When released in Paris on December 23rd 1955 Lola Montes, directed and scripted by Max Ophuls, caused an unprecedented scandal. Faced with the commercial failure of the movie the producers decided to cut some scenes, to translate part of the German dialogue in French and to remix the sound. At the end of 1956, against the director’s wishes, the film was cut further and re-edited chronologically. In 1966 the producer Pierre Braunberger bought the movie rights and produced a version that was close to the original. In 2008, thanks to digital technology, the Cinematheque Francaise was able to release a completely restored version, faithful to Max Ophuls original with the colours, the stereo sound and the format as was originally intended.
German born Ophuls saw himself as a French director as most of his films were made in France although he did work in other countries including America. A Franco-German production, financed by the Swiss company Gamma Film, Lola Montes, or to give it its full title The Sins of Lola Montes, was his biggest film to date, his only one in colour and the last completed before his death and his only film to go wildly over budget!
The film is based loosely on the life of the 19th Century Irish cabaret dancer Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld who was better known by her stage name Lola Montes. It tells the story of her numerous affairs, most notably with Franz Liszt and Ludwig 1 King of Bavaria, coupled with flashbacks to and from her current life as a performer in a circus. The film stars the beautiful Martine Carol as Lola, although the director did not see the French actress as being ideal for the part, how wrong you can be. Peter Ustinov plays the circus master and Anton Walbrook a great King of Bavaria. All three of the main actors having to play there parts using three different languages. Looking back now the film is recognised as somewhat avant-garde, and was deemed something new in cinema. A beautifully restored version is available on DVD; get a copy and marvel at this forgotten gem.