Iron Doors (2010)

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Trapped in a vault! Is there any hope of escape?
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Germany / 81 minutes / color / Fullfeedback, Bar Vinya, Waterbear, Kinostar Dir: Stephen Manuel Pr: Axel Wedekind, Stephen Manuel, Aaron Magnani Scr: Peter Arneson Cine: Jan Reiff Cast: Axel Wedekind, Rungano Nyoni.

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A man (Wedekind), seemingly an office worker, wakes up to find himself locked into what looks to be some kind of bank vault, empty except for a padlocked metal locker and a dead rat. And flies—lots of flies. One of the fluorescent lamps overhead is full of dead ones, but there are live ones either buzzing around the man or breeding in the dead rat.

At first he thinks his predicament is some kind of practical joke—he specifically suspects a colleague called Fletcher. But, as time wears on and there’s no sign of any activity from beyond the vault door, he becomes more puzzled as to what’s going on.

iron-doors-1-the-man-climbs-atop-the-locker-to-evaluate-his-situation

The man (Axel Wedekind) climbs atop the locker to evaluate his situation.

Then he spots a key in the shade of one of the overhead fluorescents. Recovering the key, he’s able to open the locker. Inside it he finds Continue reading

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Phoenix (2014)

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After her return from the death camps, why do people want to own and exploit her?
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Phoenix - 0

Germany / 98 minutes / color / Schramm Film Koerner & Weber, Tempus, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, arte, Piffi Dir: Christian Petzold Pr: Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael Weber Scr: Christian Petzold, Harun Farocki Story: Le Retour des Cendres (1961) by Hubert Monteilhet Cine: Hans Fromm Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf, Michael Maertens, Imogen Kogge, Valerie Koch, Eva Bay, Megan Gay, Frank Seppeler, Daniela Holtz, Kathrin Wehlisch, Michael Wenninger, Claudia Geisler-Bading.

This is the third screen adaptation of Monteilhet’s novel; the first was J. Lee Thompson’s Return from the Ashes (1965), which I discussed here a few days ago. If you watch the two movies back to back, as I did, it’s blatant that they’re both based on the same work; but at the same time there are so many differences—the two are faithful and unfaithful to the novel in certain but different ways, while in many respects they’re poles apart in terms of “feel” and subtext—that really it makes sense to treat them as independent of each other. (The second screen adaptation, which I haven’t seen, was Le Retour d’Élisabeth Wolff [1982 TVM] dir Josée Dayan, with Malka Ribowska, Niels Arestrup, Clémentine Amouroux and Roland Bertin.)

In order to discuss this movie meaningfully, I’m going to have to talk about its ending. To be honest, it’s not one of those movies where a spoiler’s going to destroy your enjoyment—it’s a very satisfying tale even if you know what’s going to happen—but you’ve been warned. (Besides, I’ve missed out various of the other major plot turns.)

It’s 1945 and onetime Berlin cabaret singer Nelly Lenz (Hoss), hideously facially disfigured after a year in Auschwitz, is brought back into the city’s US sector by her old friend Lene Winter (Kunzendorf), who’s part of the Jewish committee clearing up the postwar mess.

Phoenix - 1 Lene (foreground) introduces Nelly to the wreckage that was once her home

Lene (Nina Kunzendorf, foreground) introduces Nelly (Nina Hoss) to the wreckage that was once her home.

Lene seems to have taken it upon herself to control every aspect of Nelly’s life. She arranges for Nelly to have reconstructive facial surgery at the hands of plastic surgeon Dr. Arzt (Maertens)—Nelly shows a first sign of rebellion here, insisting that he attempt to restore Continue reading

Blaue Hand, Die (1967)

vt Creature with the Blue Hand
West Germany, Denmark / 87 minutes / color / Rialto, Preben Philipsen, Constantin Dir: Alfred Vohrer Pr: Horst Wendlandt Scr: Alex Berg (i.e., Herbert Reinecker) Story: The Blue Hand, or Beyond Recall (1925) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ernst W. Kalinke Cast: Harald Leipnitz, Klaus Kinski, Siegfried Schürenberg, Carl Lange, Ilse Steppat, Diana Körner, Hermann Lenschau, Gudrun Genest, Albert Bessler, Richard Haller, Ilse Pagé, Fred Haltiner, Peter Parten, Thomas Danneberg, Heinz Spitzner, Karin Kenklies.

