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The Plague of Florence

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Plague of Florence
The Plague of Florence.jpg
Directed byOtto Rippert
Written byFritz Lang
Based onThe Masque of the Red Death, short story by Edgar Allan Poe[1]
Produced byErich Pommer
StarringTheodor Becker
Karl Bernhard
Julietta Brandt
CinematographyWilly Hameister
Emil Schünemann[2]
Music byBruno Gellert
Release date
23 October 1919[3]
Running time
102 minutes (2000 restored version)
CountryWeimar Germany
German intertitles

The Plague in Florence (German: Pest in Florenz)[a] is a 1919 German silent historical film directed by Otto Rippert for Eric Pommer's Deutsche Eclair (Decla) production company. The screenplay was written by Fritz Lang.[2] It stars Marga von Kierska, Theodor Becker, Karl Bernhard and Julietta Brandt.[4] The film is a tragic romance set in Florence in 1348, just before the first outbreaks in Italy of the Black Death, which then spread out across the entire continent.[5]

Lang's screenplay was based on the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Masque of the Red Death", but he heightened the story's sexual tension by making the plague appear in the form of a beautiful seductress.


Julia, a rich courtesan (Marga von Kierska), arrives in Florence. A cardinal fears that her beauty could rival the church's power, and orders inquiries to be made about her Christian beliefs. Cesare, the city's ruler, and Lorenzo (his son) both fall madly in love with her. A mob, led by Lorenzo, storms the palace where Julia is about to be tortured. Lorenzo kills Cesare, his father, and rescues her. Lust and excess overtake the city. Even Medardus, a hermit, is overcome by her beauty, and he also is driven to commit sacrilegious acts. Florence's fine buildings are turned into dens of sexual debauchery. Excess and manslaughter continue uninterrupted until the arrival of a ragged female figure personifying the Plague, who infects the whole city with her deadly disease and plays the fiddle while the population dies in droves.


  • Otto Mannstädt as Cesare, ruler of Florence
  • Anders Wikmann as Lorenzo, Cesare's Son
  • Karl Bernhard as Lorenzo's confidant
  • Erich Bartels [de] as A Fool
  • Franz Knaak as The Cardinal
  • Erner Hübsch [de] as A monk
  • Marga von Kierska as Julia, a courtesan
  • Auguste Prasch-Grevenberg as Julia's first servant
  • Hans Walter as Julia's confidant
  • Theodor Becker as Medardus, a hermit
  • Julietta Brandt as The Plague


The production company was Eric Pommer's Decla-Film Gesellschaft, founded in February 1915 from the assets of the German branch of the French Éclair company (hence the initials from Deutsche Éclair).[6] Éclair, like all other foreign-owned firms, was banned in Germany from the start of WWI and their assets (such as equipment, leases on studios, offices, etc.) confiscated by the government and resold.[7] Decla didn't become Decla-Bioskop until 1920, after merging with Deutsche Bioskop. The latter company was originally formed by Jules Greenbaum in 1899, sold to Carl Moritz Schleussner in 1908,[7] and moved to the Babelsberg studios in 1911.[8]

The imposing, crowd-filled, exterior sets of mediaeval Florentine architecture including the Medici Palace[9] were designed by the architect Franz Jaffe (1855-1937), previously royal buildings advisor to the King of Prussia. Some of the more intimate interior scenes were filmed at the Weissensee Studios on 9 Franz Josef-Straße, Weissensee, Berlin,[10] a glasshouse studio originally built in 1914 for the Continental-Kunstfilm production company.

The cameramen Willy Hameister and Emil Schünemann had previously filmed Continental's In Nacht und Eis, the first feature film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic: one of the stars in that film was Otto Rippert, who then went on to direct some further ten films for Continental in 1912 and 1913, most of which are considered lost.[11] See also List of films made by Continental-Kunstfilm. Cameraman Hameister had also previously worked on the hugely successful film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, released earlier that year. Rippert had earlier that year directed Dance of Death with Fritz Lang's screenplay.[12]


The film received its première at the Marmorhaus cinema in Berlin, but the music specially composed by Bruno Gellert wasn't finished in time, and wasn't played until several days later.[13]


  1. ^ The German title, as evidenced by the publicity poster, and by watching the credits at the very start of the film, is simply Pest in Florenz, without the article Die. Even the article on German Wikipedia de:Die Pest in Florenz is currently (January 2021) mis-titled. See also External links.
  1. ^ Sarno 2005, p. 132.
  2. ^ a b Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 209.ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  3. ^ Film-Kurier (Berlin) vol. 1, no. 107, 9 October 1919, p. 3. (in German). Accessed 23 February 2016.
  4. ^ Ott, p.19
  5. ^ Tibayrenc 2007, p. 731.
  6. ^ Hardt 1996, p. 37.
  7. ^ a b Hampicke, Evelyn (2015). "Jules Greenbaum". CineGraph - Lexikon zum deutschsprachigen Film. (in German). Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Babelsberg". Berliner Film-Ateliers. Ein kleines Lexikon. Lexikon zum deutschsprachigen Film. (Online edition of Berg-Ganschow & Jacobsen 1987, pp. 177–202) (in German). Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  9. ^ Lichtbild-Bühne, Vol. 12, no. 30, 26 July 1919, p. 27. (in German). Accessed 23 February 2016.
  10. ^ Robinson 1997, p. 25.
  11. ^ Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 210.ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  12. ^ Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era. Midnight Marquee Press. p. 210.ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  13. ^ Lichtbild-Bühne (Berlin), Vol. 12, no. 43, 25 October 1919, p. 20. (in German) Accessed 23 February 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 October 2022, at 03:22
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