Jumat, 29 April 2011

Harald Reinl - Winnetou - 1. Teil AKA Apache Gold (1963)

Plot synopsis and review from Mondo Esoterica:

The pioneering old West where Indians (Native Americans) roamed the plains and the white men were relentlessly pushing on deep into their millenia old territory. The Great Western Railway company is building a railroad, carefully laid out to avoid native settlements - however an unscrupulous construction owner, Santer (Mario Adorf), has decided to save money by cutting straight across the Apache's land. An engineer from the East coast arrives with instructions to stop the re-routing, after getting into a fist-fight he becomes known as Old Shatterhand (Lex Barker). He tries to talk peace with the Apache tribe, and their young chief Winnetou (Pierre Brice), but Santer kills the old chief and captures Winnetou. Shatterhand sets out to free Winnetou and stop Santer who seems to be trying to provoke an all out war with the Apache tribe...

Despite the title, Winnetou 1 was the second film based on the Old West novels of Karl May. Mirroring the development of the original novels, Shatterhand and Winnetou were introduced in Der Schatz im Silbersee (1962), and given the sucess of this production, were given their own series of films. Like the original Karl May novel, the story plays out like an Old West fairy-tale with good and evil, tragedy and victory - this is certainly not a place to look for gritty, realistic depictions of the Old West. Santer is simply a bad man, concerned only for his money and regardless of loss of life and limb - while Shatterhand and Winnetou are heros, not the anti-heros that would come to dominate Westerns. The plot remains relatively faithful to the theme of the novel, telling the original story of how Shatterhand and Winnetou became friends, despite almost killing each other in confusion. The pacing is good, with frequent and exciting action and adventure scenes - from an Indian attack on a supply convoy, to a massive shootout in a town, and a thrilling shootout climax high-atop a mountain. The film does have some problems, however, in the form of unnecessary comic relief - the slapstick antics of a British photographer trying to take photos of the Indians is quite tiresome, and was removed from the American prints of the film.

Director Harald Reinl was a big fan of classic literature and he does a very good job bringing this film to life. The Jugoslavian scenery looks amazing and he comfortably shifts between the small dialogue, and massive action sequences. The action scenes are a particular highlight, and some of the most impressive sequences seen in any of the European Westerns, rivalling even the best of the American Westerns - from large scale Indian horseback attacks, to a saloon gunfight that ends only when Shatterhand drives a train through the building - most impressively, this was done for real and is clearly not a model! Boasting an impressive budget, the film makes full use of every penny. The soundtrack, orchestral with some modern hints, suits the film very well and was a big hit in Germany.

no pass

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