Sog.: Fritz Kortner, Joe May. Scen.: Fritz Kortner. F.: Jerome Ash. M.: Milton Carruth, Paul Landres. Scgf.: John B. Goodman, Ralph DeLacy. Mus.: H.J. Salter. Int.: Ludwig Donath (Franz Huber/Adolf Hitler), Gale Sondergaard (Anna Huber), George Dolenz (Herman Marbach), Fritz Kortner (Bauer), Ludwig Stossel (Graub), William Trenk (colonnello Von Zechwitz), Joan Blair (duchessa Eugenie), Ivan Triesault (principe Hohenberg), Rudolph (maggiore Mampe), Erno Verebes (conte Godeck). Prod.: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
35mm. D.: 72′. Bn.
James P. Hogan (1890-1943) was an all-round director best known for several Bulldog Drummond films plus one title that was an apt predecessor to his Hitler movie (Hogan’s next-to-last film made in 1943, the year he died): The Last Train from Madrid (1937), one of the first antifascist films about the Spanish Civil War. The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler is usually regarded as a mere curiosity but it proves to be a remarkable film on many counts, with a plot as fantastic as were the events of 1942-43, when the story takes place, and the persons who molded the destinies of the world.
The film starts with the “only happy family in Vienna”. The father, liberal functionary Franz Hubert, happens to have a talent for imitation. His imitation of Hitler brings him to the attention of the Nazis, who arrest him: they need a double for the Führer to protect his safety. They force the man to have an operation his wife gets a letter announcing his execution. The marriage of two decent peo- ple continues, however, as both of them do their best to retain their “place among human beings”. Both face complications, often with frightening undertones. Hubert wakes up after the operation and sees his new face in the mirror, the most terrifying on earth – Hitler’s. The wife has to tolerate watching her children grow into disgusting Nazis and informers, ashamed of their deceased father, and so on. Franz visits his old home like a ghost and his wife wakes up to see, of course, ‘Hitler’. The final twist, the last encounter between man and wife, is definitively not to be revealed here.
Horror runs deep and is excellently conveyed by two brilliant actors (not that Ludwig Donath in the main role would be bad): Gale Sondergaard and Fritz Kortner (the great German actor who also co-wrote the story), who pronounces the memorable final words about generals who are all the more dangerous because they might be able to win the war, and Hitler who, mad and incompetent as he is, certainly will not.
Peter von Bagh