The Film Movement Classics division of art house god Film Movement once again digs into the vault to perfectly restore a cult classic by releasing separate DVD and Blu-ray sets of the Fritz Lang two-part 1959 Indian epic "The Tiger of Eschnapur" and "The Indian Tomb." The Panorama-style cinematography alone justifies buying the Blu-ray set.
One can only hope that Classics follows the family tradition as to "Dad" following up its epic "Sissi Collection," which is the trilogy of docudramas about the titular Austrian empress with massive mother-in-law issues, with the (reviewed) condensed version of those films "Forever, My Love." Watching the Lang films as an uninterrupted whole truly would be epic.
Classics does both Lang films proud by including a booklet with an essay by film historian David Kalat, a documentary on the epic, and a feature of epic (in both senses of the word) star Debra Paget. Your not-so-humble reviewer does readers less proud by sacrificing reading the essay and watching the documentaries in the interest of timely posting a review of the films that Lang makes on returning after a 20-year exile from Germany that relates to an colossal furor.
The aptly titled "Tiger" commences with new kid in town German engineer Harald Berger chivalrously coming to the rescue of the assistant to famed dancer Seetha (Paget). This leads to this trio going on the road to see the Maharaja of Eschnapur (Chandra), the not-so-wonderful Maharaja of Eschnapur. Seetha is going in response to an offer for a command performance that she better not refuse, and Berger is going for the purpose of performing the public good of building schools and hospitals.
The initial spark between Seetha and Berger fully ignites on his coming to her rescue during their journey.
Although Chandra is a victim of the emerald-eye monster when his (for the moment) honored guests arrive; that is the least of his problems. Older brother Ramigani and his cabal are actively plotting to ascend to the throne that Ramigani considers his birthright.
The escalating tensions culminate in a climatic scene in which Chandra seeks to impose poetic justice on his romantic rival; this involving a cat fight adds an extra layer of aptness. This leads to a dramatic run for the border that seems to be the end of the story.
"Tomb" picks up in the immediate aftermath of "Tiger." Berger effectively is out of the picture; his sister Irene and boss/brother-in-law Walter Rhode are newly arrived and not buying the paper-thin explanation for the absence of Berger. Walter is further incensed as to the insistence of Chandra that he design and construct the titular mausoleum. This relates to the person for whom that structure is being built.
For his part, Ramigani is dividing his time between the final amassing of his supporters and manipulating his younger brother.
While all of this "meanwhile back at the ranch drama is unfolding, central fugitives from injustice initially discover that the golden rule trumps the desert code of hospitality. This leads to a walk-of-shame to face final judgment (and jeopardy).
The drama this time culminates in a great escape attempt that does not go as planned. Ultimately, we get a Berlin ending that significantly differs from the conclusion of Hollywood fare.