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Sunday, December 20, 2015

HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS (1973)

Largely dismissed on release, this, the second of four major films to cover Hitler’s bunker Götterdämmerung* holds your attention with what appears to be reasonable historical accuracy; a strong international cast (accents & dubbing not-withstanding); clean, unfussy direction from Ennio De Concini; and a blisteringly convincing Hitler, alternately charged up & beaten down, from Alec Guinness. Concini probably doesn’t need the documentary war & atrocity footage he uses to fill us in on events, but they work to set up the monochrome segues into the fortified underground shelter. After that, much of the drama takes care of itself, with rising levels of panic & forced conviviality, often served with a sick comic edge. (Then topped with never-ending dollops of schlag.) Cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri does exceptional work, not only in using limited light sources on stairways & tunnels, but also in handling a reduced color pallette (like the old 2-strip TechniColor) without making a show of it. 'Making a show of it' is saved for the sick joke that ends the film on a properly appalling note. (Courtesy of producer Wolfgang Reinhardt(?) whose father, the great Max Reinhardt, towered over German theater until having to flee the Nazis.)

DOUBLE-BILL: *The well-received (if overcooked) Bruno Ganz film DOWNFALL/’05, and Anthony Hopkins in THE BUNKER/’81 are available, but it’s hard to find the earliest version (also called HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS/’55) from G.W. Pabst w/ Oskar Werner, presumably in the role Simon Ward has here.

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