Wegener ImagePaul Wegener, like Sweden's Victor Sjöstrom, was an accomplished actor who played a major role behind the camera in advancing feature-length filmmaking in the Cinema's formative years. In fact, a strong argument can be made for considering Paul Wegener as the true father of the horror film. An accomplished stage actor with Max Reinhardt's Deutches Theater, Wegener realized the possibilities of cinematic trick photography as a method for presenting fantastic tales in a serious matter. Double exposure had long been a staple of humerous trick films like those of Méliès, but Wegener used the the technology to create the brooding Student of Prague (1913). One of the first true feature films, The Student of Prague incorporated elements borrowed from Poe and Hoffmann to create a tale of an impoverished student who sells his reflection/soul for riches, only to be haunted by the actions of his evil reflection, freed from its owner and bent on destroying his life.

Wegener had a sincere interest in folklore and legends. While making The Student of Prague on location, he became interested in the local tales of the adventures of Rabbi Loew and the Golem. Wegener's first Golem film was made in 1916, and a second golem-related film followed in 1917. In 1920, The Golem, and How He Came Into the World was released. A big-budget adaptation of the Prague legends, this Golem was a true horror epic, which was heavily influential on the Universal horror cycle of the 1930s.

Wegener in Rex Ingram's The Magician. Born Dec. 11, 1874, Bischdorf, East Prussia. Died 1948.

Paul Wegener Filmography.

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Copyright 1996 E.H. Larson.