Cast & Crew
During World War II, three American infantrymen are looking for snipers in the small German town of Rothbach, which has largely been destroyed, when they come under fire. Two of the men are killed, but the injured survivor, Sgt. David Brent, finds his way to a house, where Helga Schiller, a young German woman, dresses his wound. Helga speaks English and explains that she is anti-Nazi but has not left as she is looking after her sick mother. Helga's fifteen-year-old brother Franz is a member of the Hitler Youth and very bitter because an American bomb severed his left arm. The next day, when incoming German troops try to secure the town against advancing American forces, Helga hides David, as she feels that she has to prove to him that there is a difference between a Nazi and a German. The American troops eventually arrive and find David, but before leaving, he writes a letter to the American authorities on Helga's behalf stating that she and her family have helped him and that she is not a Nazi. Later, while he recovers in a military hospital, David decides that he wants to stay on in Germany and intends to marry Helga, although he is officially warned about predatory "fraüleins." The war ends and David returns to Rothbach, which is now under the jurisdiction of the American Military Government. Helga is astonished by his return and worried that he may get into trouble for fraternizing with a German. David explains that he has been discharged from the Army and is now a civilian and will be working for the government as a liaison between the town's mayor and the Army. As a civilian, David can marry Helga and she happily accepts his proposal. Later, Helga assists Bruno, a returning German soldier, and has to give him the news that his parents and sweetheart have been killed. When Bruno states that Germany has not been defeated, merely occupied, Helga realizes that he is still a Nazi. During a honeymoon on a boat on the Rhine, David and Helga hear a radio broadcast about the on-going "Werwolf" activities of the Hitler Youth. The military government, for which David is working, is involved in rounding up war criminals to be tried at Nuremberg and learns that Himmler had set up a secret army of delinquents, the Werwolf, to perpetuate the war after defeat. Franz has joined the local Werwolf, which is being run by Bruno, who indoctrinates all the young men as Hitler did. They plan to kill all the Americans and are becoming successful in ambushing U.S. patrols and hijacking food supplies. They organize a hunger protest in front of the government building, and although David tells the crowd that America is sending much aid to Germany, he is beaten up when the protest turns into a riot. Capt. Harvey, David's boss, then suspends him and ultimately lets all civilian staff go. Harvey offers to arrange for David to return to America, but David intends to stay with his now pregnant wife. Bruno tells David that he is stupid to give up his country for a woman like Helga, whom he claims, told him she would have lived with any American and has referred to David as her "American goldmine." When David returns home and tells Helga that he has lost his job, but will find another locally, she tells him that the Germans will not give him work and urges him to return to America, then send for her. After David asks Helga why she married him, she admits that it was for food and protection, but that she has grown to love him. David tells her that she is lower than a streetwalker, but will support her until their child is born, whereupon he will take the child to America. When Franz tells Helga that the Werwolf are selling stolen food and medicine on the black market and are helping war criminals to escape from Germany, she feels that she must tell him about all the crimes the Nazis committed. Helga takes Franz to the War Crimes Trial at the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, and they are present when a prosecutor presents film footage detailing the rise of the Nazis. Franz realizes that Bruno has become a new Hitler and watches with mounting horror as films of the atrocities committed at concentration camps are shown. Although Franz sobs and says he did not know about the camps, Helga insists that he watch. When they return to Rothbach, Franz tells David that Helga wants him to tell Harvey that Bruno is a Werwolf leader and reveal the location of their meeting place. After David arranges for a raid on the Werwolf headquarters, he gets his job back and returns to Helga and her mother. Meanwhile, Franz attempts to steal a list of Werwolf members from its hiding place in a railway boxcar, but is discovered by Bruno. After knocking him unconscious, Franz leaves Bruno to die in an accidental fire that consumes the boxcar.
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Glen L. