Cast & Crew
In the course of Adolf Hitler's rise to political power in Germany he courts his young niece, Geli Raubal, but he is rendered impotent because of her resemblance to his mother and is unable to consummate their love. When Geli realizes the truth, Hitler, overwhelmed by shame and anger, has her murdered. After becoming chancellor, Hitler arranges with Ernst Roehm the burning of the Reichstag, and he institutes his reign of terror. Roehm and his Brownshirts are purged as Hitler consolidates his power. Hitler then meets Eva Braun, who also reminds him of his mother, but she eventually succeeds in breaking down his guilt-inspired impotence and becomes his mistress. Seizing power after Hindenburg's death, Hitler and his Nazi regime sweep over Europe. When the tide is turned, however, he retires to an underground bunker, where, broken in mind and body, he is joined by Eva in a death pact. Now demented, he consents to a last-minute marriage, but at their moment of suicide he refuses to allow Eva to call herself Frau Hitler because only his mother had the right to that title. As the Allies enter Berlin, the bodies of Hitler and Eva are cremated.
G. Stanley Jones
Forrest T. Butler
Daniel W. Hays
Hans J. Salter
E. Charles Straus
E. Charles Straus
Frank [a.] Tuttle
You can just about picture the little light bulb blink on over the head of producer E. Charles Straus: What if we made a movie about the private life of Adolph Hitler? What if it turned out he did to the world what he couldn't do to his girlfriends? Wouldn't that be something?
A historian might wish to interject here that the real Adolph Hitler wasn't impotent. In fact the only person who ever even said he had mommy issues was Ms. Reiter, and in that same interview she said she'd had normal sexual relations with der Führer. But this wasn't real life, this was the movies-and the filmmakers behind Hitler (1962) would simply omit that detail (and along with it, would omit Ms. Reiter altogether).
On the one hand, Straus seems to have set out on this cinematic mission with serious ambitions. The film does appear to aspire to a sensitive psychoanalytic portrayal of history's greatest monster. This is in stark contrast to G.W. Pabst's The Last Ten Days (1955) from just a few years earlier, in which Hitler is depicted as a superhuman villain straight out of a horror flick. Straus tapped some gifted craftspeople to fashion the project: director Stuart Heisler was an old hand at film noir, cinematographer Joseph Biroc was a brilliant photographer, and composer Hans J. Salter seasons Biroc's images with a thunderous soundtrack that evokes Wagnerian motifs. Star Richard Basehart threw himself into the role with intensity, studying newsreels and books about the Third Reich to prepare. The supporting cast were equally carefully chosen. Many came from the ranks of German film, bringing authentic accents with them. Cordula Trantow, one of Basehart's leading ladies, received a Golden Globe nomination for her contribution to the picture. Martin Kosleck played Joseph Goebbels for the fourth time in his career (he had been playing Goebbels in other films since 1939). For all this thoughtfulness and seriousness of purpose, however, the film was inevitably compromised by having been made at Allied Artists. The studio was none other than Poverty Row quickie-house Monogram, attempting to shed its negative image by adopting a new highbrow-sounding name. The studio felt comfortable with exploitation fare, but nervous about cerebral drama. When they saw the rushes, the studio bosses objected to Basehart's restrained performance, and insisted on reshoots with the star in full hysteria mode. Splicing those two diametrically opposed approaches to the character side-by-side resulted in a whipsaw effect. The script paints Hitler as a victim-of his own sexual repression, of the Nazi machinery he created-except for those times when it doesn't, when it instead paints him as a megalomaniacal schemer. Jerked between these inconsistent scenes, ordered by his employers to cycle between low-key character studies and over-the-top caricature, Basehart delivers a weird performance marked by twitches and nervous smiles. Screenwriter Sam Neuman had tackled writing for Hitler once before. Back in 1942, just as the United States was drawn into the war, he had written a lunatic piece of pulp comedy called Hitler: Dead or Alive. Possibly an unacknowledged inspiration behind Enzo Castellari's Inglorious Bastards (1978) and, ahem, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), this PRC production finds a group of American gangsters hoping to cash in on the million dollar bounty placed on Hitler's head. They travel into Nazi Germany and get close to the dictator without speaking a lick of German nor having a coherent plan, simply because they are so incompetent that the bad guys assume they cannot possibly pose a genuine threat. Given the benefit of historical hindsight, Neuman approaches the script for Hitler without having fully disentangled himself from the craziness of that earlier picture.
