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Scooby-Doo, wo bist du?, 14 October 2003
Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
Dolly Haas performed on stage in Europe and on Broadway, and in several
films (including Hitchcock's "I Confess"), but her acting career is less
significant than the fact that she was the wife of the great caricaturist
Hirschfeld, and the mother of 'NINA' whose name so notably appeared in
As an actress, Haas (pronounced 'hoss') never appealed to me. She seems like a subtler version of Giulietta Masina, an actress whom I absolutely loathe. Masina and Haas both played 'gamin' roles: you know, those wide-eyed waifs whom we're supposed to just cuddle into our hearts, but whom I usually want to punch in the nose. Haas's shoe-button eyes (quite different from Masina's bulging eyes) make Dolly Haas seem ready-made for one of Hirschfeld's caricatures. But Dolly's eyes lacked expression, and her characterisations seem forced. (If you're waiting for a pun on 'Hello, Dolly!', start without me.) I met her once, in the company of her husband, and I found Mrs Hirschfeld quite dull and uninteresting. By then, she was elderly ... but still, I doubt that she ever had any great appeal for any audience.
'Es tut sich was um Mitternacht' is a film title that I would cautiously translate as 'So This Is Midnight'. Who says Germans have no sense of humour? Actually, this film would go some way towards proving that thesis. 'Midnight' (as I'll call this krautwurst comedy) is the German equivalent of one of those empty-headed low-budget Hollywood musicals about a bunch of jitter-bugging teenagers in search of innocent fun (ie, any pleasure that doesn't involve alcohol, drugs or naughty bits). Actually, in some ways this movie is very similar to the Kay Kyser spook-spoof 'You'll Find Out', although not nearly as good. This movie is not so much Kyser as Kaiser.
Dolly Haas plays the girl singer in a band of youthful musicians. There are several boys in the band, but handsome Hitler Youth Albert Lieven is the one Dolly has a crush on ... except that she's too shy to let on. Conveniently, they all get stranded overnight (with their band instruments) in a spooky old castle. This movie was filmed in Germany (and takes place there), and the Germans have been doing spooky old castles much better (and much longer) than Hollywood ... so there's some genuinely spooky atmosphere in this frothy little film. Ach, ja: it turns out there's a treasure hidden somewhere in the castle. Fortunately, the treasure is in old-fashioned gold coins ... not in Weimar banknotes from the 1920s, which would be worthless at this point.
So, these Katzenjammer Kinder spend the night exploring all the secret panels and hidden passages, in between the musical numbers for which they whip out their glockenspiels und mach schnell mit der boogie-voogie oompah-pah. And of course the castle seems to be haunted ... but are those genuine poltergeists in the inglenooks, or are they crooks disguised as ghosts while they hunt for the Deutschemarks?
This movie is like a 'Scooby-Doo' episode dubbed into German, only slightly more gobsmacking. The plot and the acting are utterly unbelievable, yet strangely enjoyable. The musical interludes are rousing without being remotely memorable. The 'comedy' leaves much to be desired: if anyone ever compiles a German Comedy Hall of Fame, this movie won't make the cut. I laughed several times during this movie, but mostly I was laughing at how ludicrous it is. I'll rate 'Midnight' 4 points out of 10, mostly for its exuberance. It's worth noting that 'Es tut sich was um Mitternacht' was made in the early days of the Third Reich: this movie shows that even Nazis needed mindless entertainment.
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