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Henker – Frauen – Soldaten

 

A war propaganda film with Hans Albers playing a double-role as a daring German flier and a Russian general – two cousins – who are bitterly hostile to each other after the end of the First World War.  The pilot joins a Freikorps, which, in spite of the German capitulation, continues to fight on against Russia; the general commands the Russian troops opposite the flier’s unit.  The general’s lover, a Russian spy, falls in love with the German pilot.  In a duel between the two men, the Russian is killed and the German is badly wounded.  When Russian soldiers bring back the wounded general to their headquarters, thinking him to be their general,  the spy faces a conflict between love and patriotism.

 

 

 

 

This poster was reputedly one displayed in the Berlin S-Bahn stations so is an unusual dimension. This publicity pamphlet for cinema owners, called a Werberatschlag, offered cinemas movie stills, bromides, posters and other items to publicise the movie in 1935.  

This pamphlet  (below) is not in the Collection, but indicates a graphic design close to that of the actual poster., and very likely by the same graphic artist.

 

 

HFS.jpg

 

An original film still from the movie in our collection shows leading actor Hans Albers with a bandage around his head, as per the poster.

Henker-bandage-shot.jpg

 

Henker, Frauen und Soldaten

Film premiere review from “Der Film” newspaper, 1.Beilage, 21 December 1935, Berlin.

 

Behind the furioso of this picture stands the belief in the fatherland and the hardness of soldierly duty. A film that pounds with great rhythm, which drums up the memories of the war and postwar activities. These years had their heroic-tragic trait: the mass of the ennobled tumbling away in exuberant, even morbid endurance, and thrown out of the train, stood before the flag of the men whose inner and outer fate preceded that 'dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.' ["it is sweet and right to die for your country."]  The film has attacked this shattering, and at the same time, grandiose chapter of German history. It threw it into the debates of the day with indomitable force. A chord of eerie sound rushes up. An experience of ravishing power casts a spell over you. The cinematic epic of  militancy has been written: a slideshow of the twentieth century.

At the same time, the film disclosed the power of its language. It has once again given a test of its soul-rousing visuality, and the world is exemplified by what it can do in the hands of artists. The film conjures up the recent past and thus the present. It reaches back, brightens a sector of life and thus gives its admonition to the day. It does so consciously, but without pathos; bold, but without intrusiveness.

The script was from Max Kimmich, after the novel by Fritz Reck–Malleczewen. Kimmich is one of the most penetrating draughtsmen. He writes particularly cinematically, effectively from the eye, lays his drama on heavy and wide, and does not shy away from long breaks.

The author has divided the plot into three parts: the war in the Arabian desert, the Returnee–Intermezzo in revolutionary Germany, and the Freikorp battles in the Baltic lands.  The complex scenes face one another sharply, and are connected through vague transitions and small interim events. This epic form forced to a certain extensiveness and required a thematic expansion, which is the inner cohesion of termination.

The fate of Rittmeister Prack, which unfolds from the three shining, colourful, contrasting backgrounds of the South, the North and of the East; develop inevitably not from the character of this central figure, but rather remain bound to the course of the events shown.

The soldier escapes from the English, is thrown into the November turmoil of 1918, meets a recruitment officer and goes into the fight against the Russians. Kimmich turns on subplots quite arbitrarily. Because of the visual effect, not out of artistic necessity, he lets Prack take the Englishman through the desert, he lets the Captain fight a saber duel with his cousin, the red General, with flaming hatred, he then leads the airmen into the big city dance hall with nigger band and sophisticated ladies. He jokes with the Arabs, has an affair with a Russian baroness, fights like the devil and does well.

Prack himself is a devil of a fellow, who scolds, swears, and saves himself with coarse humor in every situation, who leads his life with a hard–hitting, magnificent nature.

If this Prack were not [played by actor Hans] Albers, how would he have put himself in an English plane, one, two, three, and bam! through the air from Palestine in non-stop flight escape to Königsberg, or even just before his arrest by the red High Commissioner again distributing one, two, three, blows of the fist left and right,  severely wounded through the window, landing immediately on the back of a standing horse, fleeing in the night to his detachment through swamp and scrub; hacked, shot and bloodied? How could this Prack, without being less hero but without Albers, be able to withstand such superhuman exertions?

Too much has been done here for the good of the movie -- for between chance and possibility the poetic truth should stand on such a theme -- the figure of the soldier would have been even more chiseled, larger and more genuine out of the blazing circle of events. Here lies the only, but great, weakness, of this otherwise unusual film. It is therefore doubly regrettable.

But alive, of compelling cinematic urgency are the tempo-filled chapters, every single scene. Johannes Meyer proves to be a sober game master, who knows how to combine great experience with remarkable shaping skills. He gave the film the rhythm and the depth, took the plot to unique highlights and gave the work its outrageous colorfulness. The cinematographer Franz Koch assisted him as an artist and created scenic paintings of exemplary technical integrity. Jacob Geis is responsible for the dialogues, which are well set with only a few exceptions. Peter Kreuder deserves special recognition for his outstanding music, which underlines the character of the film. (The sound engineer was Dustmann.)

In both the main role and the double-role as the red General Hans Albers triumphs. Splendid as Prack, only an actor as the Comrade Commander. Babbling, ranting, pithy, daredevil, womanizer, and dutiful person. Here the acting power of Albers is inexhaustible. Charlotte Susa was the female spy. How much longer must she ‘play’ a female spy? She is already locked into her pattern. Nice to see Jack Trevor again, whose performing skills should be exploited more. As the Captain Ernst Dumcke was likeable, Wäscher characterized a General Director beautifully, and Wernicke’s Timm was powerfully portrayed. Out of a long list of other contributors the success of Annie Markart, v. Meyerinck, Püttjer, Genschow, Bienert, Weydner, Minetti (very good!), Schott, Marion, Vita Benkhoff and Rehkopf is highlighted.

The scenic design was built by Seefelder und Strobl; Production Head was O.E. Lubitz, Still Photographers Lautenbacher, and Sander, the Editor (Cuts will increase the total value) by Gottlieb Madl.

The film achieved an extraordinary success, with scenes applauded by a strongly sympathetic audience. The leading actors could be thankful for the heavy ongoing applause at the conclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Year
1935
 
Director
Meyer
 
Country
Germany