselves outside a cuartel of some sort. Soldiers go in and out, and an unidentified European (Harald Berger, played by Paul Hubschmid) is resting and smoking a cigarette. The camera picks up a boy and his dog. (Why? Lang has his reasons.) A bell rings, and the children and other people scatter, presumably going back to their homes. The European inquires where everyone has gone, and he is told that everyone is going inside because of a tiger that has attacked several people. The gates of the cuartel, are closed as he goes inside. At the well, a couple of soldiers are bullying a young woman (Bharani, who is played by an almost completely unidentifiable Luciana Paluzzi), but the European intervenes. They then exit to their separate rooms.

Really! This is the first shot of the picture--following a lot of elaborate credits, this​ is the first thing we see. But what is it? Where are we? Who is he?
Through a cleft in the wall, the man sees an attractive woman (Seetha, Debra Paget). He introduces himself: Harald Berger. He says he is an architect on his way to Eschnapur to assist in some civic building projects. She gives her name and thanks him for standing up for her servant, Bharani. Conversation is then interrupted by the sound of a tiger nearby.

Hearing the tiger's roar, we see the dog run out of camera, pursuing the beast, with the boy, in alarm, chasing him through the street; but the tiger catches them and kills them off camera. (Same boy and dog as before, but we have a stronger emotional response to their death because we saw them earlier. The old master is back in charge now.)


By the time Harald turns back towards the woman, she is gone. He then knocks on the wall and speaks through it to suggest that for the sake of safety they continue on the journey together.
The next day, she and her servant are riding in a carriage with Harald on horse following along. 


Seetha thanks Harald for defending her serving woman. 
Just as they meet up with an escort of the prince’s soldiers, the tiger leaps out of the jungle, roaring. The troops all scatter, but the cat manages to knock over the carriage with Debra Paget still inside. Harald grabs a flaming brand from the campfire and brandishes it in the tiger’s face. The tiger, apparently not interested in having its whiskers singed, takes off. Harald helps Seetha out of the partially collapsed carriage, and she remarks, “It was a miracle, sahib. I had a dream in which I saw two tigers fighting each other. They were fighting over me. For my life. You know, sahib, you are part of India now.”

Ah, yes. Two tigers will be fighting over her for the rest of the film.


Quick-thinking Harald grabs a flaming log from the fire and scares off the tiger who has upset Seetha's carriage.
Now we cut to what is presumably the prince’s palace—there’s a general shortage of establishing shots in this picture—and the prince (Chandra, played by Walther Reyer) is feeding tigers in two different cages. We don’t clearly understand the place yet, but it’s a sort of tiger pit. And now we get a talky exposition scene that feels very amateurish. Four men watch the prince and tell each other things they should already know—for the benefit of the audience. (Pay attention! There will be a quiz!) Ramigani (René Deltgen), the prince’s brother (this time), observes, “The Maharani’s death has affected Chandra strangely.” Another man, who we will learn is Padhu (Jochen Brockman, who looks a heluva lot like Orson Welles), then says, “He should have cared for my sister better. What’s this about a dancer from the south?” Ramigani answers, “He saw her in the temple of Benares. He’s been searching for her.” Yama, a priest (Valéry Inkijinoff) adds, “The temple priests think the prince’s thoughts are too often in foreign worlds since he went to Europe.” The guy with the funny hat then says, “I don’t like Chandra’s Western ideas. Do you, Ramigani?” He gives an evasive answer, “I do not rule Eschnapur, Prince Padhu. I am just my brother’s servant.” The fourth man, a noble named Bhowana, steps up and says, “But many people think it was wrong to pass you over in the succession.”


Now we cut back to the camp, where Harald is talking to Seetha. He asks if she has been to Europe, but she says, “Your gods are not worshiped through dance.” He says he’d like to see her dance, but she says foreigners are not allowed in the temple.

The conspirators watch Chandra feeding the tigers. From left to right, Bhowana, Ramigani (the most villainous iteration of this character in all three films), Padhu (with the funny hat), and the priest, Yama.
Later at the palace, Harald is received by the prince, and the prince is complimentary of the work that Harald and a Mr. Rhode have accomplished. (Walter Rhode apparently is in Calcutta, where he and his wife have been delayed by some unexplained business.) The prince shows Harald to his room, and here we get something that comes from the book, a reference as to how there are no carpets because of the cobras. They have a discussion about time, something else that echoes the dialogue in the book.

Next day, Harald meets his Indian assistant, Asagara (Jochen Blume), who says he studied architecture in Europe. Asagara says the prince is concerned because the foundations of the palace have been shifting and there is water in the old Mughal tunnels on top of which the current palace was built.

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The prince explains why there are no carpets.
In the dancers’ quarters, Seetha is rehearsing her dance. Harald shows up to make small talk, and she picks up an Indian instrument (a sort of small lute) and plays a tune, for which she can’t remember the words. She says it’s an Irish folk song, something about maidens looking at their reflections in a well while they wait for Pat Murphy. Harald knows the words, though, and he begins to sing, and then she remembers some of the words and starts to sing along. Harald then asks who was her father, and she answers, “My origins are obscure and shadowy like the nights of the moon goddess.” (Yes, she really says that!) “I was very young when my parents died. The priests raised me.” Harald asks, “Did your father have a pale face like mine?” She can’t remember because she was ill with the rest of her family.

She then produces a guitar, the only one of her father’s possessions she retains. She gives it to him, and he reads an inscription, “For Joe from Frank. Cambridge 1800 . . .” and the rest is illegible. Harald deduces that her father was European. He has her look at her reflection in a pond, but the water is suddenly disturbed (by a rock thrown over the wall or a fish, or so he says). “A stone, a fish, or the hand of God,” she replies. “This is India.” (Heavy, dude!) She sends him away.

