Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Red Baron

This past weekend we popped out to the movies and caught the latest German flick, The Red Baron (Der Rote Baron). It is the story Manfred von Richthofen who is credited with shooting down 80 British, Canadian and Australian pilots during World War I.

It's a bit strange to see a German "war hero" on the screen. Usually German soldiers are portrayed as heel-clicking fanatics or disillusioned soldiers under the Nazi system. The Germans don't seem to be taking to it either. The Red Baron is much more famous OUTSIDE of Germany than within. When the show opened on the Red Carpet in Berlin there were hardly any onlookers to witness the event.

I suppose that most of Germany was rather shell-shocked after the wars and embraced pacifism to the point of turning away from everything military, even the few heroes they had. Or perhaps they realized that von Richthofen was just another spoke in the propaganda wheel and turned away from him for that reason.

Either way to me it seems the Germans aren't interested in the movie so much. When I told several people that we were going to see the movie one of them remarked about how one of the streets in Berlin is named after him "or something", and the other said that she really doesn't like military movies. We went to the movie at a multiplex and viewed it in a theater which could have seated at least 150 people... there were about 25 watching... and this was on opening weekend.

For the sake of the private investors I hope it does better in other parts of the world. It seems they were considering this when the decision was made to have the movie filmed in English. Of course this opens it up for a wider audience, and my suspicion is that they understood the draw from a German audience wouldn't be very good.

Although the movie was filmed in English it was a fact I didn't know until about two hours before we saw the movie. N. and I have amassed quite a supply of movie house gift certificates, and some of those are for a theater which only shows movies in German. She let me know that we needed to use these tickets soon so I should buck up and see some movies in German finally. Well, my thought is that I would like to see movies in their ORIGINAL language, this way you get the full performance of the actors, no matter the language. As I thought this movie was in German (hey, made with German money, put together in a German studio, mostly German actors, shot in Czechoslovakia - makes me think it would be in German, eh?) it seemed like a good idea to see this one. The story had fond memories for me (story below) and I wanted to see the film.

So imagine my surprise when I'm doing my "pre-German language-movie research" (watching the trailer and any video found on the internet along with a few critic's views and hopefully a synopsis) for better chances of understanding the movie and I see that the thing is dubbed! Dubbed from English INTO German! Think about it... German actors, speaking English, dubbed BACK into German! :) Oh the irony of it all.

The movie itself was OK. I kept feeling a bit cheated from not being able to see ALL of the dogfights which were hinted at... even a little bit of each one would have helped with the feel of continuity. There were at least two times in which we were sent from a normal "on the ground" scene to one which was explaining how he had shot someone down, and he was taking his "trophy". Um... did we miss the actual EVENT? Did the film crew run out of money?

Evidently The "Bloody" Red Baron himself was in the whole thing for the kill... of the plane. He says several times that they are not in it to kill the men... only to bring down the plane. In fact the movie goes so far as to show von Richthofen forcing his nemesis Captain Rob Brown (played very well by Joseph Fiennes - just love the guy but I only see him in period pieces!) down to the ground so they can have a lovely little philosophical chat, then they end up walking their separate directions afterward. How civilized is that?

Ah, the love story. His love interest in this film was a nurse he kept encountering along the way. I have no way of knowing if this part of the story is true, perhaps it is. In the script she is responsible for showing him that he is a propaganda puppet. Eventually he begins to act in an insubordinate way to his superiors and before his death was obviously having trouble dealing with the dead bodies he was stacking up.

All in all the movie was OK. I didn't end up caring one way or the other about the characters, perhaps it is because I knew the eventual outcome... he died very young, most certainly he had a dangerous job. His disillusionment with the whole "cause" became a major thread at the end of the movie, showing that he wasn't really such a bad guy after all... no matter what Snoopy thought of him!

I'll be aging myself here, but the Snoopy reference is something from the late Sixties and early Seventies. When I was just a toddler I remember my older brothers and sisters listening OVER AND OVER to a record (a 78 record mind you) sung by the Royal Guardsmen and named "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron". - Lyrics WAY below.

Here is a video of the group doin' their stuff.

As if that weren't enough, here is something which was put together with Snoopy footage using the same song.

And here is where Charles Schulz (yup, a German name by the way) actually put his ideas on the matter to celluloid.

Here's one with some real footage from the time mixed in with the Snoopy saga.

Royal Guardsmen - "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron"
After the turn of the century
In the clear blue skies over Germany
Came a roar and a thunder men had never heard
Like the scream and the sound of a big war bird

Up in the sky, a man in a plane
Baron von Richthofen was his name
Eighty men tried, and eighty men died
Now they're buried together on the countryside

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more
The Bloody Red Baron was rollin' up the score
Eighty men died tryin' to end that spree
of the Bloody Red Baron of Germany

In the nick of time, a hero arose
A funny-looking dog with a big black nose
He flew into the sky to seek revenge
But the Baron shot him down - "Curses, foiled again!"

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more
The Bloody Red Baron was rollin' up the score
Eighty men died tryin' to end that spree
of the Bloody Red Baron of Germany

Now, Snoopy had sworn that he'd get that man
So he asked the Great Pumpkin for a new battle plan
He challenged the German to a real dogfight
While the Baron was laughing, he got him in his sight

That Bloody Red Baron was in a fix
He'd tried everything, but he'd run out of tricks
Snoopy fired once, and he fired twice
And that Bloody Red Baron went spinning out of sight

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more
The Bloody Red Baron was rollin' up the score
Eighty men died tryin' to end that spree
of the Bloody Red Baron of Germany

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more
The Bloody Red Baron was rollin' up the score
Eighty men died tryin' to end that spree
of the Bloody Red Baron of Germany


Maria said...

Why is the love interest ALWAYS a nurse?

And hey...I remember that song well. But, then...I AM 49....

Anonymous said...

I loved that song growing up! hee hee..sat and sang
with it!!! How fun! What did N. think of it? Also u
are used to American films that believe in special effects..sounds like they ran out of Thanks for sharing..brought back nice memories...smiles

Snooker said...

@ Maria, thanks for droppin' by. Yeah, I remember that song very fondly. It was one of the few times that my brother and I got along through childhood... "winging" around the room acting like we were in a dogfight. It was a lot of fun.
It IS always a nurse isn't it?

@ Anon, thanks for commenting... now come out of the closet! :)
N. thought it was a nice movie, but she wasn't very excited about it. I'm happy to have been able to bring back memories for ya.