Maria Krafft, die Frau des Bergsteigers Dr. Johannes Krafft, stürzt wegen der Leichtfertigkeit des Paares in eine Gletscherspalte am Piz Palü und stirbt. Einige Jahre später: Das frischvermählte Paar Hans Brandt und Maria Maioni begibt sich ebendort auf eine Bergtour. Sie quartieren sich in der einsamen iavolezzaberghütte ein. Der befreundete Kunstflieger Udet wirft ihnen eine Flasche Sekt zum Feiern mit dem Fallschirm hinunter. Die erhoffte Einsamkeit wird durch das Auftauchen des Bergführers Christian und von Dr. Johannes Krafft vereitelt. Krafft, der den Tod seiner Frau nicht verwunden hat, besteigt immer wieder den Piz Palü und versucht die Nordwand alleine zu bezwingen, was ihm aber schon zweimal misslungen ist. Maria fühlt sich zu dem schweigsamen Mann hingezogen. Seine verunglückte Frau hieß ebenfalls Maria. Am nächsten Tag begibt sich das Paar gemeinsam mit Krafft auf den Weg zur Nordwand des Piz Palü. Eine Gruppe von bergunerfahrenen Studenten folgt ihnen, doch werden sie von einer Lawine in die Tiefe gerissen. Keiner der jungen Männer überlebt.
The White Hell of Pitz Palu (German: Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü) is a 1929 silent mountain film directed by Arnold Fanck and Georg Wilhelm Pabst and starring future filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and World War I flying ace Ernst Udet. The wife of alpinist Dr Johannes Krafft (Gustav Diessl) dies after a crevasse fall. It is implied that the accident was due to his negligence. Ten years later the newlywed Karl Stern (Ernst Petersen) and Maria Majoni (Leni Riefenstahl) arrive in an alpine hut near St. Moritz. They meet Dr Krafft who is obsessed with the death of his wife and is still searching for her in the mountains. Together they depart to climb Piz Palü, not knowing that a storm is approaching. Trapped in the mountain and with Stern having broken his leg they are forced to spend the night on a small ledge. Dr Krafft who had given his coat to Karl does not survive until the next morning. Eventually the aviator Ernst Udet (played by himself), who is also a friend of Karl and Maria, finds the couple. He alerts the rescuers who eventually safely escort Karl and Maria back to the valley.
On October 11, 1929 the film premiered in Vienna. In Germany the film had its premiere in the same year on November 1 in Stuttgart. The official German premiere was on November 15, 1929 in Berlin. In the first four weeks the film was seen by more than 100,000 people at the UFA Palast in Berlin, at this time Germany's largest and most important movie theater. In 1930 a sound film version in English was released internationally. In 1935 a German sound film version with a film score by Giuseppe Becce was produced. The film was shortened to 90 minutes. With the Nazis in power since 1933, the Jewish-sounding name "Karl Stern" was changed into "Hans Brandt". All scenes with the Jewish actor Kurt Gerron, who perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, were cut from this release. A remake was produced in 1950 under the title Föhn by Rolf Hansen, starring Hans Albers and Liselotte Pulver. The original version of Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü was lost until 1996. The original film score by Willy Schmidt-Gentner is still lost. The film was well received both critically and commercially. Several film historians cite it as Fanck's most successful picture critically and Riefenstahl's as an actress. It also became the second biggest box office hit of the year in Germany. In the New York Times, Mordaunt Hall wrote that "Leni Riefenstahl is convincing", remarking on "a swift undercurrent of tenseness and anticipation that carries one along through the avalanches, up the precipitous and threatening mountainside and finally to the climax of the rescue.
THIS IS THE AMERICAN VERSION FROM 1930 WITH SOUND AND ENGLISH INTERTILES CUT BACK TO 76 MINS.