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In the first part of director Joe May's silent Indian epic, a scheming maharajah (Conrad Veidt) sends a mystical yogi (Bernhard Goetzke) to Europe to fetch a celebrated architect and engage him on a ghoulish commission: building a tomb for the maharajah's adulterous, still-living wife.
Full of scheming maharajahs, magnificent palaces, ferocious tigers, erotica, adultery and revenge, this Weimar-era Orientalist adventure-fantasy spectacle was one of the first German films to be set in India (though it was shot in Berlin, with white actors in blackface and turbans and tigers borrowed from the zoo). An Indian maharajah (Conrad Veidt) orders a yogi (Bernhard Goetzke) to bring a European architect to his kingdom to build a tomb for his queen, Princess Savitri (Erna Morena) — even though she's not dead yet. Rather, the adulterous consort is having an affair with a British officer, and the maharajah plans revenge by entombing her alive and chucking her lover into a handy tiger pit. Featuring inventive special effects and compelling performances by Veidt and Goetzke, this lavish epic was scripted by Thea von Harbou and her then husband Fritz Lang from von Harbou's novel; Lang himself would direct the colour remake of the diptych on his return to Germany nearly four decades later.