Sunday, September 13, 2009


Yugoslavia: VINETU 1
Director - Harald Reinl 1963
Cast: Lex Barker (Old Shatterhand), Pierre Brice (Winnetou), Mario Adorf (Frederic Santer), Marie Versini (Nscho-tschi), Walter Barnes (Bill Jones), Ralf Wolter (Sam Hawkins), Mavid Popovic (Intschu-tschuna), Branko Spoljar (Bancroft), Niksa Stefanini, Dunja Rajter (Belle), and Chris Howland (Jefferson Tufftuff).Husein Cokic, Demeter Bitenc, Vlado Krustulovic, Ilija Ivezic, Teddy Sotosek, Tomoslav Erak (Tangua), Hrvoje Evob (Klekih-petra), Antun Nolis, Vladimir Bosnjak, Kranjcec Ana.
Screenplay by Harald. G. Petersson
Based on the novel by Karl May
Director of Photography Ernst W. Kalinke
Cinemascope - Eastmancolor
Music by Martin Bottcher
Art Directors Frank Goslar, Dusko Ercegouic
Editor Hermann Haller
Production Manager Erwin Gitt
Second Unit Producer Josef Lulic
Second Unit Director Stipe Delic
Second Unit Camera Kreso Grcevic
Camera Eberhard Dycke, Egon Haedler, Milorad Markovic
Costumes Irms Pauli
Sound Editor Fedor Jeler
Make-up Walter Wegner, Gerda Wegner
Special Effects Erwin Lange
Bauten Vladimer Tadej
Assistant Director Charles Wakefield, Slavko Andres
Executive Producer Horst Wendlandt
Interiors CCC - Studios Berlin
A Co-production of Rialto Film (Hamburg), Ste Nlle de Cinema (Paris), and Jardan Film (Zagreb).

Actually the second of the series, WINNETOU 1. TEIL came out almost a year after DER SCHATZ IM SILBERSEE (U.S.: THE TREASURE OF SILVER LAKE), but was for many fans the best of the German Westerns.
What made this film special in the Winnetou series, was that it was the "origin" episode. Here, we saw how the future chief of the Apaches, and the White man who would become his blood brother, first met, and the physical trials which forged their bond.
Since the politicization of the cinematic presentation of Native American peoples, it was hard to see any movie about Indians without wondering, "What would Russell Means think about this?" How authentic was the film's depiction of the Mescalero Apache? Was the language used by the cinematic Indians correct? Did the costuming approximate how they really looked? Would these people really build their pueblo on a cliff overlooking a river valley? Such questions would probably be more appropriately posed to anthropological or historical scholars, and these scholars would probably point out that this film's portrayal of the characters from an European background wasn't authentic either. But, the filmmakers were not attempting a realistic study of the subject. They were presenting an adventure story which romanticized the Western expansion of the United States. In particular, they were portraying an idealized friendship between a Native American leader and an European American railroad surveyor, who happened to be good with his fists.
Action seemed to be the most important aspect of this project to the filmmakers, and they provided quite a few well-staged and well-produced sequences. There was the wagon train racing across the prairie pursued by the murderous Kiowa. There was the saloon punch-up after which Sam Hawkins christened the surveyor "Old Shatterhand". There was the battle of Roswell, during which the railroad workers attempted to arrest Santer for the murder of
the old White teacher who lived with the Apaches. And there was the attack on Roswell by the Apaches.
Unfortunately, among the action sequences were a number of preposterous bits. Particularly hard to swallow was the idea that workers could lay railroad tracks at night leading right up to the saloon without anyone in the saloon knowing about it. Also not quite convincing was that the villains trapped in the saloon, could, just overnight, build an underground tunnel through the floor of the drinking establishment across to a storehouse filled with dynamite.
Underground tunnels were an element unusual to American Westerns, but seemed okay to these German filmmakers. In DER SCHATZ IM SILBERSEE, a frontier stockade had a secret passageway down the well, which came out quite a distance outside the fort. However, in both films, the interior of the tunnels were never shown, so questions were never answered about their contruction.
Another unusual element found in the Winnetou Westerns was "trial by ordeal", which was very similar to the "feat of strength" found in Italian Epic films, and, of course, was a common element of most mythological tales. In DER SCHATZ IM SILBERSEE, Old Shatterhand had to prove his innocence by defeating an Indian chief in a duel using tomahawk and knife while both were tied around the waist with rope also attached to a totem pole. In WINNETOU 1. TEIL, Old Shatterhand must prove his innocence by reaching a totem pole in a leaky canoe while being
pursued by Winnetou's father.
As Bill Jones, Walter Barnes continued the trend, started with DRAKUT IL VENDICATORE, of getting roles with more stature than his earlier parts. The foreman of the railroad builders, Jones was a well-meaning man unaware that Santer had altered the proposed route of the track. Instead of going around Apache land, the track was now going right-through the heart of it, providing a cost saving that Santer was pocketing.
Later, after Santer and his men took cover in the saloon to avoid capture, Jones ventured out unarmed in an effort to halt the bloodshed. His effort to convince the villain to lay down his weapons was, not surprisingly, rewarded with a bullet. But the effort signified that Jones was a character of heroic virtue, and Barnes filled the role admirably.
However, the roles which really made WINNETOU 1.TEIL a success were those filled by American actor Lex Barker, as Old Shatterhand, and French actor Pierre Brice, as Winnetou. The roles were written in the style of classical heroes, and needed performers with strong physical charisma to pull them off. In Barker and Brice, the filmmakers got what they needed. Ralf Wolter as Sam Hawkins was a regular of the Winnetou films which featured Old Shatterhand, appearing in six out of seven; he wasn't in WINNETOU 2. TEIL. A comedic character, Hawkins was the old-timer who helped introduce Old Shatterhand to Winnetou, and was a good fighter in addition to providing humor. WINNETOU 1. TEIL did not include the moments from DER SCHATZ IM SILBERSEE which revealed that his eccentric hairstyle was actually a wig, to cover up his bald spot.
Following Herbert Lom's stint as the villain in the first of the series, German actor Mario Adorf brought to the film the forceful presence which made him an international star. As Santer, Adorf seemed to be at home in Western garb, which probably helped to convince American director Sam Peckinpah to cast him, a few years later, in MAJOR DUNDEE.
Casting Marie Versini as Winnetou's sister Nscho-tschi seemed appropriate; who better than a French actress to play the sister of a character played by a French actor? Versini brought sweetness to the role which was just about all the script allowed. Viewers of WINNETOU 1. TEIL may have been surprised to discover Versini also played Nscho-tschi in 1966's WINNETOU UND SEIN FREUND OLD FIREHAND (U.S.: THUNDER AT THE BORDER). However, Old Firehand was part of Winnetou's life before he met Old Shatterhand, so this story was kind of a prequel to the events of WINNETOU 1. TEIL.
All of the Winnetou movies used the same music by Martin Bottcher, which gave them a continuity, but also signaled the filmmakers unwillingness to change with audience tastes. The last installment of the series was released in 1968.

1 comment:

  1. The Apache Indians are totally unrealistic in the Winnetou films as they wear Eastern costumes and live in pueblo style houses where the real Apaches lived in homes made of brush and wore very light clothing because of the climate they lived in. The Apaches also migrated to summer and winter camps to escape the summer heat. Karl May's stories were based on James Fenimore Cooper's books he read while in prison and the Indians of Cooper's writings were East Coast Indians.