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  Son of Hitler In The Shame Of The Father
Year: 1978
Director: Rod Amateau
Stars: Bud Cort, Peter Cushing, Felicity Dean, Leo Gordon, Anton Diffring, Heinz Bennent, Dieter Schidor, Burkhard Dreist, Lynn Cartwright, Peter Kern, Tili Kiwe, Peter Capell, Herbert Fux, Rolf Zacher, Larry Dolgin, Wolf Goldan
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Willi (Bud Cort) has lived with his uncle in this isolated mountain cabin for all of his thirty-three years, where they make their livings as woodcarvers. However, business only really picks up about Christmas time, and they are both struggling to get by as the elderly uncle treks home through the snow, feeling his heart is about to give out. Once he reaches the cabin, he admits to Willi that there is a big secret he has been keeping from him for the whole of his life, and that secret is about to catch up with him as a group of Neo-Nazis are keen to track him down. For Willi has a famous father...

Son of Hitler was barely released at the time, although some West Germans may have seen it in their native country as it was a co-production between there and Britain. Ther rumour was that it was so offensive that nobody would touch it with a bargepole, but actually the reason it was left so alone back then, and continues to languish in almost total obscurity now, was that as a comedy it simply wasn't funny. After all, ten years before Mel Brooks had enjoyed a hit with his bad taste favourite The Producers, and that took the Nazis as at least part of its source for the humour, but there was a huge gulf between what Brooks achieved and what was produced here.

The big joke is that although Willi is indeed the son of Adolf Hitler, he is about as far removed in personality from his monstrous dad as it's possible to get, being an innocent who can barely grasp the enormity of what his parent was responsible for. He hasn't even heard of Hitler at the beginning of the movie, so when his uncle drops dead shortly after letting him in on the big secret (which Willi doesn't really understand the significance of), he sets out with his birth certificate and an inquiring mind, wondering if he can make it on his own in the big bad world. The way things turn out, is becomes clear he cannot.

Even more unluckily, the ex-Nazi general, Heinrich Haussner, has managed to work out where Willi has been all these years, and plans to bring him to prominence in the role that his father took by establishing the Fourth Reich, with him as the figurehead. About half the film is taken up with Haussner trying to pinpoint his quarry, but the most notable aspect of this was that Peter Cushing was playing him, although don't expect a comic turn of the equivalent that you might have seen on the Morecambe and Wise show, as he plays his role dead straight, with only a few nods in the script as to Haussner's absurdity (bits such as liking to have cigarettes stubbed out on the back of his hand, that sort of thing)

Willi ends up in a lunatic asylum after cluelessly wandering the streets dressed in full Nazi regalia, not understanding why this would be offensive, and these scenes where Cort mingles with ordinary Germans who are obviously not in on the "joke" are not funny so much as worrying - you're concerned that Cort will get his head kicked in, for a start. Anyway, Haussner finds Willi in the asylum, spirits him away to a countryside retreat where he is given a Hitler makeover and taught how to read speeches, then is set up as the nominal leader of an already existing fascist group called N.E.I.N. which stands for No Encouraging Intellectual Nonsense, though why all these German characters speak and write in English is something never brought up. Not so strange in light of director Rod Amateau's other films, Cort reputedly found the result to be an embarrassment, and it's hard to see how anyone could have taken the "peace and love" message that caps it off seriously. Eerily unfunny, which it looks as if everyone realised halfway through making it. Music by Denis King.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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