STUDENT OF PRAGUE. German, 1935, as Der Student von Prag. Anton Walbrook (as Adolf Wohlbrück), Theodor Loos, Dorothea Wieck, Erich Fiedler, Edna Greyff. Adapted by Hans Kyser and Arthur Robison from the original story and screenplay by Hanns Heinz Ewers and Henrick Galeen. Directed by Arthur Robison.

   The two earlier versions of this story loom large in the history of German Silent Film — and therefore the history of film itself — but this one has been largely ignored or dismissed, a puzzle to me, since it’s a lovely little film, and perhaps a bit more enjoyable than its predecessors.

   Anton Walbrook stars as the impoverished (and rather superannuated) college boy, popular with the girls and handy with a sword but woefully underfunded when he falls under the spell of a visiting diva. The lady herself seems kindly disposed towards him, but she has a retinue that includes a wealthy baron and a sinister stranger who has some sort of mystical power over her.

   If you’re familiar with the story, you know that the stranger buys Walbrook’s soul, expressed by his reflection in a mirror. But this version executes a twist on the tale I found intriguing, and the result is an emotional impact not to be found in the earlier films. There’s a marvelous moment late in the movie where our student, now rich, with his life in shambles, keeps pulling big handfuls of money from his pockets and flinging it down in disgust, perfectly played by Walbrook and directed by Robison.

   Arthur Robison was American-born, German-raised, and a filmmaker in Germany since those halcyon silent days, best known for the expressionist Warning Shadows (1923). He directs here with a soft-focus splendor, bathing Prague in romantic candlelight and gentle shadows that somehow point up the sinister aspects of the tale more effectively than expressionism ever could. Moreover, for me at least, the overt romanticism lends a melancholy aspect to the spookiness that seems unique and enchanting.

   This Student wouldn’t scare a nervous cat, but it’s not a movie I’ll soon forget.

WARNING: This next clip is of the movie’s finale: