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Old 25-11-2006, 17:56   #1
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The Karl May Westerns (1962 - 1968)



Here's one for those of you who think you know every genre of cinema. Among the first of the European Westerns, inspiration to the Spaghetti Western boom and the series that brought German cinema back to life after the Second World War, the Karl May Westerns were 11 epic sized films based on the works of popular German author Karl May. Incredibly sucessful, and still widely loved in Germany, they are almost unknown in the UK/USA despite having English language DVD releases in Germany - so with a lot of research and film watching, I present: The Complete Guide to the Karl May Westerns.
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Old 25-11-2006, 22:28   #2
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Very nice to give these movies some attention. Excellent stuff .

I actually saw most of the May films in the cinema in Holland in re-runs when I was little and later of course on German TV numerous times. Watching a May film now instantly takes me back to my childhood and the six German boxsets are probably my most treasured DVD's.

I like the movies that were directed by Alfred Vohrer probably the best. Reinl's entries in the series are more romantic and capture the spirit of May's novels better but Vohrer is a much more interesting director imo (he was known as the German Hitchcock, based on his Wallace movies which are also the best entries in that series imo). His May films are a bit harder and together with Granger's more laconic approach to the role of Old Surehand, I find them the most enjoyable.
The other May films that were made in the sixties by CCC, play in Mexico (Der Schatz der Azteken and Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes, both directed by Robert Siodmak), the Balkans (Der Schut, also directed by Siodmak), and in Kurdistan (Durchs wilde Kurdistan and Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen). They all have Lex Barker in the lead and they play in the same vein as the Winnetou movies. They are more or less westerns in disguise and if you like the westerns you'll like these as well.
Special mention must be made of the beautiful music of Martin Böttcher. He wrote the soundtrack for most of the movies and it contributed tremendously to their success. This cd comes highly recommended .

A remark about CCC's Old Shatterhand; you write that it was relatively unsuccessful. This is not true. It was actually the most successful movie of the series (at least, according to Michael Petzel's "Karl May Filmbuch").

A second remark, you write "Film adaptations of the books had been discussed as early as the 1920s". Several films based on May's work were not only discussed but actually made before Rialto's and CCC's run int the sixties. Three May films were made in the 1920's, one in the 1930's and two in the 1950's. These all played in the Orient.

Last edited by hitch_fan; 25-11-2006 at 22:29.
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Old 26-11-2006, 10:19   #3
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Many thanks for the notes - I've made some slight alterations to the page, and added some new text on the East German Indianerfilms that countered the May Westerns.

I'd be really interested in seeing the other CCC May films, but they don't seem to be listed with English options or German subtitles, and my German isn't good enough to watch the whole film through without one or the other!
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Old 26-11-2006, 17:20   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R-T-C
I'd be really interested in seeing the other CCC May films, but they don't seem to be listed with English options or German subtitles, and my German isn't good enough to watch the whole film through without one or the other!
The CCC boxsets are indeed without English options or German subs. Universum (the distributor of the Rialto and CCC boxsets) used to provide English language options on most of their releases in the past. Most of the Rialto Wallace releases have an English language track and/or English subtitles. Probably for financial reasons they have stopped doing this and for instance the CCC May sets, their great Mabuse set and the CCC Wallace sets have German language tracks only and no subtitle options.
English language tracks for the CCC May films must exist though since they were released in English speaking countries.

All the Rialto films and some of the CCC films were recently released in Holland as well in three double DVD sets (a fourth is on the way). The Dutch releases don't have extras and feature two movies per DVD but, as far as I know, for the rest they are the same, ie same transfers and same language options. I'll keep an eye out for them and double check the language options.

I saw that you listed the US/UK titles as well in your reviews. Noticed some small mistakes so here's a full list of all Rialto and CCC films with the titles as they were released in the US and UK (source Michael Petzel's Karl May Filmbuch).
All of them except one actually got a theatrical release in the US (although in most cases two to four years after their German release dates and heavily cut). A lot of them were marketed as spaghetti westerns after the success of Leone and failed miserably as far as I know. I've also listed the US and UK distributors.

