I saw this movie as part of the Boston Underground Film Festival. The movie tells the story of the evil sorceress, Golgotha, how she came to be the way she is, etc. The film is black & white, with the “present” scenes (old Golgotha telling her minion her story) in the style of a late ’30s/early’40s Hollywood production, and the flashback sequences being a mix of Hollywood silent film and German expressionist film (“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “Metropolis,” etc.).

First of all, the movie’s story is extremely simple. There’s are no twists to speak of, no convoluted schemes or double-crosses. The characters and their motivations are pretty much entirely laid out for the viewer. The hook, plot-wise, is seeing how Old Golgotha came to be where and how she is (and who the intruder glimpsed in the opening shots is). This tale is told through flashbacks to Golgotha’s childhood, adolescence, and eventual maturity into a powerful sorceress. I found myself pulled into the idea through the setup, featuring some simple narration, and the exchanges between Old Golgotha and the Minion.

This plot would work fine, I would say, if the film gave us more interesting visuals. For a film that’s supposed to take its cues from German expressionism, it certainly delivers bland visuals. Many scenes shot outdoors would have done better if they had been on a soundstage, with a surreal world around the actors; I can think of no better example than the scene where Prince Debonere fights the dragon. The dragon, naturally, looks like a cheaply made prop. That’s almost unavoidable, and I don’t hold that against the film, as much as I do the harsh juxtaposition of the prop against the cave. The poor quality is emphasized by it’s placement, with its head and neck coming out of a real cave.

The acting in the movie is, in a word, spotty. Some of the players are really great. Or at least, they’re able to convey the adequate emotion or expression without words, over-emoting just enough without hamming it up. Not everyone has this gift. Particularly the aforementioned Prince, and his best friend, Fritz. The pair play their roles with a heaping dose of wink towards the audience. Others, though, do a fine job. Especially the actress who plays Old Golgotha; I could have done with 45 minutes of her talking to her minion, I think. And many of the other roles- Young Golgotha, King MacGuffin (ho ho!), the Minion, Sidon- are played very well. But there’s a big difference between silent film-style hamminess, and the high school drama variety that often found its way into the film.

Overall, “Golgotha” feels pretty half-baked. I love the concept, as I love the styles of film it tries to bring together. But while they might get an A for effort, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

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