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Evil princes scheme, empires fall, and a near-naked Debra Paget dances for her life with a clunky fake cobra in the gloriously ridiculous and breathlessly exciting conclusion of Fritz Lang's two-part adventure epic.
Unintentionally hilarious, unabashedly racist and tremendously entertaining, Fritz Lang's remake of the original 1921 Indian epic (which Lang himself was slated to direct, until producer Joe May decided to do it himself) is the epitome of the Gollywood (German Bollywood) film: a luridly colour-saturated adventure packed with action, romance and revenge. German architect Harald Berger (Paul Hubschmid) is brought to India by the maharajah Chandra (Walter Reyer) to build schools and hospitals. Berger rescues the beautiful temple dancer Seetha (Debra Paget) from a tiger, and the two fall in love. But the jealous Chandra, who wishes to marry Seetha himself, drops his reformist spirit and plans a brutally archaic revenge for the two lovers. The unquestioned high point is Paget's near-naked dance with a clunky fake cobra to prove her innocence before the temple priests (all played by Europeans in blackface). A big box-office success in Germany and a precursor to modern action-adventures like the Indiana Jones series, Lang's last great epic is pretty outrageous German neo-colonial snake oil, all the more startling considering that India had gained its independence more than a decade earlier.