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With: Klaus Pohl, Willy Fritsch, Gustav von Wangenheim, Gerda Maurus, Gustl Gstettenbaur, Fritz Rasp
Written by: Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou, based on a novel by Thea von Harbou, and on material by Prof. Hermann Obert
Directed by: Fritz Lang
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 156
Date: 10/15/1929

Woman in the Moon (1929)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Crescent Day

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Many film scholars scorn Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon as a lesser -- and even failed -- Lang film, but looking at it in this new edition will shatter those erroneous conceptions. In this 169-minute version, which restores the film closer to Lang's original vision than any other video release, the film proves itself a terrific entertainment with hints of greatness.

The story concerns a young scientist, Wolf Helius (Willy Fritsch), who has built a rocket designed to carry passengers to the moon. He is the one and only friend of an older, disgraced professor (Klaus Pohl) whose theories about gold on the moon got him laughed out of the scientific community. But when a cabal of renegade scientists makes a connection between the two men, they shanghai the ship.

The ship's crew henceforth consists of the young scientist, the old professor and an evil spokesman for the cabal (Fritz Rasp). To mix things up, the film throws in a love triangle with the scientist's best friend (Gustav von Wangenheim) and the woman they both love (Gerda Maurus). A kid who reads "John Carter of Mars" comic books (Gustl Stark-Gstettenbaur) stows away.

Lang presents a few terrific moments of suspense and even humor; in one early scene Helius nervously talks on his next-door neighbor's phone and absently snips away at a vase of flowers. The neighbor looks at his skeletal bouquet with a delightfully disbelieving look.

Aside from its plot, the film is astounding for its incredibly prophetic scientific vision of a flight to the moon. 27 years after Georges Melies filmed his A Trip to the Moon, Lang took a less fairy-tale approach and looked at ways in which the trip could actually be made. Woman in the Moon is more straightforward than Metropolis was, and lacks that film's awesome vision, but it's much warmer and more purely entertaining on a pulp level. Lang's wife Thea von Harbou wrote the screenplay and Jon C. Mirsalis provides a new piano score. Kino's DVD includes a rare photo gallery. It was released as part of the "Fritz Lang Epic Collection" box set.

Kino Lorber released a very fine Blu-ray edition in 2016 with a newly restored transfer and a score by Javier PĂ©rez de Azpeitia. The only extra is a 15-minute featurette called "Woman in the Moon: The First Scientific Science Fiction Film."

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