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Fritz Lang's Indian Epic

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TR.N Research Indy's Influences Classics Adventures Fritz Lang's Indian Epic
Fritz Lang's Indian Epic:
The Tiger of Eschnapur & The Indian Tomb

Released in 1959

Directed by: Fritz Lang
Story by: Thea von Harbou (novel)
Screenplay by: Werner Jörg Lüddecke
Produced by: Artur Brauner

Debra Paget .... Seetha
Paul Hubschmid .... Harald Berger
Walter Reyer .... Chandra
Claus Holm .... Dr. Walter Rhode
Luciana Paluzzi .... Baharani
Valéry Inkijinoff .... Yama


In the late 1950’s drive-ins across America ran a piece of curious schlock titled Journey to the Lost City. A man-eating tiger, a scantily-clad temple dancer, a sadistic Maharajah and the breathtaking grandeur of India must have brought in a few teenager-packed cars (young Mr. Lucas among them?) but the movie hardly set records at the boxoffice.

The Maharaja with his
temple dancer.

Fritz Metropolis Lang, star filmmaker from the silents, must have seemed completely outgrown of all previous genius to anyone aware of the director’s legacy. But most moviegoers were unaware that Journey to the Lost City was actually two films cut together with approximately two and a half hours of the story missing from American drive-ins.
The Tiger of Eschnapur and its conclusion The Indian Tomb is a fascinating fable intricately constructed and played out over four hours. Filmed in German on location in the province of Rajastan, India, this colorful epic is now available restored for the first time to American audiences on DVD.

On one level the entire film is a comic-book adventure full of exotic dangers and serial-inspired cliffhangers and on another level, a mythological tale, well-suited to incorporate Lang’s multitude of themes; a lofty, cerebral meditation on mankind’s questioning relationship with such a feeble position in the universe.

The architect & dancer.

A western architect (Paul Hubschmid) is hired by the Maharajah of Eschnapur to work on his royal palace. Once there, he falls in love with a beautiful temple dancer (Debra Paget) promised to the Maharajah. The young couple flees into the desert, pursued by the Maharajah’s thugs while a giant tomb is constructed in anticipation of their return.

Viewers who find the characters lacking in depth must keep in mind the objectives set forth with this two-part picture. The Hubschmid and Paget characters serve as Adam and Eve allegory and layering their characters with psychology would have hindered the broader themes Lang clearly wished to emphasize. For example, part one ends with the architect and dancer lost in the desert, hunted and hungry. The architect aims his gun at the hot sun which is killing them. The scene visually encapsulates man’s anger at an ambivalent universe. If, however, the hero was a fully fleshed out character with a specific personality, the firing of the gun would seem to reveal something about the character as opposed to mankind. In this aspect (characters as mythological icons) the films share a similarity with Star Wars.

The architect & dancer
lost in the desert.

Brilliant filmmakers have come from a variety of backgrounds, but watching Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic, one can’t help but notice the extraordinary power of the individual images. Such opulence and grandeur without overlooking detail (like Von Sternberg) must be the result of his extensive experience in silent film. In fact, Lang wrote this story as a silent forty years earlier with Conrad Casablanca Veidt as the Maharajah for director Joe May.

Much gratitude should go to Fantoma for the restoration and release of this DVD set. Rescued from the butchered version of 1959 and woody woodpecker cartoon lead-ins, viewers today can relish the Fritz Lang-created world of exotic beauty and dark underground worlds, with a hero compelled to explore them even if the discovery brings his demise.
(Stephen Jared)


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