Two German silent classics dealing with soccer: Die elf Teufel / The Eleven Devils starring Gustav Fröhlich (Metropolis) and König der Mittelstürmer / King of the Centre Forwards starring Paul Richter (Die Nibelungen) which survived only in one print with some severe nitrate deteriotation. Both films are supplied with new music accompaniments and with subtitles in different languages. An early film document showing the 1924 soccer game Germany-Italy is added as a special feature to this 2-disc edition.
Die elf Teufel / The Eleven Devils - Germany 1927 - Directed by: Zoltan Korda - Written by: Walter Reisch - Cinematographed by: Leopold Kutzleb, Paul Holzki - Cast: Gustav Fröhlich, Evelyn Holt, Lissy Arna, Fritz Alberti, Willy Forst, Jack Mylong-Münz, Harry Nestor, Géza L. Weiss - Produced by: Carl Boese-Film GmbH, Berlin - Premiere: October 20, 1927 (Berlin) - Restored by: Filmmuseum München, using a preservation print from Gosfilmofond, Moscow - Edited by: Stefan Drössler, Gerhard Ullmann, Klaus Volkmer - Music by: Joachim Bärenz - Sound recorded by: Gunther Bittmann, Ernst Schillert
König der Mittelstürmer / King of the Centre Forwards - Germany 1927 - Directed by: Fritz Freisler - Written by: Hugo Huxhol, Kurt Lauermann - Cinematographed by: Günther Krampf, Artur von Schwertführer - Cast: Paul Richter, Aud Egede Nissen, Fritz Alberti, Colette Brettel, Rudolf Lettinger, Carl Walther Meyer, Teddy Bill, Gustav Trautschold - Produced by: Olympia Film GmbH, Berlin - Premiere: November 24, 1927 (Berlin) - Restored by: Filmmuseum München, using a nitrate print from Cineteca Nazionale, Rome, and censorship files from Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv - Edited by: Stefan Drössler, Gerhard Ullmann, Moritz von Roth - Music by: Günter A. Buchwald - Sound recorded by: Gunther Bittmann, Ernst Schillert
Der Länderkampf Deutschland-Italien im Duisburger Stadion / International Competition Germany vs. Italy in the Duisburg Stadium - Germany 1924 - Produktion: Westdeutsche Filmgesellschaft, Essen - Restored by: Filmmuseum München and Filmforum Duisburg using a preservation on 16mm safety film from the 60s - Edited by: Stefan Drössler, Christian Ketels - Music by: Günter A. Buchwald - Sound recorded by: Gunther Bittmann, Ernst Schillert
About Die elf Teufel
It all sounds like a cliche: on the one side, the poor but honest workers' team who have to count their pennies and shower in the open air, and call their club "Linda" after the nice girl who has become their mascot; on the other, the stinking rich club "International", who can buy the top players, have an indoor pool and rows of massage tables, and hire a "femme fatale" to do their dirty work when money can't buy what they want.
Die elf Teufel / The Eleven Devils was made in Berlin in the summer of 1927, in the last throes of the silent movie era. But Die elf Teufel strikes one today as a prophetic film. One of its early captions is "Football, the sport of the century ". We are shown a ball bathed in light like some sacred relic, and observe how, even in those early days, fans on the terraces wouldn't shy away from using their fists.
Finally, after the odd kickabout and plenty of commercial and erotic intrigue, we come to the showdown, the match that decides which team fields the better men. The film's structure is like a long overture followed by a rip-roaring finale. Even in those days Zoltán Korda knew that, for credibility's sake, he could only show the match in fragments. The credits reveal that the two teams filmed in long shot were made up of the best players from the top German clubs. But as none of them are identifiable on screen, the shots and close-ups of the main characters could be woven seamlessly into the whole. As the game proceeds, the cuts happen more and more quickly until the fictitious match develops a momentum of its own. Korda proves himself here - only three years after Murnau's groundbreaking The Last Laugh - to be a model pupil in the use of the "unchained camera", and anticipates with breathtaking virtuosity today's rapid tracking shots along the touchline. Such camerawork in a silent movie must literally have taken the spectators' breath away. At the end the film offers a hymn to the "unifying idea of sport". But the subtext, the secret doubts and questions that partly undermine that conclusion, are unmistakable.
About König der Mittelstürmer
König der Mittelstürmer / King of the Centre Forwards refers with the name of its hero to the German soccer legend of the twenties: Tull Harder, star of the Hamburger Sport Verein (HSV). But the story itself is completely fictitious: The son of a trade company's director falls in love with the daughter of a big American oil magnat. But she suspects him to be only interested in her money. So she buys his father's company to take revenge on him. The son's true love is soccer, and from the very first moment the soccer fever is present throughout the film. It starts with pictures of a soccer game and even an apple or a crumpled up paper must serve as substitute for a ball. Whereas Die elf Teufel promotes soccer as "the sport of the century", König der Mittelstürmer shows the hero's father who still has to be convinced from its importance. He hates soccer and blames everybody to be "soccer crazy".
Like Die elf Teufel, König der Mittelstürmer ends with a big soccer game. The technical means are unusual and innovative for their time: For the first time in film history the camera tries not only to observe from outside the field but is placed between the players. Korda uses long camera travellings to film the hero's dribblings and a rhythmic montage of close ups and details to intensify the dramatic moments. Freisler concentrates on scenes taking place in front of the goals and documents the score-leading situations with an accuracy that has never seen before. In both films the hero gets hurt in the game and has to leave the field. In the cabin a girl is waiting for him and with her love trouble and pain are forgotten. Our hero runs back onto the field and scores the winning goal. Of course he wins the girl, too.
For a better understanding of the innovative mastery of filming soccer games in the two feature films we have to compare them with scenes from the short film Der Länderkampf Deutschland-Italien / International competition Germany-Italy. It's a documentary about the match between Germany and Italy in November 1924 at the new Duisburg soccer stadion, and it's a very typical soccer film document of the 20s: The camera can't catch the most important moments of the game and goal getter Sepp Herberger - who later would become the coach of the German world champion team of 1954 - can hardly be identified in any shot. The film doesn't show the tragic end of Herberger's role in this game: He broke his arm and had to be substituted in the second half of the game. Obviously there was no girl in the cabin to heal his injuries with her love - and without Herberger the German team lost the game against Italy 0:1.
DVD features (2 discs)
- Die elf Teufel 1927, 98'
- Piano score by Joachim Bärenz
- König der Mittelstürmer 1927, 95'
- Two music scores by Günter A. Buchwald: Studio recording with piano and violin and live-recording at Filmmuseum München on April 13, 2006
- Chapter selection
- Der Länderkampf Deutschland-Italien im Duisburger Stadion 1924, 9'
- Piano score by Günter A. Buchwald
DVD edited by: Filmmuseum München, Goethe-Institut München
DVD authoring: Ralph Schermbach
DVD supervision: Stefan Drössler
First edition June 2006, Second edition May 2012