The prince is feeding his tigers again. We see that the soldiers who abandoned Seetha to the tiger have all been punished brutally. Padhu is back, and he criticizes the way that Chandra has handled the situation. (Sadhu is the brother of the prince's recently expired first wife, and Sadhu feels that Chandra shouldn't be playing around with a mere temple dancer. More on this later.)

Harald and Seetha have a Hootenanny. Sort of. Actually, he sings the words as she plays the tune. The tune is not important, but it leads to a discussion about her father, who apparently was European. So, if she doesn't look particularly Indian to you, that's the reason.
Back in Harald’s quarters, he is pretending to work while he hums Seetha’s Irish song to himself. The prince arrives and says he’s only just recently heard about Harald’s adventure with the tiger. Chandra than offers Harald a ring as a token of gratitude. The prince professes his friendship for Harald and says he can thinking of nothing that could change that. (This is an ironic echo of the ring that Savitri gives to MacAllan in the silent film. It will be significant, too but in a different way.)

At Seetha’s quarters, she is rhapsodizing about how Harald scared off the tiger. Bharani is less impressed. The priest enters, and it’s clear he disapproves of her, so he says that if she has any doubts about fulfilling her role, she should ask the goddess for guidance.


Chandra gives Harald a ring to express his gratitude for Harald's having saved Seetha from the tiger.
Harald and Asagara are examining the palace foundations and taking measurements. They stumble into what looks like an old torture chamber or something, and there is a secret passage.

Above ground, there is a major parade as Chandra travels to the temple, where the interior is dominated by a huge, absurd statue of a bare-breasted Hindu goddess with only one pair of arms. (Perhaps one pair was all that Artur Brauner could afford.) In all probability, the goddess is supposed to be Parvati. She is usually depicted as bare-breasted and she is about the only one of the Hindu gods with only two arms.  Wikipedia tells us she is “the Hindu goddess of fertility, love and devotion; as well as of divine strength and power. . . Parvati is the wife of the Hindu god Shiva—the protector and regenerator of universe and all life. .  .Parvati is the mother of Hindu deities Ganesha and Kartikeya.” She is one of the few Hindu goddesses to be depicted with only two arms, although in other incarnations, she has four or more.


Harald and Asagara explore the weird caves and passages underneath the palace. Lotta mold down there because of seepage from the lake.
Asagara hears the temple gong and realizes that they are near the temple, someplace they probably shouldn’t be. “If a European enters the temple, it spells death,” he announces. Harald pooh-poohs all that superstitious stuff because wants to investigate, and he sends Asagara off in another direction.

Seetha starts dancing, and Chandu starts drooling, much to the distaste of Padhu and Ramigani. Harald, following the sounds, manages to find his way to a kind of treasure room, and from there, a door that opens onto a balcony from where he can watch Seetha dancing. She sees him and unwisely stops dancing for a moment. The priest notices, but Harald leaves before anyone else sees him. The lighting on the face of the goddess then changes ominously here.

Seetha dancing in the underground temple.
On his way back to find Asagara, Harald passes what appears to be an upright corpse leaning against a wall, something else echoed from the book. Nearby, he finds a heavy door bolted shut. He pulls the bolts and steps through onto a landing at the top of a tall staircase, at the bottom of which are a bunch of rejects from Dawn of the Dead, who all start crawling towards him. Asagara appears behind Harald and drags him back through the door and bolts it again, explaining that those people are lepers. “Haven’t you noticed there are no sick in Eschnapur?” Harald is appalled but Asagraba reminds him that he was brought to Eschnapur to build hospitals.

In Seetha’s dressing room, she tells Bharani that Harald saw her in the temple. She also notes that the lighting on the goddess’s face changed at that moment. Ramigani arrives and says that Chandra was pleased with her performance. He wants her to move to the palace so she can dance for him.


Later, Harald returns to the dancers’ quarters and is not happy to learn that Seetha has moved.


Lepters climbing up the stairs towards Harald.
In the palace, Bharani is impressed with her new quarters, but Seetha is moping in front of a gilded bird cage. Not too subtle. The prince (not wearing his turban) arrives to see how she's doing, and trying to make the point that she is not a prisoner, he opens the door of the cage, and the bird flies off. The prince then offers her an emerald necklace, but she is distant. He says that he saw her dance in Benares and had “them” find her. He wants her to love him, but he’s taking it slow.

He leaves, and she mopes about, taking out that damn guitar again. A moment later, the bird returns to the cage. (Draw your own conclusions.)

Elsewhere, Ramigani, Padhu, and the other stooges are having a bitch session about the Europeans taking over their country. The issue is raised that Ramigani really wants to be maharajah. Padhu is upset that Chandra gave Seetha an emerald necklace that had belonged to his sister. Ramigani urges Padhu, “Defend your dead sister’s honor. Is she to be supplanted by a dancer?” But Padhu realizes that Ramigani is trying to use him, and he refuses to be used. Good for him! Even so, Padhu adds,  “If Chandra should ever dare to tarnish the memory of the Maharani, then it will be my business.”


Back in Harald’s quarters, he wants Asagraba to stop calling him “sahib” because they are colleagues, having both studied in Europe.

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Chandra gives Seetha the emerald necklace that belonged to his first wife. His dead wife's brother, Sadhu, will be unhappy when he finds out.
Padhu departs the prince’s palace, and the prince gives him a hard time about leaving before the tiger hunt, which goes ahead as scheduled. Chandra brings along Seetha, which turns out—as we might expect—not to have been a good idea. The tiger that supposedly menaced Seetha earlier in the film is caught, but while Chandra is out of the tent and looking at the tiger, a group of attackers storm the prince’s camp, and Seetha is kidnapped and taken to Padhu. Speaking of Chandra, Padhu says, “I’m going to teach him a lesson. You think he’ll still want you to take my sister’s place when I send you back because you’re not even good enough for my soldiers?” He then orders two men to fight to see who gets to take her first. The winner then carries her off into a tent, but just then Chandra comes riding up and dashes into the tent. A moment later, the man who won the wrestling match staggers out with Chandra’s dagger sticking out of his chest. Padhu does not look pleased. Chandra then grabs Padhu’s horse flail and lashes his face with it.

