The story takes place in Milwaukee during the early 1900s with a bank clerk named August Schiller who is happy with both his job and his family. He is tasked with transporting $1,000 in ... See full summary »
A sequel to 1940's "Bismark", Bismarck is dismissed by an under-pressure Wilhelm II. Then the treaty with Russia is in peril as the leader is left with the dilemma of who could complete Bismarck's work.
The blank verse does not work all that well in subtitles, but the film works even for those who don't understand German. The man who broke the jug, the judge, is trying a case who determine... See full summary »
Poor Emil Jannings! The first winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor, he was indisputably the most respected actor in Hollywood when talking pictures arrived ... and this innovation ruined his career, as his Teutonic accent limited his roles. This Swiss-born actor had worked hard to ingratiate himself to American audiences: in a ghost-written autobiography, Jannings falsely claimed to have been born in Brooklyn, New York ... a statement which continues to get reprinted as "fact". With his Hollywood career ruined, Jannings returned to Germany and soon devoted his talents whole-heartedly to the film industry of the Third Reich, starring in Nazi propaganda films. After V-E Day, the Allied authorities briefly considered prosecuting Jannings as a Nazi war criminal, then let him go: he was only a broken and embittered old man. Yet Jannings's talents were still considerable during the Nazi period, and he gave some fine performances in movies that served unpleasant agenda.
'Der Herrscher' (literally 'The Master') stars Jannings as Clausen, a wealthy industrialist who heads a dynastic munitions firm which has prospered for more than a century. (The fictional Clausen family are obviously inspired by the real-life Krupp dynasty.) Clausen is a widower, approaching retirement age, but he is in love with Inken, a young secretary in his office (the attractive Marianne Hoppe), and the two of them are considering marriage. Clausen's adult children had planned on inheriting the family business (and his wealth); now they're dismayed that these might go to Inken. The Clausens conspire to have their father declared insane so that they can seize his assets.
SPOILERS COMING. 'Der Herrscher' was based on Gerhart Hauptmann's play 'Before Sunset', but the screenwriters have changed the ending to fit Hitler's agenda of 1937. In the play, the Clausen character ended tragically: in this film, he disowns his family and then bequeaths his munitions factory to the German people, dedicating himself to rebuilding Germany's shattered economy. Jannings gives an impassioned speech: "He who is born to lead needs no other teacher than his own genius." (Hmm, does this refer to any person in particular?) The lesson for German audiences in 1937 is that the people should unite behind a bold leader (guess which one) who follows his own rules and ignores his detractors.
One of the screenwriters on this film was Thea von Harbou, former wife of Fritz Lang, who (unlike Lang) was a sincere Nazi. Von Harbou's other ex-husband, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, gives a riveting performance in 'Der Herrscher' as a director of Clausen's firm. The photography in this movie is excellent: a bit ponderous, but it suits the stately mood of the subject matter. Jannings is brilliantly sympathetic in a part which is meant to be a role model for citizens of the Third Reich. This movie definitely succeeds as Nazi propaganda, but it's a well-made and entertaining film which any intelligent and objective (non-Nazi) audience should be able to appreciate for its non-political merits. I'll rate 'Der Herrscher' 7 points out of 10.
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