End of the Game (1975)

PG   |    |  Drama, Mystery, Crime

End of the Game (1975) Poster

When a Swiss cop is murdered, a veteran homicide inspector and a rookie are assigned to solve the case but they are obstructed by interfering Swiss politicians.


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26 January 2014 | t_atzmueller
| As close to the masterful novella as an adaptation gets
A countryside cop discovers the corpse sitting behind the wheel of a car, having been killed with a shot to the head and decides to cart the body off to the next village. It turns out the corpse (Sutherland) was policeman, Lt. Schmied, assistant of commissioner Baerlach (Ritt), a grizzled veteran, suffering from a stomach disease that will likely kill him within a year. Baerlach investigates and demands a new assistant: young, ambitious policeman Tschanz (Voight). They discover that Schmied had worked undercover, seemingly on in own account, and had investigated a certain Gastmann (Shaw), an ominous "businessman" who was connections with high-ranking politicians and officials. What ensues is a cat and mouse game, which involves not only the current case but a murder that took place decades ago, a bet between two friends, a self-appointed judge and his chosen hangman.

I have to admit that Friedrich Dürrenmatts novel "The Judge and his hangman" is among my personal favorites, which I have read countless times (and still enjoy occasionally in the form of an audio-book). As far as adaptations go, Maximilian Schell has it spot on – however, I can understand how people who are not familiar with the novel will find the film awkward, sometimes strangely timed or even sketchy.

It is not that Schell is a bad director, but that he had decided to stay very close to the novel: Dürrenmatt (who had a small part as a quirky novelist) is an exceptional writer, who doesn't care much for genres or conventions. "The Judge and his hangman" is not just a mere crime-story but a crime-story that's also a moral play, a pitch-black comedy and a social commentary. In essence it's about the past (or fate, if you want) catching up on people, even if it may be at the end of their lives.

Ritt as disillusioned policeman with a past, often reminding off a Swiss Columbo, Shaw as nihilistic, cynic master-criminal and Voight playing his role (very close to the novel) as a man-child with cherub face that a grandmother would probably like to pinch but, like the rest of the characters, seems to have his own secret agenda; the cast is altogether excellent. Bisset, though very pleasant to behold, seems a little out of place (at least in the context of the novel, where her character plays a minor role at best) but Schell does a good job incorporating her into the story. Not to forget: Donald Sutherland must have had a field-day playing the most animated corpse since "Weekend at Bernie's". Story and performances are topped off by an excellent soundtrack of Ennio Morricone. "Once you've heard this music, it will never leave you completely", comments one of the figure on a marching band. I can only agree: I've had the haunting score creep up in my head ever so often for the past 30 years.

A final word of advice: I have only watched the original version once and find it rather irritating or unfitting to hear the characters talk in English. In the German synchronization the actors (with the exceptions of Shaw and Bisset) are given throaty Swiss accents, which are way more "authentic".

If you expect a run-of-the-mill who's dunnit, you might end up disappointed but as far as adaptations go, few have gotten as close to the source material as "End of the Game" (a title which is true, but I still prefer to call the film "The Judge and his hangman").


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Did You Know?


In the German copy end credits, Jon Voight is spelled John Voight.


Richard Gastmann: Another year, your doctor says. That is, if he can operate on Thursday.
Hans Bärlach: Another year.
Richard Gastmann: Your last year, Hans. Why waste it on me?
Hans Bärlach: One day I'm going to convict you for your crimes.
Richard Gastmann: You can't let go of it, can you? You let it chew up your guts until it has ...

Crazy Credits

Corpse provided by Donald Sutherland

Alternate Versions

When the film was released internationally it was cut by 15 minutes. For unknown reasons, only the shorter international version has ever been released on home video. Both versions have a full soundtrack in English. The following sequences are missing in the shorter cut: 01 - After Baerlach visits Mrs. Schoenler there is a brief scene in which we see him feeding bears at a zoo. He then goes to the town hall and sees Gastmann from afar. This prompts a brief flashback of Nadine's corpse floating in the river. Baerlach talks to Lutz and asks him for a new partner. He wants Tschanz. Lutz says Tschanz is on holiday but Baerlach insists. Baerlach lights a cigar and is taken over by a coughing fit, Lutz asks for a glass of water but the secretary brings a flower. Lutz finally agrees to assign Tschanz to him and notes that they will make a great team. Baerlach thanks him and leaves. 02 - During the funeral scene there's an additional shot. After Tschanz notices the name on the wreath is wrong we see a woman's hat falling off and one of the mourners pick it up and throw it onto the coffin. The sound of the woman gasping can still be heard on the soundtrack when the trombonist empties water from his instrument in the short version instead of the correct sound of water pouring out. That shot is followed by another shot missing from the shorter cut in which a uniformed policeman congratulates Lutz on his speech. 03 - The first scene with Anna and Tschanz is a little different. They are first seen lying naked on the floor in silence. She gets up, lights a cigarette, and says "Don't think about it, it was good. I wanted that". She then walks over to the bathroom. In the shorter cut, the line is dubbed over the close-up of Anna and Tschanz and then cuts directly into Anna in the bathroom. 04 - There is another brief moment missing from the shorter cut in this sequence. After Anna says "Call me" Tschanz says "I hate telephones. I'd rather stand in front of your house and wait for you". There is a short discussion and she tells him to go. The scene then proceeds like in the shorter cut with Tschanz asking "Who are they". 05 - Right after the scene in which Baerlach returns home and takes off the arm protector Tschanz is seen in a phone box. He calls Anna but she isn't at home. 06 - After the "Dr. Lutz, the minister is expecting you" line, Tschanz is seen lying in bed looking sick and calling Anna's house again but no one answers. 07 - After Tschanz runs out of the baggage loading area there are two brief shots of Gastmann's henchmen watching him hidden behind crates. 08 - The sequence in which Tschanz and Anna are walking next to the river is longer. In the shorter version the scene ends after Tschanz asks Anna about Baerlach's suspicions but in the longer cut they continue talking. Anna tells Tschanz she wants him to be kind and talk to her. They talk about their families and she tells him he needs to grow up and be kind. Tschanz goes into the playground and starts playing football with the kids. Anna smiles at him. 09 - The entire sequence in which Baerlach leaves and is arguing with Tschanz and is then picked up by Gastmann as well as the entire sequence on the bridge in which they discuss their "game" and in which Gastmann disposes of the dead driver takes place at night. The sequence was originally shot day-for-night but the effect was removed in the shorter version. The scene is exactly the same bar one short insert. When Gastmann's henchman throws the driver's body in the water there is a short flashback of Nadine's corpse floating as seen in the Istanbul intro. 10 - After Gastmannshouts at Baerlach ("You fool") we see Tschanz lying in bed thinking. Then we see Anna emerging from the shower and getting dressed. Then we see Tschanz entering her house. Anna walks into her living room and sees him. He tells her he loves her and forces himself on her. She struggles but eventually says "Alright, if you want me you can have me. But you can't HAVE me. Understand?". She then tells him Robert has more power over her than ever before. They talk briefly and Tschanz concludes she never loved anyone. She is then seen leaving by car.


Death and the Maiden
Written by
Franz Schubert
[played by brass band at Schmied's funeral]


Plot Summary


Drama | Mystery | Crime | Thriller


Release Date:

5 May 1978



Country of Origin

West Germany, Italy

Filming Locations

Chateau de Vullierens, Vaud, Switzerland

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