A wonderful musical,
1942's WEINER BLUT directed by Willy Forst was one of the biggest box office hits of the Third Reich and it hold up well today. This charming, funny, and lavish musical never lags and is free of propaganda or maybe not as I will explain later. The story takes place during the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) which we know from the 1932 Weimar classic DER KONGRESS TANTZ (CONGRESS DANCES). There are some similarities involving the nobility mixing with the lower classes, mistaken identities, and squabbling couples who succumb to the charms of Vienna, but each film is equally good on its own terms. The German title literally translates as 'Viennese Blood' but a more accurate one would be 'Viennese Spirit' as the story shows how the city's values, mostly its love of music, singing and dancing, permeate everyone and everything as you'll see when you watch the film.
The film begins with Forst dressed as a pharmacist mixing an potion of humor, happiness, heart, and history. Once he adds music, the story begins where we're transported to old Vienna. Willy Fritsch plays a stuffy count from another province who's traveling to Vienna as a diplomat to Metternich's Congress accompanied by his wife who was born there. He dislikes everything about the city and it's up to his wife and their servants to teach him otherwise, but it takes a vivacious dancer who loosens him up with her charms and dancing lessons. There's some humorous confusion that begins when he's forced to present her as his wife while his real one is mistaken later for the dancer at the grand ball. The two woman become allies as they sing the title waltz and eventually everything works out well for everyone. Two great character actors, Hans Moser and Theo Lingen, play the married couple's valets who put aside their differences and help solve the couple's cultural issues threatening their marriage and they almost steal the film from the leads with their comic verbal and slapstick antics.
There's no propaganda here because, according to Sabine Hake in her study 'Popular Cinema of the Third Reich,' after Germany annexed Austria in 1938, the studio head of Wein-Film told his staff "to seek themes that are located in the distant past and have nothing to do with the present.'' The films would concentrate on everything famous about Vienna and Austria and their avoidance of anything hinting at the current political situation made them escapist entertainment and acceptable to Goebbels as more of these harmless films were needed to boost public morale as WWII intensified in the early 1940's. Hake sees the film and its quarreling couple as "a veiled commentary on Austria's unwillingness to 'understand' its place in the geopolitical ambitions of the Reich... The man's initial disregard for local customs could be a reference to the Germans' inability to recognize the valuable contribution of Austrian culture. However, in the same way he must overcome his contempt for what he calls 'dancers through life,' she must become more 'German' and recognize the importance of work." Hake continues this analogy with their German and Austrian valets who represent their opposite national traits: "Their decision after some initial antagonism to work together in reconciling the couple is obviously intended to serve as a behavioral model for film audiences in... [Austria]... and elsewhere." It's an interesting interpretation that she elaborates, but is this what the filmmakers had in mind?
Regardless of what you want to read into the film or don't, you will enjoy it like a delicious Viennese pastry. Imagine how much better it would have been if it was filmed in the Afga Color process. This DVD's video and audio quality is very good! Thanks again, guys!
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Vienna Blood is a 1942 German operetta film, based on the 1899 operetta of the same name.,
The young Count Georg Wolkersheim (Willy Fritsch) is sent to the Congress of Vienna to represent the interests of his country, Reuss-Schleiz-Greiz. Tensions arise between the count, his wife Melanie (Maria Holst), and their two chamberlains (Hans Moser and Theo Lingen), and when the four of them attend a court ball, Melanie leaves Georg, assumes the identity of a famous actress, and attracts the affections of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (Fred Liewehr). Georg quits the ball and returns to his lodgings to wait for his wife. Meanwhile, the two servants plot to further inflame Georg's jealousy by posing as Ludwig to commission a portrait of Melanie from the famous artist Moritz Daffinger (Egon von Jordan). The next day, however, Georg and Daffinger expose the servants' ruse, Ludwig reveals to Melanie that he has discovered her true identity, and all is forgiven.
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Delicious puff pastry,
This is perhaps the absolute best film set in an operetta fairy tale Vienna - and there are quite a few such films, from many different eras.
The stunning all-star cast is headed by ubiquitous playboy Willy Fritsch as the initially stuffy German count and the regal Maria Holst as his much more vivacious Viennese wife, Hans Moser - perhaps the most 'Viennese' comedian ever - and Theo Lingen - very deliberately north German - as well as Vienna icon Fritz Imhoff provide comic relief, gorgeous Dorit Kreysler some additional eye candy, Fred Liewehr reminds us that he was rather dashing before gaining way too many pounds and Hedwig Bleibtreu brings her own form of comedy in the shape of dry sarcasm.
A must have for fans of early 19th century costumes and bubbly champagne fun.
Picture quality is very good and subtitles can thankfully be switched off.
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