Films from Germany (1945 1989)

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Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby A » Wed Jan 03, 2007 1:18 am

Seems you in the US are getting more films from East Germany released onto DVD than we.
Good to see that there is enough interest for this topic to explore it om your own, as I still haven`t finished my piece on a film that belongs here.

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jan 03, 2007 7:36 am

I still have to get to a few DEFA-produced "Red Westerns," in which the Native American are the heroes and the settlers are the villians.

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby A » Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:18 pm

Ah yes. Some of those get regularly shown on German TV, though I sadly haven`t seen any of them yet.
But in West Germany there were also some Westerns with a similar topic. I think it might even be possible that east Germany started to copy this formula after the success of Winnetou (1963). Gojko Mitic who came to be a huge star in East Germany and the main choice for the indian protagonist that features in many DEFA films, also appeared in some early GDR films.
Winnetou and its dozen spin-offs always had Pierre Briece as the noble savage who is trying to save his tribe from various dangers. In some of the films Lex Barker (he from the Tarzan fame) plays his "sidekick".

Some of those West German westerns are actually watchable, and I can recommend two films which was a childhood favorite, and which I still found pretty good two years ago. Though they are also very corny, my experience was much like watching an Indiana Jones flick. Der Schatz der Azteken ("The Treasure of the Aztecs") and Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes ("Pyramid of the Sun God") are two of the last films Robert Siodmak made after returning to Germany. They were both shot at the same time (about 1965) and care actually one film that was split in two because of its length - much like Kill Bill. It could have also been planned like this, because it wasn`t uncommon for these kind of european co-produced Blockbusters to stretch a film into a series (Winnetou was followed by two sequels). Maybe you can get hold of a copy, but my advice is not to watch an edited version (the original is ca. 200 minutes), and going in without expecting a John Ford.

I`ll write something if I catch any of those (East or Wes), but I have a feeling that you will be faster.

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Jan 04, 2007 8:50 am

Good stuff. You've heightened my interest!

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby A » Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:32 pm

I wanted to tape a couple of those from TV some months ago when i was living with my parents for a short time. Now I don`t even have TV. But at least the films are kind of around.

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Nov 14, 2007 3:53 am

Is R6dw6C into DEFA films?

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby R6dw6C » Wed Nov 14, 2007 2:22 pm

He is! At the latest since he has seen Egon Gnther's amazingly innovative and brilliant "Abschied / Farewell" on the big screen and some of the socialistic westerns with Gojko Mitic (A already mentioned them) on TV. Too bad that there are only very few DEFA-Films on DVD here - as A said, you seem to have more of them on DVD than we have.

Maybe I'll revisit some of the west German "Winnetou" / "Old Shatterhand" (always played by Lex Barker) and "Old Surehand"- (three times played by Stewart Granger who was the best paid actor in a German production at this time)-Flicks and contribute a few little comments. I adore this cute, naive and incredibly kitschy Adventure films a lot since I grew up with them on german Television every year around Christmas time. And they definitely present the affection of our nation during the early 60ies, the economic miracle and all those things happening then. And - not to be forgotten - those were the most expensive and successful german films ever made to date. Other producers laughed at Horst Wendlandt when he decided to spend 3 Million DEM on "Der Schatz im Silbersee / The Treasure of the Silver Lake" and to produce a "big, international Cinemascope-Epic in colour" - they were awfully wrong and started to prepare their own Karl May-Adaptations very soon when the film hit the theaters, especially mighty producer Arthur Brauner who once was the boss of Wendlandt and couldn't watch the success of his former assistant. His "Old Shatterhand" (1963) probably is the only german 65mm-Film, mainly produced for a young audience. The Karl May Series went down when Wendlandt (in 1967) decided to go in the same direction as the italian westerns.

Just to give you a little insight (If you didn't already check it out after A's teasing posting), here are a few trailers of those films - enjoy:

Trailer (Winnetou Part 1, 1963)

Winnetou and his Friend Old Firehand (Trailer, 1967) - this was the last film of the series produced by Wendlandt and it has some sort of "Spaghetti Western"-Touch)

The Treasure of the Silver Lake (1962, Trailer)

There were also some adaptations of Karl May's oriental-placed novels with titles like "Wild Kurdistan" or "Im Reiche des silbernen Lwen / In the Kingdom of the Silver Lion" but they never were as successful as the "western"-films (I like them quite a lot).
And in 1988, there were an east German TV-Film, "Das Buschgespenst", which is a rare adaptation of one Karl May-Story set in the Germany of the 19th Century, about a smuggling "ghost" in the mountains at the German-Czech boarder which is also excellent but very rare.

If you want to know anything about those films or the german Edgar Wallace-Films - both are probably two of the strangest and most successful phenomenons in Germany's film history - just ask me, I know (almost) everything about those films and own two great books about them.
I'll also try to post another index including the ones available with english subtitles.
I also need to buy them on DVD by myself as I still haven't seen most of the films in their original Aspect Ratio of 1:2,35.

