DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
HITLER (director: Stuart Heisler; screenwriters: E. Charles Straus/Sam Newman; cinematographer: Joseph F. Biroc; editor: Walter Hannemann; music: Hans J. Salter; cast: Richard Basehart (Adolph Hitler), Cordula Trantow (Geli Raubal), Maria Emo (Eva Braun), John Mitchum (Hermann Goering), Celia Lovsky (Frau Angela Raubal), Martin Kosleck (Joseph Goebbels), John Banner (Gregor Strasser), Martin Brandt (Gen. Heinz Guderian), Richard Cowl (Lt. Mueller), Carl Esmond (Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel), Lester Fletcher (Lt. Edmond Heines), Gregory Gaye (Field Marshal Erwin Rommel); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: E. Charles Straus; Warner Bros.; 1962)

 
"Wants us to think of Hitler as a victim of his own sexual repression."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Stuart Heisler ("The Glass Key"/"Along Came Jones"/"Dallas") directs his final film, a semi-fictional biopic on the Fuhrer. It focuses on Hitler's power-hunger that it attributes to his Oedipal complex, his impotence (which is probably not true, or at least never confirmed) and relationship with the three key women in his life: his mother (not shown, exists only in his mind; she died in 1907 from cancer), his affair with his niece Geli Raubal (Cordula Trantow) and his mistress Eva Braun (Maria Emo). It tells us Hitler was attracted to and repulsed by women depending on the degree they reminded him of his mother.

Hitler is based on the screenplay by E. Charles Straus and Sam Newman, whose psychoanalytic portrayal of history’s infamous monster is merely speculation. The script wants us to think of Hitler as a victim of his own sexual repression, and that the Nazi party he created also came out of his sexual problems; that is, except when he's shown as a megalomaniacal schemer.

This b/w low-budget picture, with a talented cast, was an attempt to make a serious picture about the complexities of the driven Hitler. It was made at Allied Artists, a Poverty Row studio known as a quickie-house for tawdry films. The studio tried to shed its poor image of making only exploitation films by keeping this film a sober, cerebral project that had something important to say about a crucial figure in modern history.

Richard Basehart shines in his restrained portrayal of the madman of the Third Reich, that is intelligently conceived; while Martin Kosleck in a supporting role excels in his portrayal of the perverted club-foot propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

If you want speculation that doesn't always jibe with the facts, this biopic has that in spades as it has the gall to speculate about Hitler's private life to fit its own agenda. It mixes in actual documentary footage with a fictional drama, as it traces Hitler's rise to power and fall--tracing his imprisonment for leading an unsuccessful overthrow of the Weimar Republic in 1923, in Munich; writing his insane anti-Semitic manifesto in jail, Mein Kampf; released from prison in 1924 and organizing the Nazi party with a collection of hateful misfits; using his mountaintop retreat villa, in the village of Berchtesgaden in the German state of Bavaria, near the Austrian border, as a safe haven from the world and a quiet and secure place to scheme and entertain those close to him; becoming Chancellor of Germany from 1934 to 1945 and carrying out his atrocities against mankind; and his suicide with Eva Braun when he realizes he lost the war.

It's not trash nor is it art; even-though it fails to consummate its point about Hitler's mother problem and his guilt-ridden impotence, it has some weight in penetrating the makeup of one of histories most disturbed leaders and is more interesting than dull.

REVIEWED ON 5/3/2010       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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