Die Schatz im Silbersee (1962) - US: Treasure Of Silver Lake (Columbia); UK: The Treasure Of Silver Lake (Rank)
Winnetou I (1963) - US: Apache Gold (Columbia); UK: Winnetou The Warrior (British Lion)
Old Shatterhand (1964) - US: Shatterhand (Goldstone/Don Kay); UK: Apaches' Last Battle (Golden Era)
Der Schut (1964) - US: The Shoot (TV: Screen Gems)
Winnetou II (1964) - US & UK: Last Of The Renegades (Columbia)
Unter Geiern (1964) - US: Frontier Hellcat (Columbia); UK: Among Vultures (British Lion/Columbia)
Der Schatz der Azteken (1965) - US: Treasure Of The Aztecs (Walter Manley Enterprises)
Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes (1965) - US: Released with Treasure Of The Aztecs as one movie.
Der Ölprinz (1965) - US: Rampage At Apache Wells (Columbia); UK: Rampage At Apache Wells (British Lion/Columbia)
Durchs wilde Kurdistan (1965) - US: Wild Men Of Kurdistan (Walter Manley Enterprises); UK: Wild Kurdistan (Golden Era)
Winnetou III (1965) - US & UK: The Desperado Trail (Columbia)
Old Surehand I (1965) - US: Flaming Frontier (Warner); UK: Flaming Frontier (Warner-Pathe)
Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen (1965) - US: Fury Of The Sabers (Walter Manley Enterprises)
Winnetou und das Halbblut Apanatschi (1966) - US: The Half Breed (Hampton International)
Winnetou und sein Freund Old Firehand (1966) - US & UK: Thunder At The Border (Columbia)
Winnetou und Shatterhand im Tal der Toten (1968) - US: Valley Of The Death (Westcoast)

I forgot one film in my post yesterday. In 1965 "Das Vermächtnis des Inka" was made by Franz Marischka Film and Nora (a smaller competitor of Rialto and CCC) with Guy Madison in the lead. It also features some regulars from the Rialto/CCC films like Chis Howland and Rik Battaglia and plays in South America. Unfortunately it's the only May film of the sixties that is not out yet on DVD.
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Old 26-11-2006, 17:30   #5
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Just for fun, here's the NY Times "review" for Old Shatterhand when it was released in the US in 1968 (cut by almost 30 minutes incidentally):

Quote:
By RENATA ADLER
Published: June 6, 1968

I DON'T think anyone really wants to read reviews today of "Shatterhand," a gory, Italian-made Western, and "The Name of the Game Is Kill!," a horror movie which opened yesterday at Loew's Delancey Street and other neighborhood theaters. Both films are designed for exactly the audiences their titles would attract. There is nothing good in them.

Loew's Delancey is an interesting theater with purple pink décor and tiers of seats steeply banked so that it is easy to see. When I was there, two old men, one of whom had apparently sat accidentally on the other in the dark, were having a long, vicious argument that the rest of the audience, rather sparse and lost in the large theater, seemed to enjoy.

THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL!, written by Gary Crutcher; directed by Gunnar Hellstrom; produced by Robert Poore with Joe Solomon as executive producer; released by Fanfare Film Productions. At neighborhood theaters. Running time: 88 minutes.
Sim . . . . . Jack Lord
Mickey . . . . . Susan Strasberg
Diz . . . . . Collin Wilcox
Nan . . . . . Tisha Sterling
The Sheriff . . . . . Mort Mills
The Doctor . . . . . Marc Desmond
and
SHATTERHAND, directed by Hugo Fregonesa and released through Goldstone Film Enterprises: At neighborhood theaters. Running time: 89 minutes.
Shatterhand . . . . . Lex Barker
Captain Bradley . . . . . Guy Madison
Palmoa . . . . . Daliah Lavi

Last edited by hitch_fan; 26-11-2006 at 17:39.
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Old 29-11-2006, 10:09   #6
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Thanks for the notes. I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that I have translated the German titles into English in a few cases rather than using the proper English/US titles.

It is interesting to see that "review" of 'Old Shatterhand' - I can't imagine it being too gory after seeing the Rialto films, although for an audience brought up on John Wayne and Gary Cooper, it might seem a bit much.

Interestingly, on another forum it was pointed out that, even in the 1970s, the writers of some texts on the Spaghetti Westerns considered these films to be part of that film cycle, sometimes being called "sauerkraut" westerns.
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Old 20-08-2007, 13:31   #7
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Very interesting...

Bizarre that each three disc boxset features English dialogue/subtitles for only two of the films!
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Das Vermächtnis des Inka, Der Löwe von Babylon, Der Schatz der Azteken, Der Schatz im Silbersee, Der Schut, Der Ölprinz, Die Pyramide des Sonnengottes, Die Sklavenkarawane, Die Teufelsanbeter, Die Todeskarawane, Durch die Wüste, Durchs wilde Kurdistan, Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen, Karl May, Old Shatterhand, Old Surehand 1. Teil, The Karl May Westerns, Unter Geiern, Westerns, Winnetou 1. Teil, Winnetou 2. Teil, Winnetou 3. Teil

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