Next day, Chandra and Seetha are riding through the country, presumably on their way back to the palace. Chandra says they are passing the home of a seer, and Chandra wants to talk to him, but she talks him out of it. (Chandra will visit this guy in the second half of the film.)


Chandra rescues Seetha from being raped by Sadhu's men.
L.ater, Harald kind of accidentally runs into Bharani in the marketplace. Actually, it was not an accident because Seetha had sent Bharani to find Harald. She wants to see him again. They row across the lake, and Harald finds his way to her chambers, where the camera first shows us that the bird is still in the cage. Harald and Seetha embrace, and he tries to ascertain her status: mistress? prisoner? what? She won’t say exactly, except that she now owes her life to Chandra. He protests, but she says, you don’t know India.

Later, the priest tattles to Chandra that Bahrani and Harald rowed across the lake the previous to see Seetha.

Dissolve onto an envelope addressed to Herr Walter Rhode, Kalkutta, Palast Hotel. We see now the envelope is on Harald’s drawing table. Harald enters the room and gives the envelope to Asagara.


In the tiger pit, Chandra tells Ramigani that he wants to hold a festival in honor of Seetha and the German engineer. Oh, and he’d like to have a few words with Bahrani, her servant, too.


With Bharani's help, Harald sneaks into Seetha's chambers. Now you know this is a bad idea.
Following a dissolve, we are in Kalkutta, and Asagara is talking to Mr. Walter Rhode in his hotel room. Mrs. Rhode, it turns out, is Harald’s sister (Irene). Water  says he is concerned and suggests that the leave Kalkutta as soon as possible.

Back at the palace, the party is in full swing, much like what is envisioned in the book. A troop of acrobats are performing as Harald, in a white dinner jacket, strolls in. A version of the Indian rope trick is performed—not a grisly as the one in the book—but involving a basket, in which a young man is placed, followed by swords being thrust through, and then the basket is revealed to be empty. Then the kid’s voice is heard from above. A rope magically uncoils, and the fakir ascends and brings the boy down.


Asagara talks to Irene and Walter Rhode in their hotel room in Calcutta. Asagara warns them that Harald's behavior has not been kosher.
Then Ramigani engages Harald in conversation, and Ramigani says the thing may not be a trick at all. He stands and stops the fakir from leaving with his basket. Then, he says, “The white sahib doubts the power of the yoga which gave Gowardan magic skills. Bharani is slim and supple. She won’t find it unpleasant in the basket.” She resists, and Seetha begs Chandra to intervene. Harald adds, “I don’t need any proof. However it was done, it was magnificent.” The prince’s back is up, though: “What happens in Eschnapur without my will prevailing? Nothing. But servants must obey my brother.” So, into the basket she goes. Without a cut, the swords are thrust through the basket.

However, instead of removing the swords, the fakir says that the boy has taken the rope, and he exits, a little too fast, to look for the boy and the rope. And a moment later, blood starts oozing from the bottom of the basket. Harald vaults over the table and opens the basket, and of course, Bharani is dead. Chandra orders the fakir found and apologizes to Seetha for the mishap. “This a bad start to the banquet,” he tells her.

You think?


She is told she may retire to the women’s quarters. Harald protests that this was a murder and he hopes that Chandra had no part in it. Chandra appears shocked that Harald would even imply such a thing.


The Rope Trick.
Bahrani's last bow. She goes into the basket--but she doesn't come out.
Later, one of Ramigani’s men brings him the head of the fakir wrapped up in cloth. The implication is that Ramigani arranged for Bahrani's death because she aided Harald. For reasons that are not entirely clear yet, Ramigani doesn’t want anyone coming between Chandra and Seetha.

Nevertheless, Chandra’s suspicions have been aroused. Chandra then tells Ramigani to take the guard off the women’s quarters. “I want to know for sure,” he says.


Later, we see Harald following a map that he has just drawn to lead him to the women’s quarters in the palace. Naturally, he finds Seetha and tells her that they need to get out of Eschnapur.


Ramigani receives the head of the fakir.
However, Chandra is outside, where he is watching this tender reunion through a window. Harald tells her they will use an underground passage to escape, and she is to meet him in the temple at dusk. He leaves, but he finds that his route is partially blocked. Unseen people and locked doors force him down into the tiger pit, where the prince is watching from a sort of high ledge. “It was a tiger which won for you my friendship. A tiger shall tear you from my heart,” he says. “I don’t want to be a murderer,” he adds, throwing a spear to Harald. “Fight for your life!”

A tiger is released and lunges at Harald, but he skewers it, and the tiger dies. The prince then announces that Harald has “from sunrise to sunset” to am-scray from Eschnapur.


Later, Ramigani reports that Harald has gone into town and Seetha has asked to go to the temple to pray. Chandra says she may go and the guards must stay out, but her fate is not yet decided.


Harald and the tiger.
In the temple, she’s praying away. Harald shows up, and off they go through the secret passages. When Chandra learns that she has left with Harald, he orders his men to find them.

About now, Walter and Irene Rhodes have arrived and are entering the city. Ramigani is unpleasantly surprised by their early arrival, and Harald’s sister wants to know why his brother isn’t there to meet him. Improvising, Ramigani says Harald is off on a tiger hunt.


Harald and Seetha continue on the run, and their path takes them into a desert region. (In case you were wondering, this is the Thar Desert, a region that separates India and Pakistan in northwestern India. It is, supposedly, the world 17th largest desert region. So much for all of this being set in Bengal!)


Harald and Seetha on the run through the jungle. The desert comes next.
Seetha’s horse is rebelling because, according to Harald, it’s gone lame. They will have to walk to the caravan route, which is their apparent destination. She rides, he walks, the prince’s men are hot on their trail. By the end of the day, Seetha’s horse collapses. Just so no one misses the point, Lang shows us vultures gathering. Harald and Seetha wearily walk off as the desert winds pick up.