Blaue Hand - 0 opener

But is he?

We open with a court scene in which David Donald “Dave” Emerson (Kinski), son of the third Earl of Emerson, is being sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the estate gardener, Amory (Haller)—a sentence commuted, because of his diagnosed unsoundness of mind, to indeterminate detention in the mental facility run by Dr. Albert Mangrove (Lange). But Dave’s not long there before someone slips a key into his cell; using it, he’s able to make his escape and flee the few miles home to Gentry Hall through the spookily foggy woods. Once there, he goes to the room of his identical twin Richard (also Kinski); finding him absent, Dave purloins a set of his clothes so that he can pass as his brother.

Also in Gentry Hall are Dave’s other brothers Robert (Parten) and Charles (Danneberg) and the youngest sibling, Myrna (Körner), none of whom can believe that Dave is really guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. More enigmatic on the matter are the ex-stripper stepmother of the Continue reading

Labyrinth der Leidenschaften (1959)

WG, Italy / 95 minutes / bw / Universum, CEI, UFA-Filmverleih Dir: Rolf Thiele Pr: Walter Tjaden Scr: Gregor von Rezzori, Rolf Thiele Story: Our Hearts are Restless (1955) by Gladys Baker Cine: Klaus von Rautenfeld Cast: Nadja Tiller, Peter van Eyck, Amedeo Nazzari, Nicole Badal, Hanne Wieder, Elisabeth Flickenschildt, Ina Duscha, Benno Hoffman, Matteo Spinola, Piera Arico, Eduard Linkers, Anna Maria Lussi, Ljuba Welitsch.

Labyrinth - 0 mood opener

A fascinating psychological drama. Until a few years ago, Georgia Gale (Tiller) was a poet of great renown, but then she stopped writing and started drinking heavily. Now, as a desperate last resort, she has traveled to Switzerland, to the Sanatorium de Lattre, where she hopes to find a cure at the hands of the famous Professor De Lattre (Nazzari).

Labyrinth - 2 the petulant Georgia

The petulant Georgia (Nadja Tiller).

Almost as soon as she has arrived she’s rebelling against the regulations, not least that Continue reading

Geheimnis der Schwarzen Witwe, Das (1963)

vt The Secret of the Black Widow
WG, Spain / 96 minutes / bw / Germania Dir: F.J. Gottlieb Pr: Alfons Carcasona Scr: Rolf Becker, Alexandra Becker, F.J. Gottlieb Cine: Gottfried Pacheco Cast: O.W. Fischer, Karin Dor, Doris Kirchner, Werner Peters, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Claude Farell, Gabriel Lopart (i.e., Gabriel Llopart), José Maria Caffarel, Anton Casas, Felix Dafauce, Fernando Sancho, Cris Huerta, Belina.

Geheimnis - 2 other opener

A dozen years ago, in 1951, Professor Alfons Avery led an expedition to Mexico in search of Aztec treasure. Because of what was claimed to be a fatal encounter with a black widow spider, he never returned from that expedition. His companions did, however, and with the proceeds from the treasure they were able to set up London Sensations, which has become the most successful newspaper in all England. Now, however, someone is murdering the companions, cunningly using an air pistol to fire poison-tipped darts whose flights are not feathers but plastic models of black widow spiders.

After Morten (uncredited) and Robins (uncredited) are gunned down in this unorthodox fashion, the other Continue reading

Emil und die Detektive (1931)

vt Emil and the Detectives
Germany / 69 minutes / bw / UFA Dir: Gerhard Lamprecht Pr: Günther Stapenhorst Scr: Billie Wilder (i.e., Billy Wilder) Story: Emil und die Detektive (1929; vt Emil and the Detectives) by Erich Kästner Cine: Werner Brandes Cast: Käthe Haack, Rolf Wenkhaus, Olga Engl, Inge Landgut, Fritz Rasp, Rudolf Biebrach, Hans Joachim Schaufuss, Hans Richter, Hubert Schmitz, Hans Albrecht Löhr, Waldemar Kupczyk, Ernst Eberhard Reling.

