Wenn es Nacht Wird auf der Reeperbahn (1967)

vt When Night Falls on the Reeperbahn; vt Trip with the Devil; vt Uneasy Summer

WG / 96 minutes / color / Constantin Dir & Scr: Rolf Olsen Pr: Heinz Willeg Cine: Franz X. Lederle Cast: Erik Schumann, Fritz Wepper, Marianne Hoffmann, Jürgen Draeger, Konrad Georg, Marlis Draeger, Tanja Gruber, Willi Rose, Gabriele Sharon, Fritz Schütter, Heinz Reincke, Herbert Tiede, Karl Lieffen, Rudolf Schündler, Brigitte Schacht, Frank Nossack, Fanny Herrera, Günter Lüdke, Dieter Wagner, Erni Mangold.

Set in Hamburg, an unabashed exploitationer. Staggering through the streets as if drunk, her clothes partly torn from her, Eva Falsacher (uncredited) is the victim of a hit-and-run accident, the driver being the supposedly respectable businessman Hans Henningsen (Schündler). He has just been with harlot Wanda (Mangold), who has stolen his wallet; her pimp, Uwe Wagenknecht (Reincke) uses the wallet to blackmail Henningsen.

Meanwhile, maverick investigative journalist Danny Sonntag (Schumann), despite the contrary instructions of his editor, Manfred Nagel (Wagner), is probing the city’s rash of LSD-related crimes. One night he’s ambushed by a group of stocking-masked thugs who make it clear they’re beating him up because of the articles he’s been publishing about their enterprises. By coincidence, he’s discovered and rescued by Uwe and Wanda. (The next day he can barely walk, and his face is a mass of bandages. A couple of days later there’s nary a scab left. They heal fast, these journalists.)

Wenn es Nacht wird auf der Reeperbahn - Danny interviews his contact Mumps

Danny (Erik Schumann)  interviews his contact Mumps (Willi Rose) at Mumps’s workplace.

It doesn’t take too long for Danny and ourselves to learn that, led by the sociopathic Feuer-Hotte (Jürgen Draeger), the sons of some of Hamburg’s business and social leaders are running an LSD ring, the LSD being produced by shining university student Till Voss (Wepper). Operating in tandem with Feuer-Hotte’s group is the prostitution group run by Till’s girlfriend Pinky Schön (Gruber); it’s similarly made up of the thrill-seeking offspring of Hamburg notables. The deal is that the boys, through seedy physician Dr. Buning (Schütter), set up the girls for orgies with randy elderly Hamburg dignitaries . . . a ringleader among whom just happens to be Till’s industrial-magnate father Wilhelm (Tiede). The girls get high on LSD, which is both part of their reward for letting the lecherous fogies have sex with them and their way of tolerating the ordeal.

The highschool girls involved despise the “nun”—their classmate Lotti Norkus (Hoffmann), who wanders through proceedings with the sort of vacuous, limpid-eyed faux-virginity that girl in the Twilight movies would later patent. Till, though, has fallen for her hard—something that displeases the dumped Pinky. When Pinky receives a note asking her to meet Till with a view to reconciliation at her grandmother’s house, she’s murdered . . . and Feuer-Hotte is only too ready to use that fact to blackmail Till, who now wants out, into continuing to brew the LSD.

Till takes Lotti out on his father’s yacht, declares his love for her, and the inevitable happens: “I have given you what can never be given again,” she declares afterwards with a look of such sincerity that it’s hard not to fall around laughing.

The girls, now led by Margot (Sharon), trick Lotti along to one of the orgies. There, Margot pretends to Lotti that Till is two-timing her with his regular artist girlfriend Anita (uncredited), and produces some of Pinky’s candid shots to prove it. Fired up with LSD and seeking vengeance for Till’s presumed betrayal, Lotti allows herself to be taken by one of the seedy old businessmen at the orgy . . . who just happens to be Till’s father Wilhelm. After Till storms in and Lotti discovers the horrible truth, she slits her wrists in the nearest bathtub . . .

Wenn es Nacht wird auf der Reeperbahn - Lotti learns the awful truth

Lotti (Marianne Hoffmann) discovers the horrible truth.

Having been sacked by his editor for daring to expose the corrupt underbelly of Hamburg’s business establishment—of which, obviously, the editor is a part, Danny is now cooperating with the cops, in the form of Hauptkommissar Zinner (Georg) and his numbskull sidekick Kommissar Jens Paulsen (Lüdke). With the help of Uwe—always good for a scrap—and Danny’s idiosyncratic underworld informant Mumps (Rose), both LSD and prostitution rings are brought down. As Danny explains in voiceover just before the end, though, the involvement of the powers-that-be was successfully kept out of the papers.

This sort of movie was bread and butter for Schumann: he swaggered his way through score like it, his pocked face becoming almost as familiar to German audiences, albeit for far trashier reasons, as Jean Gabin’s was to French ones—although Schumann was by no means the actor that Gabin was, his roles being confined mainly to exploitationers like this one. Reincke and Mangold stand out among the support cast. Some of the camera angles are so extreme as to be almost a parody of noirish—more accurately, German Expressionist—cinematography.

The plot has a clear thematic echo of Nicolas Freeling’s classic crime novel Because of the Cats (1963), itself filmed as Niet Voor De Poezen (1973; vt Because of the Cats) dir Fons Rademakers, with Bryan Marshall, Alexandra Stewart, Sylvia Kristel and Sebastian Graham Jones. I think I have an old VHS of the movie somewhere, so should probably add it here at some point.

To be frank, Wenn es Nacht Wird auf der Reeperbahn is a movie whose merits are hard to find . . . aside from one quite unexpected twist, where we discover that the murderer of Pinky and gay clubowner Karlchen Dincke (Lieffen), whose Sauna Club the kids have been using as their base, isn’t who we’d assumed he was. Otherwise, it lumbers along at a good pace, there are naked breasts aplenty, there’s a stripper who manages to shed the same garment twice, there’s gratuitous topless mud-wrestling . . . but at least there’s a sort of goodheartedness about proceedings that one doesn’t always find in exploitationers—as if everyone involved at least got paid. And its soundtrack could be taken as the theme tune of Eurotrash.

Danny has a way with aphorisms; the one I liked best was (according to the subtitles): “He who fiddles with the truth is slapped with the violin!”

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2 thoughts on “Wenn es Nacht Wird auf der Reeperbahn (1967)

  1. “To be frank, Wenn es Nacht Wird auf der Reeperbahn is a movie whose merits are hard to find.”

    And a Eurotrash soundtrack to boot, eh? Ah well, I guess this is the one drawback to completism, though I am finding your thorough approach rewarding for shedding some attention on films that have long fallen off the radar. You make no bones though when you state right at the outset of this splendid essay: “an unabashed emploitationer.”

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