Der Knabe in Blau
director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
alternative titles: Der Todessmaragd
A lost early work by F.W. Murnau, the plot of which has not been extensively documented. In this film, Thomas von Weerth lives as the last scion of an aristocratic family in the dilapidated castle of his ancestors. He is fascinated by the picture, 'The Boy in Blue', which shows the so-called Death Emerald. According to legend, this jewel brought only misfortune to the Weerths, and so was eventually hidden. Obsessed with the story, Thomas begins to search for the emerald. Indeed, he succeeds in finding the accursed jewel, but is now himself threatened by its curse.
Screenplay: Ernst Hofmann [aka E.H. Schönholtz], Hedda Hofmann [aka Edda Otterhausen].
Director of Photography: Carl Hoffmann.
Set Design: Willi A. Herrmann.
Cast: Margit Barnay (Lisa Sutroff, a young actress), Marie von Bülow (a beggar woman), Blandine Ebinger (Maja, a beatiful gipsy woman), Leonhard Haskel (theatre director), Ernst Hofmann (Thomas von Werth), Georg John (Dr. Perennius Bell), Hedda Kemp (a rolling stone), Eugen Klix [aka Rudolf Klix] (Bobby), Hans Ottershausen (the raree show man), Karl Platen (an old butler), Helene Sauer (the lady in veil), Hans Schaup (old butler Dietrich, Thomas' butler), Schmidt-Werden.
Studio: Saturn-Film-Atelier, Berlin.
Locations: Wasserburg Vischering near Lüdinghausen (Münsterland), area surrounding Berlin.
Shoot: spring time 1919.
Production Company: Ernst Hofmann-Film-Gesellschaft, Berlin.
Producer: Ernst Hofmann.
Length: 5 acts, 1560 m (after censorship).
Format: 35 mm. 1:1.33.
Picture/Sound: b/w, silent.
Censorship Details: 7 April 1921, B.01793, 5 acts, ban for young people.
Première: date not proved; sold to the distributor on 12 July 1919.
Adapted and enlarged from:
Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen
The Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin holds thirty five short fragments related to this film in its nitrate collection.
Each fragment corresponds to a single shot from the film (in one case, an inter-title) and all the fragments are tinted in one of a total five different colours (though complete prints may have featured additional colours - we cannot say for certain based on the surviving material).
The length of the fragments range from as little as two frames to a maximum of eleven frames. As such it is impossible to present them satisfactorily in moving image form on the Lost Films website. We have therefore decided to scan and upload one reference frame from each fragment as a still image, starting with one example of each of the five tints.
Unfortunately, the raw scans did not accurately reproduce the colours of the original tints. Attempts to correct this by adjusting the red, green and blue light values of the original digital files proved unsatisfactory.
We therefore decided to simulate the colours of the tints by applying a digital variation of the method for the reproduction of colour tints devised by Noël Desmet of the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique in Brussels. Using Adobe Photoshop, the original scan was first rendered in black and white and then the colour was added to the image in a second layer on top.
A digital photograph of the fragments taken above a light table acted as a rough guide for the colours, following close examination of the original nitrate material at the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv (where the material is stored).
Although we have done our absolute best to match the colours as closely as possible, the result should in no way be taken as a definitive depiction of the colours as they appear in the original fragments (for that, one should ultimately come to Berlin to view the fragments themselves).
Rather, the result is intended merely to give an impression of the range of colour effects on display in the surviving fragments to further nurture an understanding of this now lost film.
A full explanation and description of the methodology will appear soon on the Deutsche Kinemathek's 'Recherche Film' website.
Oliver Hanley, Deutsche Kinemathek