Back at the palace, Chandra is meeting with Walter Rhode, who is about to propose some changes to the plans when Chandra says that he now wants Rhode to put off the civic improvements to build a tomb instead. “It will be a tomb of my beloved. I’ve lost the woman who was very close to my heart.”


Walter is confused. “I thought the maharani died some years ago,” he says. Chandra responds, “I’m not talking about the maharani.” Rhode then says, “Please accept my condolences for the loss of someone who loved you dearly.” And Chandra, quoting from the novel, says, “Who said that the woman of whom I spoke loved me? And if I lost her, must she be dead?” 

Seetha's horse has gone lame.
Rhode is taken aback. “Then, she is still alive? You’re building a tomb for a living person?” Chandra replies, “One day, she will be dead. To be precise, she will die when the tomb is complete.” Rhode is predictably confused: “I must have misunderstood you. May I have an explanation?” Chandra sort of chuckles. “How can you explain that a woman who was wrapped in love like a golden cloak cast my love aside and tossed it to a dog? To a man who betrayed his friend?” Rhode quietly says, “You don’t want a tomb, Your Highness. You want an execution site. No. There’s nothing about this in my contract. I’m leaving.”

Chandra replies, “You can’t leave Eschnapur without my permission and my protection. You will build the tomb, Mr. Rhode. And I shall bury my love in that tomb. Name your price. Go as high as you like. Just start work straight away. For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing your European impatience.”

Chandra explains to Walter that he is now to build a tomb, in which his unfaithful wife is to be immured alive.
We cut back to the desert, where Harald and Seetha collapse, and it looks as though they are going to die.


Part Two: The Indian Tomb (Das indische Grabmal)

A voiceover gives us a synopsis of previous events, and this ends with a somewhat shortened version of the big scene between Chandra and Walter at the end of the previous part. Following that, the voiceover says, “Many hours later after the storm has cleared, a caravan of peaceful traders winds its way across the desert.” Thus, Harald and Seetha are discovered and rescued. In a nearby village, soldiers are warning the populace that a criminal and an Indian woman are on the loose and there is a reward for their return alive to the prince. Anyone caught sheltering these people will be killed and their village burned.

The cliff-hanger ending of the first film. Harald and Seetha are about to expire in the desert.
Back at the palace, Walter Rhode is fulminating about not wanting to build this tomb. Irene is mending a button on one of Harald’s jackets. Why? Because Lang will use this detail later.

Later, Irene goes for a walk, finds the prince, and tries to reason with him, asking him to forgive the woman because he really still loves her, but the prince ain’t buying this silly Western logic.


Cut to the village, where Harald and Seetha are recovering. The owner of the house where they are staying then takes off to turn them in, but his wife is unhappy and thinks they must invoke the law of hospitality.


Back in the palace, Irene reports to Walter about the prince’s intransigence and wonders out loud if Harald is the man who betrayed the prince with the woman.


Irene and Chandra have a little tete-a-tete in the palace gardens, but reiterates that her husband isn't leaving Eschnapur until the tomb is built.
Back in the village, the sound of barking dogs awakens Harald. Locals arrive and tell Harald that he and Seetha need to take it on the lam because the soldiers are on their way. They skedaddle, but the soldiers arrive and warn the villagers that if Harald and Seetha escape, the soldiers will kill everyone in the village. 

Nice.

Harald and Seetha climb up a hill, a scene reminiscent of both the novel and the silent film. They find a cave and go in. On the back wall is a relief depicting Shiva, and Seetha starts praying. Weirdly, there is a large spider hard at work at the entrance to their cave, and as she prays, the spider spins an elaborate web across the entrance to the cave. The soldiers eventually find their way to the cave, but the presence of the spider’s web across the entrance convinces them that the fugitives are not inside.


The villagers warn Harald and Seetha that soldiers are coming for them now.
Harald is hungry and picks up a piece of fruit that Seetha put on the ground as an offering for Shiva, but she makes him put it back and tells him that he needs to let her have her gods.

They are out of water, though, so she grabs the water bag and takes off before Harald can stop her. In her absence, he picks up the orange that he had started to eat before, but before he can sink his teeth into it, he hears her screaming. (Guess he should have kept his hands off the offerings to Shiva!)

The soldiers have her, and there is a struggle. Seetha is taken, and Harald is knocked off a ledge. He lands on the edge of a crocodile pond or something below, where he is lying unconscious. Ramigani tells two men to go down and find out if he’s alive.


Harald looks at the spider web that has amazingly appeared to save him and Seetha. 
Back at the palace, Walter and Irene are sweltering in their room. The prince enters and tells them that Harald was killed in the tiger hunt. Irene doesn’t believe it, but the prince produces his bloody jacket and says they buried the body where he fell.

A bit later, Walter is looking at Harald’s jacket and he notices that the button Irene sewed on his jacket is not there, but there remains a bit of the mismatching thread she used, all of which means they took the jacket from the closet and doctored it.

Harald must still be alive! (Strange that no one thinks to ask why Harald would have worn a white dinner jacket to go hunting tigers. Lang's control of details slips now and again.)

​Harald's bloody jacket.
Ramigani tells Chandra that Harald is alive, although apparently the crocodiles were chewing on him when he was rescued. Then, Ramigani says that Seetha was found tied up, suggesting that she was taken against her will. Chandra doesn’t believe it and sends Ramigani away. (Again, Ramigani does not want a rift between Seetha and Chandra.)

Later, Ramigani meets with a messenger from Padhu, who says that Padhu supports Ramigani now and Padhu’s army is on the border and ready to go. However, Ramigani says the timing isn’t right—he still needs to win over the priests and some other people. Also, Ramigani wants to win over a General Dagh, someone who was loyal to Chandra and Ramigani’s father.


