Mike Mindlin, Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.

T. alt.: Workers’ View of Hitler’s Reign of Terror. F.: Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. M.: Sam Rosen. Int.: Edwin C. Hill, Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., Helen Keller, Samuel Dickstein (himself). Prod.: Jewel Productions, Inc. 35mm. D.: 55’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

In 1933, Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. toured Europe with two cameramen and interviewed personalities such as Stalin and Mussolini. Obviously, he could not miss his chance to go to Berlin and Vienna to witness the aftermaths of the elections that made Hitler Chancellor. Shooting without the proper authorizations and control, he took images that at the time none could see in the official newsreels. Back home, Cornelius used his material, added some newsreel footage, a few (clumsily) reenacted scenes, added a commentary (read by a famous CBS radio ‘voice’) and in April 1934 brought Hitler’s Reign of Terror to the screens. In it, Vanderbilt’s analysis is adamant and stunningly accurate: Hitler is a monster and he will surely start a war. Unbelievable as it may sound, he is even able (in 1933!) to ask Hitler “And what about the Jews, Your Excellency?”. Needless to say, the German Ambassador protested against the film, the US establishment feared Nazi commercial reprisals, and the film soon disappeared. In 1939 Vanderbilt re-cut the film as a sort of ‘I told you’ version, but again the film was ignored to the point that no element of the film seemed to have survived. In fact, a unique nitrate print of the 1939 version had found its way to Belgium (probably seeking distribution just months before the Nazi occupation), was left unclaimed at the customs and eventually was acquired by the Cinémathèque to be conserved happily in its cold rooms, untouched as it was thought to exist in some US archive. It was only recently, when the Cinèmathèque contacted Thomas Doherty (the film historian author of Hollywood and Hitler, a must-read) in order to learn more about the film, the two versions, its history, that the rarity of the print and the need to preserve it became evident. Thanks also to Thomas Doherty and to Cornelius’ widow, we can finally see a work that not only contain amazing, never seen before images of Berlin and Vienna in early 1933, but shows how the truth about the monstrosity of Nazism and even of the Holocaust was there to be seen by everybody had they not decided, in the US as in Europe, to ignore it.

Nicola Mazzanti

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