While researching posters for my Weimar post last month I came across this stunning Hungarian poster which looks as if it should be a poster for a Dreyer film, but is in fact for a lost silent 1917 German horror movie, the 6th part of Otto Rippert’s Homunculus serial.
In the essay “Shadow-Souls and Strange Adventures: Horror and the Supernatural in European Silent Film” [available in the collection The Horror Film], Casper Tybjerg writes: “The six-part serial Homunculus (1916-1917) was one of the biggest and most acclaimed productions of the war years, but only a confusing print of the fourth part and a fragment of the fifth survives. The Danish star Olaf Fonss played the title role as ‘the man without soul,’ an artificial human created by science. Homunculus is brought up thinking that he is a normal man, but finds himself unable to feel love, because he was created without love. When he discovers the truth, he vows to avenge himself. He wanders the Earth, haunted by his inability to feel the passion of emotions of the humans around him. He becomes embitered and malevolent; he invents a chemical destructive enough to set the whole world on fire, but decides that is too crude a way of avenging himself upon humanity. Instead, he uses his superhuman gifts to rise to great political power, which he deliberately uses to sow discord between the people and their rulers. The world descends into chaos and strife. Finally, the scientist who made Homunculus makes a new, identical being. The two homunculi meet in a titanic struggle [hence the image in the poster]; the old one triumphs, but is then destroyed by a thunderbolt from heaven.”
According to IMDb, Homunculus, no doubt a huge influence on Lang’s Metropolis, was the most popular serial in Germany during World War I, “even influencing the dress of the fashionable set in Berlin.”
The poster is designed by the Hungarian artist Nándor Honti about whom I can find very little beyond the fact that between 1924 and 1925 he designed paper dolls for McCall’s Magazine.