Ramigani tries to convince Chandra that Seetha did not go willingly with Harald.
Chandra is pacing Seetha’s former quarters, and he notices that the bird in the cage is now dead on the floor of the cage. Apparently, that unnerves him in some way because Chandra then goes to see the “wise man” the he wanted to visit in the first film. Chandra tells the old man that he’s seeking the truth. The wise man says better to seek someone to seek truth with him so he won’t be alone in the dark, and the wise man then summons a boy, Samisi, to bring him some water. “Humility and renunciation are the keys to happiness,” the wise man says. Chandra shakes his head. “I cannot renounce the world. And I don’t want to!” The wise man shakes his head and says he can’t help him.

Back at the palace, Asagara reports that he’s been asking around, and the word is that Seetha is a prisoner in the palace. No one knows for sure about Harald, but Asagraba speculates that if Harald is alive, some people want everyone to think he is dead because they have come kind of plans for him. More, he won’t say.


Chandra and the Wise Man.
Ramigani calls on Seetha. He says that Chandra has been lonely since the Maharani died. “The gods chose you to be by his side.” She replies, “Don’t talk to me of the gods, Ramigani. You don’t believe in them, and I no longer fear them. He to whom my heart belongs was right. The gods are bad.” Ramigani then leaves. (Ramigani’s motiviation is at last chear: He wants to get Seetha and Chandra back together to piss off Padhu and maybe others who see her as unfit to be the new maharani.)

Asagara is looking at the architectural plans of the palace as Irene enters the room. She is looking for Walter. Asagara says Walter sent him to get plans of the foundation tunnels, and he leaves. In his absence, Irene notices a plan with the location of the women’s quarters clearly marked.These are the same plans we saw Harald using to guide his way to the women’s quarters in the first film.

​Time passes, and we come in on a conversation with Yama, the priest, and Ramigani. The priest says Seetha is a child of the temple and she must submit to the judgment of the gods. The conversation continues in front of Chandra—the priest says she’s guilty (of impiety? what?) and Ramigani says she’s innocent. The priest says, “If your heart were not full of doubt, why would you be afraid of a god’s judgment? Do you want to marry a woman who may have belonged to a detestable foreigner?”

Ramigani urges Seetha to give Chandra a break.
So, we assemble in the temple again, only this time there is large (puppet) cobra in the hand of the goddess statue. Seetha’s eyes bulge out when she sees it, but she drops her shift and starts her dance—in her amazing costume consisting entirely of pasties.

(As we explain further on, this entire sequence was removed from the American version, Journey to the Lost City. In 1960, this was still too much flesh to show Amerian audiences!)

It all goes fairly well until the end, when she seems to lose her nerve. The snake lunges as if to bite her, but Chandra smashes it with a stool to save her. The priest says he is now cursed, and she must die. But Chandra says he is still the boss in Eschnapur, and she is to go back to the palace.

He then tells Ramigani to gave gold distributed and announce to the people that Eschnapur will have a new maharani. Everybody loves a wedding, right?

Seetha, dressed only in glittering pasties, dances for the big cobra. Several people have uploaded this sequence to YouTube.
Later, the prince visits Seetha in her less than palatial quarters. Possibly significantly, he isn’t wearing his turban at the moment. He comments on how he can’t allow the gods to decide his or her happiness. “I need your love, Seetha. You know how much I desire you. Destroy the doubts that torment me. Did you love the foreigner?”

Dripping with pearls and eyeshadow, she takes her time grinning, and then says, “Yes. I did love him, and I love him beyond his death. It wasn’t the gods, Chandra. You killed him. And I hate you for it.” (As noted above, she is not a passive character.) He responds that he promised the people of Eschnapur a new maharani, and they will get one—for one day, and he points through a window to the foundation where her tomb will be constructed, where she will be immured alive. Her answer? “No death can be as cruel as life by your side.”

Ouch! She says she will shout from every rooftop that he is a murderer, and he threatens to have her tongue cut out. So, she gets quiet.

Seetha defies Chandra.
Meanwhile, Irene is still studying the plans and how to get to the women’s quarters. Walter enters, and she asks him if he knows about the “cave of lepers” on the plans. Walter explains how this is Chandra’s plan to keep the streets of Eschnapur free of disease.

Ramigani calls on Seetha, lamenting the fact that Chandra has banished him from his presence because he deceived him. “There is blood in his eyes,” he says, a line out of the novel. Now Chandra plays his trump card. He shows her the emerald ring that Chandra gave to Harald and reveals that he is a prisoner, not a corpse. “Tomorrow, you will tell Chandra that you will be his maharani.” She wants more proof, and he promises to show her. (Rather gruesome dialog here about how if she doesn’t cooperate, each day Ramigani will bring her one of Harald’s fingers, and then his eyes—for a total of twelve days before he kills him.)


Okay, Chandra tried the carrot. Now, Ramigani tries the stick--ten fingers and two eyes!
Meanwhile, Irene slips out of the bedroom while Walter is asleep. She follows Harald’s plans to get to the women’s quarters. Meanwhile, though, Ramigani has taken Seetha to go see Harald. Irene finds Seetha’s chamber, but at that same moment, Seetha is looking through a window at the top of a deep, round cell (very much like the one in the Eichberg movie, an obvious steal) where Harald is chained to the wll. She would cry out to him, but Ramigani silences her.

Back in her quarters, Ramigani tells her that as soon as she marries the prince, Harald will be be escorted safely to the border, and she had better make up her mind quickly if she wants the deal because a man has only so many fingers. Irene is hiding behind the armoire and hears this.


Ramigani leaves and order the guard on her door redoubled, and then Irene and Seetha have a chitchat. Irene assures her that they will all find a way to escape, but she needs to know where Harald is being kept, but Seetha said the way she was taken was too twisty-turny for her to be sure.

Meanwhile, Chandra is grilling Asagara because he’s been asking the servants a lot of questions. Chandra warns Asagraba to watch his step.

