7.2/10
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17 user 8 critic

White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929)

Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü (original title)
A man climbs a 12,000-foot mountain to search for his wife, who was lost on their honeymoon. Another couple makes the dangerous climb with him.

Directors:

Arnold Fanck (as Dr. Arnold Fanck), Georg Wilhelm Pabst (as G.W. Pabst)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Gustav Diessl ... Dr. Johannes Krafft
Leni Riefenstahl ... Maria Maioni
Ernst Petersen Ernst Petersen ... Hans Brandt
Ernst Udet Ernst Udet ... Flieger Udet (as Flieger Ernst Udet)
Otto Spring Otto Spring ... Christian Klucker (as Bergführer Spring)
Mizzi Götzel Mizzi Götzel ... Maria Krafft
Kurt Gerron ... Mann im Salon (guest at night club)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Charles McNamee Charles McNamee ... Narrator in USA sound version (voice)
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Storyline

In 1925, the newlyweds Dr. Johannes Krafft and Maria spend their honeymoon in a mountaineering vacation. On October 6, while climbing the Piz Palü mountain near the Swiss borders with Italy, Johannnes ignores danger warnings. Shortly after, an avalanche traps Maria within a glacier. Johannes is unable to recover her body, but becomes obsessed with doing so. He spends the following four years wandering the mountain alone, in search of Maria's corpse. In 1929, the young couple of Hans Brandt and Maria Maioni plan to climb Piz Palü. They learn of Maria's death and get acquainted with Johaness. Hans offers to join Johaness in his next climb of the mountain. Maria is annoyed to be left behind, and follows them on her own. Another avalanche injures Hans, and Johanness rescues him at the cost of breaking his own leg. The trio spends the night in an ice cave. The mountain guide Christian organizes a rescue party, which locates the trio but fails in recovering them. Hans is in a suicidal mood,... Written by Dimos I

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Nothing like it before, nothing like it again!


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Did You Know?

Trivia

Leni Riefenstahl complained that director Arnold Fanck put her through a grueling shoot and claimed that he was deliberately cruel to her. Nevertheless, the film would be her most critically acclaimed performance. See more »

Goofs

At around 53-54 minutes Dr. Johannes Krafft's ice axe appears and disappears between shots. See more »

Alternate Versions

The movie was 1935 re-released in a cut (about 90 minutes) version with an added soundtrack. See more »

Connections

Edited into The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993) See more »

User Reviews

 
Even fewer weak points than expected...
14 July 2006 | by ingo_schwarzeSee all my reviews

Other comments nicely point out the excellence of this film's mountain photography. That's why you should go watch it. Yet, before viewing it, i feared the plot and the film's perspective on humankind might be quite annoying. Gladly, this is not so.

Leni Riefenstahl has a rather doubtful reputation for acting Nazi propaganda films - but this film is quite free from patriotic or chauvinist sub tones. In fact, it is pleasing even from a modern feminist perspective, actively avoiding and rebuking gender clichés, which is quite astonishing in a piece of art dating from pre-WW2 times.

Many ancient mountain films, in particular German ones, praise heroic fight. On first sight, some people claim this one does so, too. On closer inspection, i don't think so any more. Granted, Dr. Krafft does act heroically - but it's completely obvious less obsession and more prudence from his part would have served everyone much better. Hans wants to be a hero - but for that very reason is proved the greatest fool. Maria, the least heroic of all the party and the most sensible, clearly leaves the best impression in the end. A film can hardly promote heroism by showing off its dumbness...

The film has its weak points, but naming these rather shows how good it actually is: The film's location is the Piz Palu north face. Yet, many scenes have been taken in the Piz Morteratsch south east face. So far, no problem - a north face has bad sunlight, but the film dwells on light. On top of that, turning a film in the Palu north face would have been suicidal. That ice wall is indeed extremely dangerous and quite famous for its icy avalanches. Yet, the faking of the location could have been better concealed in many scenes. Viewing a panorama in the background that simply cannot be seen from the location the foreground is meant to represent IS disturbing if you know the whereabouts. A few glitches are even worse: For probably technical reasons, when searching for climbers in the steep Palu north face, the film actually shows scans of a flat glacier basin (the Vadret Pers glacier tongue, as far as i remember). This gross inconsistency will annoy you even if you do not personally know the Bernina mountains.

The weakest point of the film are the subtitles. Clearly, they are meant to help understanding of the plot - remember this is a mute movie. A few of them are certainly required, but they are simply far too numerous, and many just rehash what is obvious from the fine pictures, anyway.

But hey, superfluous subtitles and faked locations - we ought to be glad not to find more serious defects to complain about...


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Details

Country:

Germany

Language:

German

Release Date:

1 June 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

White Hell of Pitz Palu See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV) | (1935 sound verson)

Sound Mix:

Silent | Mono (Tobis-Klangfilm) (sound version: 1935)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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