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Saturday, March 17, 2012

A THROW OF THE DICE / PRAPANCHA PASH (1929)

Once upon a time, two neighboring Kings of India fell in love with the lovely daughter of a great man of healing. But the father knew they loved one thing still more: gambling. Even so, the girl ran off with the charming King her father had cured, while the other King, an evil man, did his worst to get the girl, remove the father from the scene and take his rival’s land & riches. But he went too far when he ‘fixed’ the dice. And that’s all German-born director Franz Osten needed for this richly upholstered fairy tale, an enchanting example of the rich visual vocabulary of late silent film. Filmed on a gorgeous canvas of real Indian locations with thousands of extras , it’s a demi-masterpiece of artifice; as a dramatic construct, its romantic piffle with paper-thin characterizations. But there are compensations in views that are both princely & priceless; a lost world of Indian Royalty magically returned to life in this stunning restoration by British Instructional Films (with a superb new score from Nitin Sawhney) on a lovely KINO DVD (Check out more @ http://throwofdice.com)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: We usually put the original/local title in first position, but the actors appear to be speaking English. (Any lip-readers out there?) Plus, the romantic leads are shown kissing which would have ruled out an Indian release. No doubt, some prints were censored for the home market.

DOUBLE-BILL: German fantasists had a weakness for Near Eastern Fairy Tales; see Lotte Reiniger’s ‘shadow-animated’ THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED/’26.

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