Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Flitterwochen In der Hölle/Isle of Sin (1960, Germany)

While filming Cross of Iron (1977) in Europe, Sam Peckinpah wrote to Pauline Kael from London in a letter dated December 14, 1976 that the film’s producer, Wolf C Hartwig, “is a good old asshole, a mini Nazi with delusions of being David Selznick, Sam Spiegel and Herman Goring wrapped up into 5 ft of pure stupidity.” Seeing that Peckinpah was hardly known for his ability to interact with other people—much less producers—his opinion is questionable at best, but seeing that the man he is talking about is no less than Wolfgang Hartwig, the producer of this film, the slanderously entertaining quote virtually begs for inclusion, especially considering the quality of most of Hartwig’s films as a producer. He is, without a doubt, one of the great unsung heroes of German sleaze, his flicks spanning from his initial "documentary” foray on Hitler Bis fünf nach zwölf - Adolf Hitler und das 3. Reich (1953) to his popular Hong Kong and St.Pauli flicks in the 60s to his numerous and legendary softcore clarification films in the 1970s.
Among the early Hartwig’s productions that can still be found (in the public domain in the USA, for example), Victor Trivas’ Die Nackte und der Satan/The Screaming Head from 1959 (about an undead head and a mad scientist) enjoys some popularity as an oddly entertaining Z-grade cult horror flick. In 1960, however, Hartwig pulled out all the stops and produced three grade-Z films, possibly simultaneously, often using some of the same actors: Otto Meyer’s Die Insel der Amazonen/Seven Daring Girls, a boring film about seven girls trapped on an island in the clutches of criminals looking for a treasure; Fritz Böttger’s infamous Ein Töter hing im Netz/Horrors of Spider Island, a horror film in the tradition of Ed Wood about a group of hot babes and their manager who crash land on a deserted island and are threatened by a mutant spider; and lastly, Johannes Kai’s Flitterwochen in der Hölle/Isle of Sin, a film about a group of people who crash land on an island and....well, you get the picture. Unbelievably enough, each film was supposedly scripted by a different person.
In the case of Flitterwochen in die Hölle, the script was written by the film’s director Johannes Kai, who went on to script a number of Edgar Wallace thrillers and 1962’s Ohne Krimi geht die Mimi nie ins Bett. The latter was a big hit in Germany that year, but it is the film’s title song of the same name that has achieved immortality, a hit song with the same title as the movie which still gets regular airplay on radio stations oriented to the geriatric set. Kai’s career seemingly ended by the mid-sixties, which isn’t very surprising considering the overall lack of quality his various projects display—on the other hand, perhaps he simply changed his name somewhere along the way, as did the blond Dorothee Glöcklin, who played a wanton woman in all three of Hartwig’s “island movies” before becoming Dorothee Parker to continue her career in other B & Z productions.
Flitterwochen in die Hölle, which actually translates into “Honeymoon In Hell,” follows a structure familiar to anyone who has ever watched any of this sort of formula based “adventure/drama,” be it Robert Aldrich’s Flight of the Phoenix (1966), Rob Cohen’s Daylight (1996) or Ronald Neame’s The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Unlike those three films, Kai’s film lacks any and all the budget, competence, talent, adventure, drama or intentional humor. Basically, the film begins with the mandatory scenes before the plane takes off in which the various people on the flight are introduced—the criminal in transit, the cop, the lawyer, the aged milquetoast, the priest, the journalist (Erwin Strahl—who eventually ended his career as the director of the embarrassing alpine sex farce Gejoldet wird zu Hause (1970)), the goodtime girl (Glöcklin), the young woman of good morals (Christiane Nielsen), her rich, older husband and so forth.
In no time, the plane is down, the cop is dead and the criminal has the gun. Needless to say, he ain’t so hot to get off the island, so every attempt by the others to make the search planes see them gets squashed by the toy-pistol-waving con. Soon even the blond doesn’t feel like bopping to the bad music coming from her portable radio. Sparks begin to fly between the reporter and the newlywed (who the con also finds hot stuff), but when she finds out he’s out to write an exposé on her critically injured, drug addicted husband, she stops getting wet on him. Luckily for the reporter, the drug addicted husband conveniently dies just after it is revealed on the radio that he was the one responsible for financially ruining her father.
Sound exciting? It ain’t, but it sure does have its perverse entertainment level. It’s laughably and unbelievably bad—just the stuff to watch if you want to torture unwanted guests or have a cold and some good weed. Day-for-night shots that look like day-for-day, high-heeled women who remain perfectly made up and immaculately clean despite weeks of roughing it on the island, plot twists that twist less than they do fall flat and people who stand politely to the side so the bad guy can get a good shot (at the wrong person) before they overpower him. A true treat for lovers of unforgivably bad films, trash for anyone else. That Maltin was kind enough to give the film 1 ½ stars merely shows that even he—or at least some of his writers—is capable of appreciating bad films on a psycotronic level.... or that the reviewer on his staff never really even watched the flick in the first place.

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