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As the child of a holocaust survivor who joined the Israeli army in 1947, I grew up watching this movie with my father. It had not been on for many years but I got to see it again a few years ago. It is a good movie, I believe filmed on location in Israel. The theme is more about Hans (Kirk Douglas) and his adjustment to a new life while carrying the burden of being in the camps. At the beginning he tries to hide his identity by covering his arm to hide his tattoo. All I can say is watch it, it is worth it.
One of Kirk Douglas' more intense performances,it is a pity that this
movie should remain a buried treasure.
"Surviving the horror" could be another title for "the juggler" .A Jew ,who has lost all his family and who has known the concentration camps comes back to the promised land in 1949.Life during WW2 camps has often been described,but life AFTER the nightmare is a subject which has rarely been told in movies with a few exceptions ("die Morder sind unter uns ":Susanne's character and "Exodus": the young man played by Sal Mineo).But never as successfully as here.
Hans cannot forget.His psyche is shot."I'm the juggler and the juggled" . He tries to find back his dear departed although he knows they were killed.He suffers from claustrophobia and Douglas makes us FEEL his disease (the film owes a great deal to this extraordinary actor),and every time he sees men in uniform ,he thinks of his torturers.
Admirable sequences: Douglas in the desert town ,with all these walls which imprison him ,and those men around who are threats .The minefield where the distraught man and his young pal are rescued by their fellow men who form a human chain.
In his absorbing memoirs,Douglas wrote that he once helped Dmytryk who was one of the Unfriendly Tens .But when they made "the juggler" ,the director acted as if they had never met.Douglas thought he was ashamed for having been an informer.But he did not judge him at all.What would I have done if I had been in his shoes ? he wrote.
Many films might suggest that Dmytryk was suffering from of a strong guilty feeling: "the sniper" with his burned arm,José Ferrer's arm in a sling in "Caine Mutiny" .And in this film ,Douglas "gagging" his arm-mouth ,or covering it to hide his tattooed number.
I agree with all the precedent users.A film which must be restored to favor.
I haven't seen this movie in years, although I remember seeing it when it was first available in the 50's when I was a child and later in the 90's when it was on TV. I recall that Douglas' acting was not as convincing as it could have been, but then the character was deeply disturbed by the War and resettlement in Israel. I recall that scenes of Israel were very convincing. I have relatives in Israel and some of them visited us in the 50's, so I learned a lot about life in Israel. Finally, I recall a wonderful child actor in this movie who does more than anyone else to draw us into the drama. Fifty years later, this film now takes on even more importance as an historical document. I hope it is released on DVD soon.
The Juggler is the story of a concentration camp survivor in 1949
trying to make a place for himself in the new state of Israel. As the
hopes and dreams of so many Jews over many generations are realized, a
country where they're not the guests or the barely tolerated minority,
Kirk Douglas as Hans Muller can't leave the memory of what he's
survived behind in Europe.
Back in the day Douglas was a music hall entertainer, a juggler by trade, and from what I could see Douglas mastered the art himself to make his performance quite believable. As an actor I have never seen anyone better than Kirk Douglas to go from 0 to 120 in emotions in a matter of seconds. Kirk needed that ability to play the psychologically tattered Hans Muller.
A lot of folks who survived questioned the very nature of nature's God to have allowed such a thing to happen. Even more so they questioned the randomness of those who did survive. Douglas lost his wife and children there.
When he wanders away from the settlement camp in Haifa and is questioned by an Israeli policeman, the demons from Europe return and Douglas strikes at the cop. Thinking he's killed him Kirk goes on the run and he teams up with another camp survivor, an orphan played by Joey Walsh.
Their wanderings and eventually settling down in a kibbutz is most of the film. The Juggler was the first American production to be shot in Israel and we see Douglas and Walsh in the real Haifa, the real Nazareth and in the countryside of Israel which had seen its own war for survival at birth the year before.
The Juggler however does stick to the story and it doesn't just become an Israel travelogue. And it's a nice story about a good man who's seen the worst of what his fellow human beings can do just trying to find a place in a promising, but strange new world.