It begins promisingly enough: a stylish Saul Bass-worthy credit sequence from Ben Mayer backed by a riotous march by Salter. Then comes a montage of actual documentary footage and clips possibly culled from another, better-appointed production. Some portentous narration brings us to the Munich prison where Adolph is dictating his manifesto, Mein Kampf. The madman swaggers through his cell, his back to us, as he spits out his megalomaniacal threats to a ghostwriter while a neighboring cellmate looks on in alarm. Finally Basehart turns to face us, and all the atmosphere carefully established up to that point is summarily tossed out the proverbial window.
The film encompasses a twenty year swath, from the failed Beer Hall Putsch to Hitler's suicide. However, much of the stuff in between those two poles is too complicated or expensive to easily represent in 100 minutes with a tight budget. The solution is to shove most of the capital-H History material into the background. Characters talk about off-screen horrors, and the narrator periodically reminds the viewer of the worst Nazi excesses, but rarely are such things shown on screen. Instead, the focus shifts to Hitler's love life. In reissues, Allied Artists retitled the picture The Women of Nazi Germany, an exploitationist moniker that better signaled its true intentions.
It's practically a dirty joke of a movie. The narrator keeps popping in to furiously denounce this crime against humanity or that one, but the film never shows those events. Instead Basehart seems like a man who happens to have the same name and physical appearance as an infamous dictator but who has been dropped into an entirely different movie. Hiding from the authorities while he writes a second volume of Mein Kampf, Adolph develops a debilitating crush on his teenage niece Geli (Trantow). He becomes so smitten with the girl that he ignores his Nazi party responsibilities. Can you even imagine it-he almost forgets to destroy the world, he's so busy wooing Geli! Such dereliction of duty angers Gregor Strasser (John Banner, better known as Sgt. Schultz from TV's Hogan's Heroes). Scandalized by Hitler's affair, the Nazi inner circle don't realize that Adolph has yet to take Geli to bed. As much as he wants to, as much as she wants him to, he can't consummate one incestuous relationship without being haunted by the image of another incestuous one-she's too much like mommy.
br> Once Geli unwisely starts taunting Adolph about his sexual immaturity, he has her killed-only to then consider suicide as a response to his grief. These scenes never outright contradict recorded history-the truth of Hitler's relationship with Geli is a matter of intense speculation and doubt. Once she's in the cold ground and Adolph gets on with conquering Europe, though, the film starts to pick up some steam. Heisler manages these interim scenes quite well-even despite the presence of another future sitcom star in the person of Ted Knight as a Nazi executioner.
Nevertheless, it is a sign of the movie's bizarrely misplaced priorities that the burning of the Reichstag is fleetingly shown in a cutaway during a scene dominated by Hitler's attempt to dictate Eva Braun's hairstyle. Perhaps it is another nod to Alfred Hitchcock, in this case Vertigo (1958), as Hitler remakes Eva in the image of Geli. As played by Maria Emo, Eva is a lovestruck girl too caught up in the thrill of being Hitler's playmate to register the horror around her. It's a surprisingly sympathetic performance, and along with Trantow, Emo does a fine job of anchoring the soap opera histrionics of the script with a sense of real humanity.
Once Hitler's war machine starts to falter, a conspiracy within the party decides to assassinate him. This failed plot, plucked from the pages of the history books, has been considered dramatic enough to fuel many films all by itself-including 2008's Valkyrie--but the filmmakers here compress it into two short scenes, hastily dispensed. More screen time is given to Eva's argument with Adolph about whether she deserves to be called "Frau Hitler."
In the end, the competing impulses result in a strange hybrid. Although it is less than the sum of its parts, its parts are fitfully fascinating. Hitler sets out to find the man behind the myth, but finds only mythical women. For those viewers who can unhook that part of their mind that expects the film to connect with reality, there is weird entertainment here to be had.
Producer: E. Charles Straus
Director: Stuart Heisler
Screenplay: Sam Neuman, E. Charles Straus
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Art Direction: William Glasgow
Music: Hans J. Salter
Film Editing: Walter Hannemann
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).
by David Kalat
Len D. Martin, The Allied Artists Checklist (McFarland & Co., 1993)
Charles P. Mitchell, The Hitler Filmography (McFarland & Co., 2002)
Monthly Film Bulletin, 29:336/347 (1962) p.171
Also shown as Women of Nazi Germany.
Released in United States 1962
Released in United States 1962