Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Emil and the Detectives" was the only one of Erich Kastner's pre 1945 works to escape Nazi censorship and what made it so popular in it's day was the setting in contemporary Berlin and the 1931 adaptation followed on by setting it during the Weimar Republic. The film found international acclaim and with a team of writers as Billy Wilder, Erich Kastner and Emeric Pressburger - how could it fail? Mordaunt Hall (of the New York Times) praised it fulsomely and also must have been at the German premiere because he predicted stardom for a few of the young boys who appeared in person, commenting that America didn't have the monopoly on talented juvenile players.

    Emil is being sent to Berlin by his mother, a hairdresser, to give his grandmother his mother's monthly salary of 140 marks - it is a big responsibility but Emil also gives care and attention to packing his marbles and slingshot. On board the train all the passengers are kind - except the man in the bowler hat!! Fritz Rasp is superb, he plays to the hilt the evilness and creepiness of the sinister gentleman. With all the reality and resourcefulness of children, Rasp is a standout and memorable!! First he tells Emil some very weird stories about life in Berlin - and succeeds in putting everyone in the carriage offside with his eeriness. He then takes the little boy on a hallucinating journey, flying over Berlin with an umbrella after he offers Emil a drugged chocolate.

    Emil awakes in the train to find his money gone and while cousin Pony is waiting at the station, he is getting to know the local street kids who are enthused about helping him find his money. With Pony along on her push bike they track the "bowler" to a posh hotel - and by bribing a page boy they find that the enemy is in room 9!!

    So many delightful and resourceful children playing and living to their own rules - Gus and his horn, Hirsch who speaks like an Indian (as in cowboys and indians) shows how much influence the American movies had world wide and little Mittenzwei who is the only boy with a home phone so he has to stay at home and mediate, much to his disgust!!

    Also nice, the way the children are believed - all roads lead to the local police station and when Emil pleads that the notes will have pin pricks because he had pinned them to his pocket "Mr. Bowler Hat" is jumped on!! It seems he is not quite the small time thief as first thought but an escaped bank robber whose capture leads to a big reward. The end shows much rejoicing - all the boys wishing to marry Pony who sensibly tells them that she can be friends with all. Inge Landgut who is well known for playing Elsie in "M" makes an adorable Pony. Very sadly Rolf Wenkhaus who played Emil and others of the main juvenile cast died during the second world war. Hans Richter who played Hirsch, the Indian speaker found a phenomenal success, if type cast, as a freckled faced kid and had a long and fruitful career.

    Very Recommended