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.
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