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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie back in the late 60's and had fond memories of it. I
just finished the book and thought a re-watching of the movie was in
order. Made in 1964 in Berlin by Disney, the movie bares little
resemblance to the 1929 novel by Erich Kastner, other than some of the
names and most basic of plot elements. Updated to modern day Berlin of
1964 the film, while still fun, is missing the charming affection
between Emil and his widowed mother. The opening chapters of the book
are devoted to Emil and his mother and their life. In the book Emil
travels by train from Neustadt to Berlin to see his grandmother. He's
carrying money, to his grandmother, from his mother. When he falls
asleep in the compartment, his pocket is picked by Mr. Grundeis, a
fellow passenger. Emil wakes up and discovers his money gone. Out of
the window of the train he spots Grundeis and gives chase. Broke, Emil
takes a tram ticket from a generous passenger, and follows Grundeis
from the train to a café on Kaiser Avenue. It's here while watching
Grundeis that Emil meets up with Gustav, the local neighborhood
head-boy, the boy the other kids look up to and willingly accept as
their leader. It's Gustav who calls the neighborhood boys together to
help get the money back. The brains of the neighborhood, the Professor,
organizes the boys into a fairly well organized team, each person is
given an assignment and the detecting begins. Communication, tactics,
and food are arranged. The teams follow and eventually hassle Mr.
Grundeis right into jail. It's doesn't even take 24 hours to catch him.
It's told in a delightful style, with a nice bunch of characters.
There's a sweetness to the book, but it's never saccharine. All through
the book Emil's thought's are on his mother and her struggle to keep
food on the table and a roof over their heads, the loss of the small
amount of money stolen is devastating to their poor family and it's a
heavy burden to Emil. He's a good boy, in every traditional sense, and
he fights back for what is rightfully his. And he is rewarded for it in
The movie version omits the sentimentality of the novel, skipping the mother son relationship. Emil get's his pocket picked on a bus, after Mr. Grundeis hypnotizes him. Emil wakes and gives chase, literally running into Gustav, knocking him and his packages down. Gustav confronts Emil, who is now spying on Grundeis, and eventually learns Emil's story. And this is where the movie starts to build it's more exciting version of the story. Rather than have the boys organically become detectives, Gustav is already a detective, he has a badge, he rescued a cat recently. He calls together his team and they go to work. The movie moves the off screen bank robbery of the book on screen, and involves Emil in it, creating a higher level of jeopardy that doesn't exist in the book. Mr. Grundeis is involved in the big robbery, he's a regular mole, digging the tunnel into the bank. Walter Slezak plays The Baron, the robber gangs leader. There's also Muller, the grumpy guy, he yells a lot. There's lot of running around, more yelling, and much tomfoolery with girls. Pony, Emil's cousin, is much brasher in the movie and more of a presence. In the book the boys are much more in awe of her, everyone's much more polite, in the movie they're not. "Get rid of her," says Gustav. But Pony is not to be deterred, the plucky school newspaper columnist sticks to it and together with the gang of detectives, and the confused and belatedly involved police they rescue Emil and the mole from a watery death. The Baron and grumpy are captured soon after, and all is well. Emil's mother shows up briefly at the beginning and end of the movie.
I enjoyed both versions of this story. They both had a nice take on the story. Both can be enjoyed for different reasons, especially by different people.
I stumbled on this entry and was glad I did! I recall watching this when it was broadcast on "Disney's Wonderful World of Color" in September 1966 when I was five and have never seen it since. I recall the Berlin locations and being fascinated by the entire enterprise. Maybe I would have a different opinion if I saw it now, but I recalled liking it as a kid.
Back when I was in school taking high school Spanish, this book in a
Spanish translation was a text used in my course. We read it for about
a third of the semester. Of course it was called Emilio Y Los
So of course I had to go see Emil and the Detectives when it was out in the theater and I found it to be a very good Disney production of the story. To make it cinematically viable parts of the story were emphasized and others were not.
Walter Slezak looked like he was having a great old time playing the master criminal who just can't get good help. Young Bryan Russell is on a train to Berlin to visit his grandmother and he had a sum of money which unfortunately attracts the attention of Heinz Schubert one of two lugnuts who are Slezak's henchmen. Slezak, Schubert, and Peter Ehrlich are planning a bank robbery, a tunnel job. Slezak is understandably upset that Schubert would risk arrest for a petty theft and thereby put the bank job in jeopardy.
But it's no petty theft to Russell who falls in with a gang of Berlin street urchins headed by Roger Mobley. Since this is a Disney film, I think you can guess the rest of it. The kids deal with the crooks in their own unique way.
I remember it was a fun movie and I did so enjoy Walter Slezak in the role of the master criminal done in by kids. I do so hope TCM runs this at some point.
One of the most dreadful adaptations of a book I've seen in a long time. Disney took the delightful and touching 1929 novel by Erich Kästner and turned it into something utterly ridiculous. In the first half-minute I knew something was going to be off when they revealed straight away who the robber was for certain, thus destroying any sense of mystery and tension the book had. Moreover they made the Grundeis character so grossly unbelievable as a person, it was hardly watchable. And the detectives...all the charm and comradery of the group of boys who help Emil in the book was lost in this film. In the film, they were basically hired for a tenner.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Or even English children, if they wanted, surely.
Targeting an American audience, putting English children in the movie would have seemed just as foreign.
Without a doubt the biggest loss then would have been Roger Mobley as Gustav. I can't help but think surely a German equivalent for him could have been found, but obviously this wasn't to be.
Having watched endless English movies about children (as well as the more mainstream established set from around this same time as Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to name but a few) and then the CBS Children's Film Festival with movies, whether dubbed and/or originally recorded in American English or British English (whew!), I don't think Emil and the Detectives would have been any worse with actual German children speaking with a similar accent as Slezak here.
Surely Emil could have at best been British so the American youth could relate.
Nevertheless, it stands as a loss. An obvious loss, not so much a head-scratcher as Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (anyone wanting to know about the confusion there was over miscasting, just check out Van Dyke in Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, tho I've talked online to many English people who say they enjoy his awkward accent now).
Perhaps this will be the fate of Emil and the Detectives someday.
If nothing else, we have lovely shots of German scenery and a truly delightful story of adventure and suspense (tho I liked Moonspinners, I think Emil and the Detectives was slightly better).
I would first see EatD (enough already) on the New Mickey Mouse club with Lisa Welchel, sliced up into mini-segments and shown over quite a period of time. Of course I didn't watch it all straight thru, but I always remembered Mobley and that silly hat.
I tracked down a copy off of Ebay, as well as an accompanying comic book.
If nothing else, I guess it helps to try to imagine the movie was dubbed into American English (not again).
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