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The first screen adaptation of Kästner’s much-loved children’s classic; the novel would be adapted for the screen again in 1935, 1952 (TV miniseries), 1954, 1964 and 2001. (For more on these remakes see below.)

Young Neustadt native Emil Tischbein (Wenkhaus) is sent by his hard-up hairdresser mother Emma (Haack) to Berlin for a holiday with his grandmother. Aboard the train his fellow-passengers include a strange man with a bowler hat (Rasp), later identified as Grundeis, who tells him tall tales about what wonders await him in Berlin—for example, that you can go to any bank and pawn your brain for 1,000 marks, retrieving it later for 1,200; it is, after all, perfectly possible to get by without your brain for a couple of days.

Emil und die D 2 - Emil chats with a fellow passenger

Emil (Rolf Wenkhaus) chats with a fellow passenger on the train. Continue reading

Frosch mit der Maske, Der (1959)

vt Face of the Frog
West Germany, Denmark / 87 minutes / bw / Constantin-Filmverleih, Rialto-Film, Preben Philipsen Dir: Harald Reinl Pr: Preben Philipsen Scr: Trygve Larsen, J. Joachim Bartsch Story: The Fellowship of the Frog (1925) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ernst W. Kalinke Cast: Joachim Fuchsberger, Eva Anthes (i.e., Elfie von Kalckreuth), Jochen Brockmann, Karl Lange (i.e., Carl Lange), Dieter Eppler, Eva Pflug, Walter Wilz, Fritz Rasp, Erwin Strahl, Ernst W. Fürbringer, Eddi Arent, Ulrich Beiger, Reinhard Kolldehoff, Michel Hildesheim, Charlotte Scheier-Herold, Siegfried Lowitz, Werner Hedman.

An amiable piece that’s very loosely based on an Edgar Wallace classic; it has the distinction of being the first in the long series of German krimi movies based on Wallace’s work. All London lives in terror of a criminal mastermind, called The Frog because of the goggle-eyed mask he wears to keep his identity a secret even from his closest henchmen; said henchmen, of whom there are nearly three hundred, can be identified by the frog emblem indelibly stamped on their forearms, as we discover when the cops try to infiltrate one of their number, Inspector Genter (Hedman, uncredited), into the gang. Before his gruesome death, Genter was given orders to kill Ray Bennet (Wilz), wastrel son of an enigmatic, taciturn, dictatorial father, John (Lange). The hit is now put in the hands of another henchman, the knife-throwing Everett aka K33 (Beiger), who muffs it, not only throwing his knife at the wrong person but missing.

That wrong person is rich private eye Richard Gordon (Fuchsberger), the nephew of top cop Sir Archibald (Fürbringer), who happens to be supervising the cop who’s leading the hunt for The Frog, Inspector Elk (Lowitz). Richard’s attention has been caught by Ray Bennet’s sister Ella (Anthes), and he is walking with her through the woods near her home when the errant knife is hurled. Unknown as yet to either of them is that The Frog, too, has set his sights on her.

Ray is fired by his boss, Maitland (Rasp), for impertinence. His immediate superior, Philo Johnson (Brockmann), is sympathetic, and indeed it’s not too long before Ray gets another job, this time in an unspecified role at the Lolita nightclub, whose hostess, Lolita (Pflug), easily seduces him into the right state of brainlessness that he doesn’t wonder at all what’s really going on.

Frosch mit der Maske - 3 Lolita gives Ray a job interviewLolita (Eva Pflug) conducts a job interview.

Frosch mit der Maske - 4 Ray () takes the jobRay Bennet (Walter Wilz) agrees to take the job.

We soon discover the club is owned by Maitland . . . except that Maitland’s really just a figurehead for The Frog. The Frog, you see, is hoping that, by framing Ray for murder—the murder of the Lolita club’s manager, Lew Brady (Kolldehoff), in fact—he can Continue reading