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby A » Sat Nov 17, 2007 10:05 pm

The "Filmhauskino" in Nuremberg have started a program which will focus in different sections on the East and West German cinema after the 2nd World War. The beginning has been made this November and December with a selection of respectively 6 films from both sides that were realized between 1946 and 1953.

Today I went to see one of them with two friends. Ehe im Schatten (Marriage in the Shadows / 1947) was not only one of the first German films made after the war, but is also reported to have been very popular amongst the population. It was released throughout Germany in all occupied sectors and dealt, as many films in the following years would, with the dictatorship during 1933 and 1945 and its effect on the German population. Produced by the DEFA, the film has a less overt political and propagandist overtone than some of the later films, and was the first feature-film effort of director Kurt Maetzig who would become one of the dozen or so filmmakers whose 1964/65 productions would be banned by the Government - in his case the contoversial Das Kaninchen bin ich (I Am the Rabbit / 1965).

In "Marriage in the Shadows", Maetzig appears as a technically assured director who uses a seemingly conventional story to confront the audience with their recent past and demonstrate the consequences of the fascist ideoloy on the outsiders of the Thirs Reich. Ilse Steppat plays a successful actress who is aspiring to become a new star of the German theater. It is 1933, shortly after the definitive rise to power of Hitler and his party, and the actress and her fellow colleagues are depicted as artists who are yet quite unconcerned about the political situation. Though they are aware of the political climate and even discuss it early on in the film when they are on holiday...

to be continued...

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby R6dw6C » Sat Nov 17, 2007 11:41 pm

Sounds very interesting. Too bad I couldn't join you because of my cold. How about the talk with Kurt Maetzig? What was it like?

I've seen a very extraordinary (West) German film yesterday, and though I've seen 22 films (!) by Alfred Vohrer before, this was a surprise nevertheless. Though the title suggest a detective story,
"Ein Alibi zerbricht / An Alibi for Death" (1963)

is more a dark marriage melodrama with a thrilling, criminal touch. The great, unforgotten Ruth Leuwerik plays a lawyer (her character hasn't much in common with the usual female characters of German cinema in the early 60ies) who happens to discover that her husband Gnther (Peter van Eyck) knew the man for whose murder her last client was innocently accused. She begins to distrust him and herself more and more just to finally find out that the only thing that could helped their love to last would have been repression.
What's most unusual about the film (written by acclaimed screen writer Herbert Reinecker) is its attempt to tell about two different matters visual and acoustic. While the sound tells the thrilling story, the images are loaded with symbolism and correspond with the rest in a very complex and asscociating way. If you watch the film, you'll get a bizarre argument about what went wrong with the political and social rehabilitation of germany as a nation of wealth in the 1950ies (The ignorant, snobbish character of Peter van Eyck is the "Best of the Worst"...), if you listen to it, there will hardly be more than an entertaining chiller... but if you do both, you'll get some kind of quaint mixture including the interesting fact that Alfred Vohrer as a gay director tried to stage the tragedy of a breaking heterosexual relationship. Vohrer collaborated very often with Herbert Reinecker later but they never really reached the quality of this early work again. Also remarkable: The film suggests that the "typical" social solidarity among german people went down within the afore said rehabilitation. The film itself was a huge flop and hardly brought its budget back - it still remains a forgotten, obscure rarity. And the soundtrack of Germany's wizard of experimental film music, Peter Thomas, is brilliant.

Rated 22 out of 25.

There's a funny comment on IMDb which says it's a pity to notice that this was the last feature film to star Ruth Leuwerik. I can hardly agree with anything that guy wrote - "An Alibi for Death" is for sure one of the most unusual commercial (and consider the fact that, at this time, cinema in germany was almost only commercial, the new, independent german wave was still far away in 1963!) German films of its time and much more interesting than the before mentioned Karl May and Edgar Wallace-Adaptations. It is almost hard to select the interesting german films from those years - the terrible, kitschy and sentimental films with regional background (The Bavarian Alps, very often...) were still pretty overwhelming in 1963.

EDIT: For those who are interested: "I am the Rabbit" and "Schlsser und Katen" (1957) by Kurt Maetzig are available on DVD over here - english subtitled!

Re: Films from Germany (1945 1989)

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 4:53 am

R6dw6C: Since you didn't mention Gnther's Der Dritte/Her Third, I'm gonna assume that you haven't seen it. He was known as an experimental filmmaker and the film you brought up seems to qualify as such. It isn't available here. The one I reviewed is a more traditional social-realist piece.

Along with Westerns, DEFA also produced a number of Sci-Fi films. Kurt Maetzig's Der Schweigende Stern, Gottfried Kolditz's Im Staub der Sterne, and Hermann Zschoche's Eolomea are said to be the key works. Have you seen any of them?


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