The Stone Rider
the stone rider | fritz wendhausen | rudolf klein-rogge | lucie mannheim | gustav von wangenheim | germany | drama | fantasy | georg john | silent film | german expressionism | emilia unda | grete berger | wilhelm diegelmann | paul biensfeldt | erich fiedler
Film: The Stone Rider (Der steinerne Reiter)
Director: Fritz Wendhausen
Writer: Fritz Wendhausen
Starring: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Lucie Mannheim and Gustav von Wangenheim
This is a film that I discovered when searching Letterboxd for movies from 1923 as part of my Centennial Club run on my podcast, Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. I did find this streaming on YouTube as well as on Archive.org, but those versions were shorter. I went ahead and watched one of them for review.
Synopsis: a dreaded master lives in a gloomy castle on top of a mountain, where the villagers in the valley below dread his arrival at every wedding.
We start seeing a party in the valley. This is a wedding and an older man in attendance tells of a tale. This is about the stone rider that is overlooking the valley. We then see the history of this lore.
The stone rider is Der Herr vom Berge (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). This translates to the man of the mountain. He is at a bar with a buddy and complaining about how his people treat him like the devil. Since that is how they treat him, he is going to embrace this idea. This movie doesn’t come out and say it, but I’m assuming he sleeps with the bride on her wedding night as I know this was a custom in places in the past.
We also get to meet Hirtin (Lucie Mannheim) who is seeing a hunter, Gustav von Wangenheim. They credit him as Jäger. I believe he goes off. Before he does, one of the things he asks if Hirtin is going to go to her sister’s wedding. She seems like she doesn’t want to as she thinks that it will end in sadness.
This becomes problematic as Der Herr vom Berge shows up. This creates an issue. The groom accidently hits his new bride instead of the nobleman. It is here that I started to wonder if Hirtin had feelings for her brother-in-law. Regardless, she is smitten with Der Herr vom Berge who feels the same. He takes her back to his manor and wants to marry her. Things take a turn when a mob is created for revenge and a man at the wedding treats this new bride how he treated the others.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. To set up something here, I took German in college so I was able to translate some of the names, but not all of them. That was something I didn’t necessarily feel was important though either. What I’ve given helps to connect dots and for me to discuss this film.
What I should say is that I’m not entirely sure why this is listed as horror. I can see the implied sexual assaults that take place at the weddings. From what I saw though, unless you know the history or that this was a custom then I think that could be missed. Der Herr vom Berge is considered a villain. He embraces that he is so that isn’t necessarily conjuncture. What is a problem is that we don’t see much of that. I am acknowledging again that I’m watching a shorter version so what is missing could establish this more. This is a classic troupe all the back to the even novels written well before this on top of that.
I do like where this idea of this mountain being referred to as ‘The Stone Rider’ and seeing this lore play out. It almost feels like Native American or other indigenous lore. Heck, this could even be with just mythology anywhere. These stories were created to explain things or just there for entertainment. It worked for me as well.
There isn’t much more for the story so let’s go to the acting. I thought that it was solid across the board. Klein-Rogge’s facial expressions make him look menacing. I did like that. Mannheim works as this woman who falls for the villain. She finds the humanity there which is a good element. You could even say that this is a variation on the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ narrative. We just don’t have him as a creature. It is fun to see von Wangenheim as this hunter, but he disappears after we meet him until later. Other than that, I thought the rest of the cast rounded this out for what as needed.
Then the last things to go into would be with the filmmaking. The cinematography is solid. We get an interesting look at this mountain before we go into the past to tell the tale. They don’t do much with it other than that. It is also early into cinema so the technology isn’t there. There is a solid time lapse for transition into the story I appreciated. The version I watched didn’t have a soundtrack so I can’t grade this here.
In conclusion, I thought this was an intriguing cautionary tale. We are explaining why we have this odd rock formation and the lore before it is a good story. The acting is good in bringing the characters to life. I’d say this was well-made for the era. I would like to see the longer version of this if that is out there to see what I might have missed. I’d also like a soundtrack synced to the next version I watched. I can only recommend this one though if you’re into the history of cinema. It is quite light on the horror elements as well.
My Rating: 6 out of 10