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The Independent Critic

Liv Ullmann, David Carradine, Gert Froebe, Heinz Bennent, Glynn Turman, James Whitmore
Ingmar Bergman
Rated R
120 Mins.
Arrow Films

 "The Serpent's Egg" is Low-End Bergman 
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Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman could do very little wrong in his career, the vast majority of his films existing somewhere between genuinely good films and freaking brilliant ones. 

The Serpent's Egg, a film that Bergman made after leaving Sweden for a brief journey to Los Angeles, isn't a good film. Truthfully, it's barely an average one. Amidst a stellar filmmaking career, The Serpent's Egg is a disappointment. Teaming up with equally iconic producer Dino De Laurentiis to make his only Hollywood film, Bergman sets the story of this out-of-work circus performer in 1923 Berlin, a time when Germany is still dealing with the impact of its loss in World War I and a time when the film's main character, Abel Rosenberg (David Carradine) is already living in poverty when his brother commits suicide. Moving into the apartment of his cabaret singer sister-in-law (Liv Ullmann), he soon attracts the attention of a seemingly beneficent professor (Heinz Bennent) who is revealed to have a rather horrifying area of research. 

The Serpent's Egg is, in fact, one of Bergman's darkest films, a paranoid thriller with a Kafkaesque aura and a constant sense of dread that permeates virtually every moment of the film. The film is at its finest when Bergman dips into his Swedish-tinged themes. James Whitmore's appearance as an American priest lamenting his sense of powerlessness is rather riveting, though the film overall lacks the sense of purpose and mission so common in Bergman films. The film is often intense and passionate, but the intensity and the passion don't go anywhere nor do they feel organically manifested. 

The Serpent's Egg seems to want to serve as a cautionary tale, a pre-Nazi era warning of sorts yet Bergman works so hard to develop these themes that it's nearly impossible to surrender to them. It's too much resulting in too little. 

Despite having tremendous reservations about the film, The Serpent's Egg remains a Bergman film and even an average Bergman film is vastly superior to the best of many other filmmakers. However, there's simply no question that The Serpent's Egg is low-end Bergman, a film that feels like it reflects the filmmaker's being out of his natural element even if he did leave an element about which he often complained vigorously. For more information on the film and this fine Arrow Films Blu-ray packaging, visit the Arrow Films website linked to in the credits. 

Extras on the Blu-ray include:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Audio Commentary by actor David Carradine
  • Bergman’s Egg – a newly filmed appreciation by critic and author Barry Forshaw
  • Away From Home, archival featurette including interviews with David Carradine and Liv Ullman
  • German Expressionism, archival interview with Author Marc Gervais
  • Stills gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Geoffrey Macnab

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic