Before Ernst Lubitsch created his eminently sophisticated Hollywood sex comedies, he was at work in Germany perfecting his earliest entries into the genre, alongside sweeping ironic dramas based on historical events and often set in exotic locales. One of his earliest successes merged elements of both modes: Madame DuBarry.
A recounting-à-la-Lubitsch of the torrid affair between the title character (Pola Negri) and France’s King Louis XV (Emil Jannings, who would go on to portray Henry VIII in Lubitsch’s Anna Boleyn of the following year – a film that neatly bookends Madame DuBarry), the picture spans scandalous intrigue at the court and the ring of the guillotine among the riotous mobs of the Revolution.
Also included in this edition is Lubitsch’s earliest surviving film, the 1916 Als ich tot war [When I Was Dead], which stars the director himself in a lead role that involves his faked suicide and (prefiguring the later Die Puppe.) an infiltration of the domestic space whilst in disguise (not as an automaton, but as a servant). The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Madame DuBarry and Als ich tot war in a special Dual Format (Blu-ray + DVD) edition for the first time.