Harald chained up in the round dungeon, very much like the Eichberg film.
 ​Back in Seetha’s room, the problem is how to get Irene out of there. So, Seetha knocks on the door and tells the guards she needs a doctor. One guard leaves to tell the prince, and a moment later, Seetha runs out the door. The other two guards give chase long enough for Irene to exit unobserved.

Irene reports to Walter, who considers the delicacy of the situation and then takes another look at the plans. Using the details Seetha gave Irene, he makes an educated guess as to the location of the dungeon. He then points out that they will need a good plan for a quick getaway. “It can only succeed if we are very quick. An explosion in the right spot should cause enough confusion to give us a head start.” Clever, but further discussion is cut off by the arrival of Asagara and Chandra, who wants to know if Walter would till object to building the tomb if the woman were to marry him. Walter says no, but he says he is worried about the water pressure from the lake on the palace’s foundations. The prince okays him to fix the problem and to take all the men he needs to do the job.

Seetha and Irene prepare to trick the guards.
Later, we see work starting in the bowels of the palace. Walter is poring over the plans, still trying to deduce the location of Harald’s cell and planning where to put the dynamite to cause the most damage.

While they are talking, Ramigani sort of walks up behind them and wonders out loud what all the dynamite is for. Walter improvises an explanation that doesn't make a lot of sense, but Ramigani seems satisfied and leaves. He has more important matters on his mind.

Upstairs, Seetha tells Ramigani that the deal is on. She says she wants the foreigner’s suffering to end. A few moments later, Ramigani tells one of his men to go end the foreigner’s sufferings now.

 
Underneath the palace, Walter and Irene conspire to find Harald and place the dynamite.
In the dungeon, Harald hasn’t had much luck digging out the anchor of his chain in the wall. Ramigani’s man arrives and draws a sabre. He shows Harald the key to the lock on his chains and throws it down on the ground. When Harald lunges for, the guy attacks, but Harald knocks him off his feet and them manages to wrap the chain around the guy's neck. Lang spares us no details of the executioner's death. Then, Harald frees himself and runs out of the dungeon.

Elsewhere, Padhu, Yama, Ramigani, and the others stooges are having a strategy meeting. One of the men (Padhu) wants some men to be brought into the palace secretly through the subterranean passages to start the attack on the prince. However, Ramigani is still worried about General Dagh. Padhu tells Ramigani that Dagh is Ramigani’s problem.


Harald's executioner throws down the key to the lock on Harals's chair. When Harald reaches for it, the bad guy pounces.
Ramigani then meets with Dagh. “My concern for Eschnapur forces me to do this. Neither the people nor the priests will accept it. A temple dancer, the mistress of a European!” Dagh wants to know his part in all this revolution will be. “It is smaller than the reward,” Ramigani replies. “I want the loyalty of the army. No participation, just the necessary inaction at the crucial time.” Dagh stands. “As long as I carry a sword, there will be no rebellion.” He turns to exit and Ramigani stabs him in the back.

Down in the basement, Walter supposedly needs some information that Irene has left upstairs. Asagara is dispatched to find it. When he leaves, we learn that was all a feint to get him out of there while Irene and Walter search different passages. Harald, now free, and Irene chase around after each other for while—in a sequence that echoes the novel—but before they find each other, she falls through a sort of hole in the floor and finds herself in the leper pit. (You were wondering when we’d be back there.)


Ramigani tries to persuade Col. Dagh to join the revolt, but no soap. Ramigani then stabs him in the back. But is he dead?
And the lepers all start shambling towards her menacingly. She dashes up the big flight of stairs we saw earlier. At the last second, Asagara opens the door (as he did before for Harald) and tries to push back the lepers, but he is not successful, and they escape. Asagara tries a delaying action while Irene runs off, but it causes a convenient cave-in. He is killed and the lepers appear to die also.

But now, Harald shows his grizzled face and is reunited with his sister, Irene.


Meanwhile, Padhu’s men are being led into the palace through the temple, but elsewhere, General Dagh has recovered consciousness.


Back with Walter and Irene, Harald wants to go find Seetha, but Water says they’d never make it. However, he hears the noise of Ramigani bringing in his soldiers and goes to a tunnel where he can observe them. Harold vows to follow them to find out what’s going on.


Irene and the lepers.
Upstairs, the ceremony to make Seetha the maharani begins with pageantry and martial music.

Elsewhere, the bad guys and their men enter the palace. In the throne room, Yama mouths off about how the gods are against Chandra’s marriage, but he is interrupted by a wounded messenger who says that armed men on horseback are at the gates. A fight breaks out, one of those mob scenes that Lang loves, but it is soon over, and Chandra is taken prisoner. Padhu announces his hour has come, and to drive home the point, he proceeds to use his horse flail on Chandra’s face and then orders Chandra to be taken to the tiger pit. He then rudely rips the emerald necklace off Seetha. He orders her to be taken to her chambers; the priests can have her when he’s done with her. (!)

In the corridor, Harald emerges and follows the guards who are escorting Seetha.


TeThe wedding march--before the fireworks start.
In the tiger pit, Chandra is being whipped stoically and Padhu is gloating, but suddenly, a shot is heard and Padhu falls. Soldiers are on the overlooking walls, and a bandaged General Dagh is among them. They announce that the rebellion is over.

Ramigani runs for it through the tunnels. He finds himself in one where there is standing water, and then he enters a room where the wall collapses and water and debris bury him and wash him away into another room. A big rock, also washed along by the water, seals the entrance. It’s the room with the dynamite. He grabs a plunger, moves to what he hopes will be safety, and sets off a charge. More water begins flooding into the chamber—so does a crocodile. Ramigani slips into the water, and we presume that’s the end of him.


Padhu enjoying his short-lived revenge.
In the palace, Chandra has made his way to Seetha’s quarters, where Harald is trying to defend her. Seetha grabs a sword dropped by one of the guards and slices into the man Harald is fighting. (Good for her! She actually participates in her own rescue.)