Considering that Hollywood never really tackled the Holocaust until Schindler's List and that it only set one other prominent film (Exodus) in Israel, this remarkable movie is amazing on many levels. Douglass shows once again that he was as versatile as any actor, not merely as a juggler and stage-comedian, but also as a rugged but tortured individual on the run from his pursuers. The setting in post war Israel is wonderful, the supporting players all fine, and some of the scenes sublime (the dance sequence at the kibbutz, the couple's tender embrace, the juggling show, etc.). It is one of the few American films that mentions the terrors of the Holocaust in any direct manner, and one of the few that portrays contemporary Israel realistically. Although, as noted by some critics, it has its flaws, including the lack of a German accent by Kirk, it is still an incredible production on so many levels that it deserves to be seen by a greater audience, which may happen, since it was just screened by TCM this afternoon, where I was luck enough to see it.
Grew up in Queens, New York and had a wonderful Jewish family as my next door neighbors and one day I noticed the lady of the house had a number stamped on her arm and heard the story of what she experienced and it left a great impression on me all my life. This film directed by a very famous man Edward Dmytryke gave a great portrayal of the mental effects it had on a man named, Hans Muller, (Kirk Doublas) who was a German refugee from Germany relocating to Israel after WW II. Hans Muller was a Juggler who entertained many people and young children and was a wonderful tender hearted man, but he had serious psychological effects from his being confined in the Nazi Concentration camps and witnessed the horrors of what Hitler created for human beings being burned in ovens. Milly Vitale (YaEl) gave a great supporting role and this is truly a great great film that will show many generations what really went on during the Horrors of Nazi Germany.
KIRK DOUGLAS struggles to forget the horrors of a concentration camp in
THE JUGGLER, another one of Stanley Kramer's serious socially conscious
films of the '50s. Unfortunately, the end result is a film that doesn't
really connect with its target audience despite a solid performance by
Douglas as the troubled Jew from Israel unable to overcome his fear and
Unfortunately, Kramer had a habit of assigning George Antheil to score his films. Antheil contributes another inappropriate score heavily accenting any melodramatic moment that points up Kirk's anguish, much the way he did in Kramer's NOT AS A STRANGER. It didn't work there and it doesn't work here, especially during the "escape" scene where the music reaches a frenzied fever pitch of discordant notes.
It's hard to fully sympathize with Douglas' tormented character and that is the film's chief handicap. As the man tracking down the fugitive, PAUL STEWART does his usual workmanlike job. Trouble is, there's an almost documentary feel to the story and its pivotal character is never fully fleshed out, remaining somewhat of an enigma despite Douglas' good performance. When romance comes into the story with the entrance of MILLY VITALE, Douglas' character softens a little under her compassionate care.
Some vivid glimpses of Israel, circa 1949, and good location photography gives the story an authentic air, but the story values are never more than ordinary and the total effect is bland.
Worthwhile mainly for Kirk Douglas fans, it fails to make the impact intended as a serious study of a man haunted by prison camp memories.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Directed by Edward Dmytryk, "The Juggler" stars Kirk Douglas as Hans
Muller, a German Jew who survived a German concentration camp during
WW2. Muller is relocated to a temporary camp in Israel, where the newly
formed nation state tries to rehabilitate him. As his experiences
during WW2 have left Muller confused, emotionally scarred and suffering
traumatic flashbacks, this proves a difficult task.
"The Juggler" was produced by Stanley Kramer, and feels more or less like another one of his schmaltzy "socially conscious message movies". It was written by Michael Blanfort, a screenwriter responsible for "The Caine Mutiny" and "Broken Arrow". With "The Juggler", however, Blanfort bites off more than he can chew, the film offering little insight into either Israel's bloody creation (and the philosophical questions it raises), WW2, the nature of concentration camps or the mind of a man ravaged by survivor's guilt.
Incidentally, the 1950s and 60s saw a number of films which were overtly or covertly about Israel's new-found independence. Most of these were written by blacklisted writers and filmed by once blacklisted directors, which is practically a reversal of how the radical left views Israel today (Dalton Trumbo would write "Exodus" some years later, which again starred Douglas).
Most of the films in this wave were also fairly cartoonish pictures, Americanizing the Holocaust and distorting early 20th century history, flattening it into fairly broad, easily digestible movements for Western audiences. We see this with "The Juggler" as well, Israel never rising above the level of a mother who assuages the pain of her brutalised flock. She is a pair of welcoming arms, a necessary haven, and nothing more.
