Tuesday, August 21, 2012

50 Years of Winnetou in Film: 2 New Books


Before Sergio Leone made his spaghetti westerns and was making film history, the Germans produced, in present day Croatia, their version of the Western: They filmed Karl May’s naïve, and reactionary novels and thus created - at least in Germany – a cult cinema. The Winnetou films dominated the cowboy-and-Indian-image of many generations of German children since the 1960s. On the 50th Anniversary of the first film, "The Treasure of Silver" appears in the Karl May Verlag Bamberg two comprehensive volumes of photographs.
In rational terms the Winnetou films are now more unintentionally funny. Starting with the Croatian scenery, which was to represent the U.S. West, and the two completely stiff and unconvincing actors Pierre Brice and Lex Barker through the kitschy Wild West romance of May’s stories with his clear portrayal of good and evil. They were similar to the TV action series of the 1980s such as - Knight Rider, A-Team, etc.  Back then, it was found incredibly cool, now you wonder how you could tolerate this outrageous nonsense longer than ten minutes at a time.

And yet they were simply part of life to those who were born before 1990 - television of Sundays were filled with easily digestible family films from the '50s and '60s, which were inevitably the Winnetou films. They made sure that you as a child played cowboy and Indians in the garden and accordingly with a Carnival disguise. The films were for many with the accompanying music a sheltered time of innocence. In general, they later transfigured into a nostalgic picture that in reality is not attainable.

But now there has been a release of two picture books "50 Years Winnetou Movie" and "The Treasure of Silver Lake", which have just been published by Michael Petzel, in Bamberg Karl May Verlag. During the formula accompaniment of the publisher filled with fan adulation rather than informative and illumination, Petzold’s image selection is all the more valuable because, unlike a reunion of the films they are able to revive sweet memories. Petzel has dug deep into the archives and placed next to the printed information unearthed hundreds of photos, the photo journalist during the filming of the movies (unfortunately only a few show any behind the scenes shots). The quality of well over 300 photos is also surprisingly good, considering their age. Also interesting are the impressions of the young matinee idol Götz George or the then completely unknown Uschi Glas. And looking at the pictures the mind inevitably hears the scores by Martin Böttcher ... For Winnetou fans it is highly recommend as well as nostalgic fans who want to take a trip into childhood. (GW)

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