But, yipes! The prince arrives! Harald and Chandra face off as if they are about to have a sabre fuel, but but after a moment, Harald wavers—he’s kinda tired—and he drops his weapon and nearly faints. Chandra considers this opportunity, but eventually, he drops his weapon, turns around, and walks out.

Harald defending Seetha before Chandra arrives.
We dissolve to the home of the wise man again.

Samisi, the boy, steps in, but the wise man tells him to go hit the holy books. Someone has come to take his place. “He has renounced the world and is humbly searching for peace. I no longer need you.”

The boy bows and leaves. Chandra enters, dressed simply in the long white pants, same as the boy was wearing. “I am thirsty,” the old man announces. “Bring me water, Chandra.”

Chandra gets a new job.
Elsewhere, soldiers are leading a convoy. Walter and Irene are riding, followed by a carriage containing Seetha and Harald. They ride off into the sunset.

The End.




Yes. A happy ending in a Fritz Lang film.


If one can ignore the absurdity of the whole thing, the film is well constructed. The film is actually quite coherent, unlike the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach that Eichberg used in his film. There are two major plot arcs, one dealing with Harald and Seetha and the other dealing with Ramigani’s attempted coup d’état. All the parts of the film advance one plot line or the other, and the last scene of the film is unusually thoughtful because Lang has effectively laid a good foundation earlier.


Even so, the film has notable weaknesses. The first is some of the photography, particularly the interior sets. Lang doesn’t always place his camera well, and as was a problem in Lang’s color Rancho Notorious, there are some studio sets that are meant to be exteriors that really look like painted scenery. Particularly unhappy are certain views through the windows of interior sets onto flat, painted vistas. The location photography in Udaipur is all well done, however, as long as you don’t mind “day for night” shots and clumsy hand-held reflectors for fill lighting. The second problem is that Lang doesn’t seem particularly adept with exposition or establishing shots. The first several minutes of the film in particular fail to grab our attention or provide essential information. Several times, important speeches of exposition feel clumsy or forced.


The third problem is that the film is very brutal in places, including the punishment of the soldiers who deserted Seetha and the tiger, the attempted rape of Seetha, Chandra's whipping Padhu's face in retaliation, all that talk about cutting off fingers and gouging out eyes, Harald's strangling his would-be executioner, Chandra being whipped by Sadhu's men, etc. Add to all of that all the flesh that Seetha's glued-on dancing costume reveals. Considering that the look and feel of the film is like a Hollywood Arabian Nights fantasy, these Langian touches are a but much for American audienes, at least.

Upon the film’s release, most critics gave the film poor reviews, although the French critics championed it. Why they liked the film is not clear but perhaps they actually liked the way Lang shrugged off some old fashioned film grammar, establishing shots and the like; this was the era of the New Wave in French film-making, and Lang was much admired by the New Wave’s Commander in Chief, Jean-Luc Godard, not one known for using conventional film grammar in his films.
Tragically, though, the film never got the one thing it really needed: a proper American release. What America got instead was only half a Tomb, and as a result, the film remains almost completely unknown and unappreciated among Lang’s canon.

The Half Tomb


Why no American release? Largely because of what may have been a series of miscalculations by Artur Brauner.

The problems start with the fact Lang’s Indian epic was a three-hour film in two parts meant to be shown at different times. In America, serials were no longer being made. However, Eichberg’s film had been re-released in Germany in 1948 and had been very popular. What Brauner wanted was essentially a remake of the Eichberg film, and German audiences knew that film as a two-part film, so Brauner may have thought that audiences would want the remake in two parts as well.

In America,the idea of a film that would require two visits to the theatre on two separate occasions to complete was a non-starter. Of course, several big-budget Hollywood films of the fifties had similar running times and were shown in two parts, but the two parts were intended to be shown sequentially separated by an intermission, during which exhibitors could sell more candy and soda pop. Long epic films such as Around the World in Eighty Days and The Ten Commandments, had been profitable in this way, and theoretically, Lang’s film could have been re-edited to be presented as two parts at one showing.


But those films had something that Lang's film did not: a wide screen.

An image from 1954's costume epic The Robe, the first feature-length film in CinemaScope, an aspect ratio of 2.35 to 1. The extra width is produced by a proprietary anamorphic lens that stretches the picture.
Same scene from The Robe in the industry-standard 16 to 9 aspect ratio, same as for conventional flat-screen TVs. Films shot in CinemaScope or similar processes must be trimmed on the sides or letter-boxed.
Same scene from The Robe cropped to the old 4 to 3 aspect ratio, same ratio used by most television sets with picture tubes before the advent of flat screens. To show a CinemaScope picture in this aspect ratio, it had to be reprocessed in the lab with the "pan and scan" process, which would choose what part of the frame to include and what part to remove. As you can see, more than half the original image has been removed.
The Wedding March scene from The Indian Tomb directed by Lang in the 4 to 3 ratio. Doesn't look exactly "spectacular," especially if you're used to the 16 to 9 or wider screen. Perfect for TV, though.

By 1958, Hollywood studios were generally using the 16:9 aspect ratio that has become common on today’s digital flat screen TVs, and epics films were usually filmed in even wider screen processes, such as CinemaScope and Panavision. At that time, Hollywood had transitioned to the wide screen as part of its strategy to lure people away from their small-screen televisions and into the theatres. However, Lang’s Tomb uses the old-fashioned 4:3 aspect ratio, roughly the same aspect ratio as the 1921 and 1938 films.

But why?

One theory is that Lang had an aversion to CinemaScope and other such processes. That theory is supported by a line of dialogue that Lang spoke, acting in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film Contempt. In this film, Lang plays a film director named "Fritz Lang" (clever, no?), and at one point, "Fritz Lang" says, "CinemaScope is not for men, but for snakes and funerals." However, that line of dialog may not have reflected his true opinion. ​(For more information about Fritz Lang's supposed aversion to widescreen films, see Jonathan Rosenbaum's blog post On CinemaScope, Snakes, Funerals, Lang, and Welles, 4 September, 2016 .)

