Street Acquaintances

Films about sexual hygiene and the dangers of promiscuity have a grand old tradition in cinema history, going back at least a century with D. W. Griffith’s 1914 film, The Escape (currently lost). Most of the feature films on the subject—at least in America—were made for the exploitation market. The subject afforded a neat way … Continue reading Street Acquaintances

The Story of a Young Couple

If I were going to show somebody their first East German film, it would not be this one. One common misconception among Americans—and all westerners, for that matter—is that East German films are nothing but propaganda, intended to promote the state and nothing more. The misconception doesn’t come from any knowledge of the subject, or … Continue reading The Story of a Young Couple

Heart of Stone

On December 8, 1950, DEFA, East Germany’s state-run movie studio, released its first color film. The film was shot in Agfacolor, which was developed for the Nazis to compete with Technicolor. After the war, there was enough color film stock at the AGFA plant in Wolfen to make a few movies, but the Soviets claimed … Continue reading Heart of Stone

The 11th Plenum

The Central Committee of the SED of the GDR NOTE: Readers of this blog may have noticed how often the term “11th Plenum” crops up in these film reviews. Although I define the term in the glossary, a quick definition can only scratch the surface. For those who want to learn more, I offer this … Continue reading The 11th Plenum

My Wife Wants To Sing

Excessive seriousness has never been a problem for Hollywood. Designed for the sole purpose of making money, Hollywood films only give us something to think about when it looks like that approach will improve the bottom line. In stark contrast, DEFA was all about making thoughtful serious films. An approach that led to some criticism, … Continue reading My Wife Wants To Sing

Razzia (Police Raid)

DEFA, East Germany’s state-owned film production company, was formed in 1946—three years before post-war Germany’s Soviet sector would become its own country. Immediately after the war, the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) was doing everything it could to hobble German film production in the western sectors, largely at the behest of the Hollywood … Continue reading Razzia (Police Raid)

Beloved White Mouse

The musical comedy is not a genre anyone would associate with East Germany. It was born in Hollywood and reached its acme under Arthur Freed at MGM. Musical comedies are happy affairs, light as meringues  colorful, and carefree—not qualities that immediately spring to mind when one thinks of the GDR. But DEFA made several musicals and … Continue reading Beloved White Mouse

And Your Love Too

By the summer of 1961, the political situation in East Germany had reached a tipping point. The Bundesrepublik’s decision to start using the West German Deutsche Mark in West Berlin, in spite of agreements to the contrary, had created an unsustainable imbalance between the two halves of the divided city. Many East Berliners found it … Continue reading And Your Love Too

Midnight Revue

Communist musicals are in a class by themselves. So much so that in 1997, filmmaker Dana Ranga made them the subject of her fascinating documentary East Side Story—required viewing for anyone interested in the films of the GDR or other Eastern Bloc countries. In a world as grim and gray as East Germany could be, … Continue reading Midnight Revue

The Kaiser’s Lackey

The Kaiser’s Lackey is based on a book by Heinrich Mann. The actual title, Der Untertan, doesn’t translate well into English. As a consequence, it has been rendered variously as The Patrioteer, The Loyal Subject, The Man of Straw, and The Underdog. IMDB calls it The Man of Straw, which does have a poetic quality … Continue reading The Kaiser’s Lackey