Algol: Tragedy of Power (German: Algol. Tragödie der Macht) is a 1920 silent German science fiction movie about an alien from the planet Algol. The film was directed by Hans Werckmeister and stars Emil Jannings and John Gottowt. The film centers on a human who is given a machine by an alien spirit which if used would allow him to rule to world. The sets for the movie were constructed by the poet-architect Paul Scheerbart.
The film was produced by the Deutsche Lichtbild-Gesellschaft (German light play company) in Berlin and was distributed by Universum Film AG (UFA). Its first release was on September 3, 1920 in Berlin, and was subsequently released worldwide including a launch in Finland on November 7, 1921. For many years it was believed that all copies of this movie had been lost however an intact version has now been recovered.
The story follows the life of Robert Herne who works in a coal mine and his friendship with Maria Obal. While working in the mine he encounters an inhabitant of the planet Algol who gives him a prototype machine that can provide a virtually unlimited source of power. Over the next year Herne sets up a factory providing energy however instead of simply relieving workers of the difficult job of mining the device creates massive economic upheaval throughout the world.
Over the next 20 years Herne continues to increase his power and influence but he has lost touch with Maria who now lives in the one part of the world to which his influence does not extend. The film follows the machinations of Herne’s son Reginald and his ultimately unsuccessful attempt at a coup aiming to seize the secrets of the machine for himself. Maria meanwhile has had a son who travels to meet Herne to ask for his assistance in supplying energy as their own country's coal reserves have expired. Although he initially refuses such assistance Maria visits him to ask in person and he comes to realise the extent to which he has been corrupted by power. In a moment of realisation Herne destroys the machine thereby preventing his son from taking control after his death.
- Emil Jannings as Robert Herne: The main protagonist of the movie. The film follows his life from that of a normal man to that of corrupt dictator over a period of 20 years.
- John Gottowt as Algol: An Alien presumably from the planet orbiting the Algol star. He gives Robert Herne an advanced alien machine allowing him to produce unlimited energy reserves. The motivations of Algol for providing such a technological device to a less advanced culture are not made clear or examined further during the movie.
- Hans Adalbert Schlettow as Peter Hell: The son of Herne's friend Maria. He lives in the one part of the world over which Herne still has no influence. As that countries coal supplies are exhausted however he travels to meet Herne only to be told that no assistance can be provided for his people. He eventually returns to his mother and his homeland without access to the machine but with Magda (Herne's daughter).
- Hanna Ralph as Maria Obal: Maria and Herne met in the coal mines before his encounter with Algol and became friends. During his rise to power however they lost touch and she moved to live in the one part of the world over which he has no control. Following her sons unsuccessful attempts to negotiate an energy source for their people she recalls her once close friendship with Robert and decides to visit him in person. It is partly her influence which makes him realise what he has become; a realisation which ultimately leads to him destroying the machine.
- Erna Morena as Yella Ward.
- Ernst Hofmann as Reginald Herne: Robert Herne’s son and chosen successor. Despite his fathers promises to one day show him the secrets of the machine he becomes hungry for power and seeks to overthrow his father by means of a coup. Robert however destroys the machine before his son can learn its secrets.
- Gertrude Welcker as Leonore Nissen.
- Käthe Haack as Magda Herne: Robert Herne’s daughter. Following her fathers refusal to provide energy to Maria’s country she realises the extent to which he has become corrupted and chooses to leave with Peter.
- Sebastian Droste as Ein Tänzer (A Dancer).
- Courtade, Francis (1984). Cinéma Expressionniste. 1st ed., Paris: Henry Veyrier. ISBN 2-85199-334-9.
- Wingrove, David (1985). Science Fiction Film Source Book. Harlow: Longman.
- Conley, Patrick (1989). Algol. Bildprotokoll und Verzeichnis der Inserts. Frankfurt: self-published.