More likely, this decision was a cost-cutting measure for Brauner. Widescreen processes such as CinemaScope were proprietary processes for which Brauner would have had to pay extra for the lenses and special cameras. Perhaps, Brauner may have been thinking narrowly just of the release in Europe, where fewer theatres yet had the required equipment to show anamorphic widescreen films. Whatever the reason, American audiences were beginning to identify big costume epics with the wider screen, so the older, narrower aspect ratio would have been a liability in America.

Second, the film was shot in German. This was undoubtedly a point of pride for Brauer, but American audiences were not enthusiastic about dubbed films, much less subtitled films. When Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was released in America in 1956, English-language scenes with American actor Raymond Burr were added to cut down on the number of dubbed scenes. A few Italian sword and sandal epics were beginning to make their dubbed way to American screens (most notably 1958’s Hercules, starring American strongman Steve Reeves), but American audiences were clearly not ready for a three-hour dubbed epic. For the French release, Brauner supposedly did hire some French-speaking actors for some scenes; what a pity he did not hire a some English-speaking actors while he was at it.

Third, the casting was weak for an American audience. Debra Paget had a small following; she had played a supporting role in de Mille’s The Ten Commandments and she had danced her way through a few other costume epics, but she was not exactly a big box office draw in her own right. Perhaps if Brauner had cast an actor with international stature as Harald, the film might have been more marketable, but Paul Hubschmid as the leading man was not going to sell a lot of popcorn in America. (Paul Hubschmid, by the way, was a good actor who worked a lot, including a few films in English.) Try to imagine how different the film’s appeal would have been with Yul Brynner or Kirk Douglas or any other rugged leading man of the period as Harald.

So, the film was never released in America—at least not in the form in which Lang made it.



Journey to a Lost Movie
​​
Would you prefer the movie with subtitles?
A year later, though, Brauner found a taker. American-International Pictures acquired the rights (the studio that produced all those Edgar Allan Poe films made by Roger Corman, fondly known as schlock). Possibly encouraged by the success of the Italian “Peplum” films that emulated the success of Hercules, they bought the rights from Brauner to release a dubbed, shortened version.

They cut the film to make it run about ninety minutes. The aspect ratio remained an issue, but in typical exploitation, bait-and-switch fashion, the posters proclaim that the film is in “Colorscope,” a non-existent process name invented to use in promoting American-International films. Actually, American-International was probably thinking ahead to selling the film to television, in which case the 4:3 aspect ratio was an asset. From that point of view, this film was a bargain because once it had been dubbed into English, it would not have to be reformatted for television.

The title also had to be changed because no one in America had ever heard of a novel called The Indian Tomb, so the wizards of American-International (James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff) gave the film a new title: Journey to the Lost City—never minding that it didn’t fit the film. Today, people who have the misfortune to sit through this version regularly complain that the film has nothing to do with a lost city, and they are right. However, seemingly to address that objection, some of the dubbed dialogue refers to “the lost city of Eschnapur,” as if it had been lost and then found again.

To make this half a Tomb, judicious trimming of scenes shortens the first half of Lang’s film to about forty-five minutes. Then, the whole first part of the second film is removed; some dubbed dialog suggests that Ramigani’s men—not members of a passing caravan—rescue Harald and Seetha in the desert, and the next thing we know, Seetha is on her way back to the palace. The whole business with the village and the cave and the spider has been jettisoned. Seetha’s first dance is shortened a bit, but the second one is completely redacted. Ramigani’s interminable machinations to overthrow his brother are speeded up, so the attempted coup happens a lot faster. The little epilogue with the wise man is also deleted. In all fairness, though, what emerges is surprisingly more coherent than might be imagined, but it has all the emotional impact of a box of Jujubes.

The final irony is that the opening credits of the film give only the film’s title and the names of the principal actors. The usual credit, “A Fritz Lang Picture,” which began Lang’s other films is the first credit seen at the end of the picture, followed by all the other credits that people would ignore while leaving their seats for the lobby.

We can only imagine Lang’s chagrin.

Looks like an ad for a wide-screen movie, right? And notice where Fritz Lang's name appears in small print in the lower left corner. How the mighty are fallen!
​​Lang would make one more film for Brauner, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, harkening back to the crime-adventure films that established his repuatation in the 1920's, and were again taking the world by storm in the guise of the James Bond series. While Eyes was not a stinkeroo, it effectively ended Lang’s career as a filmmaker. Ironically, this last film was made in what we now accept as the conventional 16:9 aspect ratio.

Conclusion

Early scene from The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, in the 16 to 9 aspect ratio.
For the next forty years, the only knowledge of either von Harbou’s novel or the screenplay written by von Harbou and Lang would be this hacked-up Journey to the Lost City, a cinematic Frankenstein’s monster that leaves contemporary audiences scratching their heads and asking, “What were they thinking?” Because the film seems so unlike Lang’s tightly structured American noir films and because von Harbou’s other film work remains largely unknown in the English-speaking world, many scholars and critics have assumed that the film’s glaring flaws must reflect her predilection for plot-heavy fantasy—whereas, the reality is exactly the opposite.

Contrasting von Harbou’s novel with the screenplay that she and Fritz Lang evolved from that novel reveals the true nature of their working relationship. The resulting balance of Lang’s love of the sensational with von Harbou’s humanistic vision energized the dozen or so films (depending on how you count the two-pa
rt films Dr. Mabuse and Die Nibelungen) that they produced over their thirteen-year collaboration. From this point of view, her screenplay for M is their ultimate achievement, balancing a suspenseful, atmospheric story with compelling, realistic characters.

Looking at the films she did with other directors during that time and afterwards reveals that she rarely dabbled with melodrama again. Looking at the films that Fritz Lang made afterwards reveals that he made n​othing else, while never again developing characters with the same humanity—a secret that for years has been locked inside The Indian Tomb.