For those interested in history: Edward Dmytryk was once blacklisted for "communist affiliations" (he joined the American Communist Party in 1944) and jailed for six months. He, like many directors (King Vidor et al), then made overtly patriotic flicks to curry favour with those in power, though to no avail. He remained blacklisted by studios and slowly went broke. In 1951 Dmytryk then went before the House of Un-American Activities Committee and provided the names of 26 former members of left-wing groups, all in an attempt to get his name off the blacklist. He succeeded, and immediately directed "The Juggler" and "The Caine Mutiny", the former a love-letter to Israel (perhaps, like his anti, anti-Semitic "Crossfire"), the latter a deliberate reversal of the message found in "Mutiny on the Bounty". Where "Bounty" justified the revolt of oppressed sailors against those in power, "Caine" does the opposite, portraying rebels as an irrational mob of silly, overly educated men. This period of Hollywood history, in which artists were effectively destroyed for their political beliefs, ostracised, blackmailed and forced to comply, is fairly well known. Less well known is how left-wing movements an extension of Hitler's own paranoia vis a vis "Marxist Jews" - were murderously suppressed by the United States across most of Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe and Asia (even Australia, with what was essentially a 1970's coup).
What's this got to do with "The Juggler"? In a way, Dmytryk's film is all about naming names and its own low-key witch-hunts. Characters must name names to convict Hans Muller, others must name names to prove his innocence, and a little girl is asked to both sell-out and provide photographs of Muller. "Sometimes, you have to give up your friends," one character then essentially says. The message? Stop running, stop hiding, tell the truth, obey, Daddy knows best.
6/10 Douglas chews scenery well, though his vaudeville routines are at times cringe-worthy. This is surprising, as Dmytryk was the editor of "Duck Soup". See too Dmytryk's "Farewell My Lovely". Worth one viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
He came out of a camp, and his family was killed in a concentration camp. He is now in Israel, in another camp where they are working on his integration, but somehow he can't believe it's all over. He runs away and mistakes a policeman for a Nazi. What is nice about this film is that it shows an Israel, just after its creation, with a remarkable cinematography in black and white by J. Roy Hunt. We feel throughout the film a spirit of collaboration, of trying to help, in spite of Hans Muller's (Kirk Douglas) action of hitting the policeman, seeming inexcusable. Also a great scene of Muller's redemption dancing the Hora. Like another reviewer I first saw this film with my father ,was greatly impressed, tried to find it with no success until now. Apart from some scenes where Douglas overacted and the final scene, overdone, this film did not age. And the fact that it shows the country of Israel, the language and the people, so unusual for an American film at that time, just that, makes it worth seeing.
This is a film that seems very sincere in wanting to tell an
interesting story from a man horribly damaged by the Holocaust, but
unfortunately the film had a lot of problems with the plot and casting
that interfered with it becoming a better and more memorable film.
Kirk Douglas was cast as a German-Jew who has just immigrated to Israel in 1949. Since WWII, we don't know what he's done or where he's been, but he was horribly abused in a concentration camp, so it isn't at all surprising he is emotionally fragile and suffers from a classic case of Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome. In some ways, Kirk was an excellent choice--he's Jewish and did amazingly well in his juggling routines. However, having him play a German named "Hans Muller" was silly, as he acted about as German as Mickey Mouse. Everyone but Kirk had a strong accent in the film--Kirk sounded like an American. Also, while I love his films, Mr. Douglas is NOT one of the more subtle actors in history and a few of his scenes where he struggles with the effects of PTSD were overdone--and were almost silly. And that is NOT something you want in a serious film about a very serious topic.
Aside from this casting problem (why didn't they just have Kirk play a man who was originally an American and he was living in Europe?), the other smaller problem about the film is that, at times, it tried a little too hard. Scenes from the kibbutz seemed a tad over-idealistic and lacked realism from time to time.
However, despite these serious flaws, the film still was engaging and had one of the earliest and best portrayals of PTSD on film. It's well worth seeing for mental health professionals and people interested in the early history of Israel, but others might find it tough sailing. An earnest and sincere failure that is still a decent time-passer.
My advice? See some other films about the Holocaust first--save this one for later if you are so inclined. Some great films about this era you might want to first watch are THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (from Czechoslovakia), THE SEARCH, SCHINDLER'S LIST, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and the TV mega-miniseries, WAR AND REMEMBRANCE. For early Israeli history (post-1948), try EXODUS--it's not perfect but is still far better than this film.
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