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Young Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, an unsuccessful playwright, is forced, in order to support himself, to take a position as tutor in the household of Herr Quandt. His first attempt to force himself upon women comes when he becomes interested in a young actress, Maria Brandt, daughter of Colonel Brandt at whose home he is lodging. He is driven from the house by Colonel Brandt. That night, acting as an usher for a meeting of the new German Socialist Party, Goebbels hears Hitler speak, and becomes an ardent follower. He is made propaganda head, becomes known as the "Scoundrel of Berlin", and his machinations strike terror into the hearts of innocent girls. Maria Brandt, who is working as a bit player in a theatre in Hannover, again meets Goebbels. Through his efforts, although unknown to her, Maria is made an overnight star. He then procures a contract for her at the famous UFA studios of Berlin. Maria, who has become interested in a young doctor, Hans Traeger, shuns Goebbels' attentions. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
The story of this Monogram movie is loosely based on the life and times of Nazi criminal and German propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Viewers who have the habit of first checking if every button and leather strap of the actor's different Nazi Uniforms are the right size and in the right place will have reason to be displeased. The movie does not aim at historical or geographical accuracy.
Despite of its shortcomings or maybe just because of them the basic message is plain and clear: Tyranny means the abolition of law and order and the arbitrary, unabashed invasion of any kind of private sphere and individual freedom. And unhealthy characters will enjoy unlimited power. Goebbels is depicted as a randy suck-upper". First he quite literally sucks up to the daughter of his landlord, an aspiring actress with whom he reads Roemo and Juliet helping her to prepare for the part of Juliet. The girl pushes the heated up guy away, Goebbels stumbles backwards and falls over a chair. The girl laughs at him lying there as her father, a general, enters and without further ado kicks him out.
This slight brings on Goebbel's lifelong persecution of the girl. He leaves the general's house, crosses the street, gets into a beer hall and what do you know? there is a guy there (only seen from a distance) giving a clumsy speech about the Fatherland, Germany's humiliation etc. Freshly humiliated Goebbels instantly sucks up to him, inventing the Hitler salute on the way. His rise to power has begun and soon he can do with the girl whatever he pleases. And he doesn't miss the opportunity. She is for him just a trophy to own, the tragic final scene that shows her in a kind of a golden cage, just helplessly standing there as bombs fall on Berlin make that plainly clear.
Enemy of Women succeeds in making the viewers understand the mechanics of tyranny it is closer to Charles Chaplin's The Great Dictator than to movies made later, when the USA had larger war experience. Even the heroine's flight to Free Austria is reminiscent of Chaplin's movie. John Alton's camera-work of course is a major asset, he was a true master of shadow and light. One scene of bliss for the girl and her future husband is remarkable as sticks as being extremely bright, almost blinding. I don't know how much the editing is responsible for the effect, in any case, I will not forget it. I also wondered if the director or the cameraman (or both) fell in love with Claudia Drake. Especially in the second part of the movie she is stunningly beautiful and gets a lot of screen time in the most favorable light.
The small Cinémathèque suisse recently released a DVD with its oldest treasures ("Il était une fois... la Suisse" Images cinématographiques des années 1896-1934). The last item is a newsreel report of Dr. Goebbels after a visit to the League of Nations in Geneva in 1934. Before boarding a waiting Junkers 52 he delivers a short speech saying that the German people want nothing but peace and that the German government will do anything in its power to secure it forever. He really was an unscrupulous, intelligent and eloquent liar. The final speech in Enemy of Women struck me as having exactly the same tone and phrasing. The makers of this movies must have studied the original" carefully.
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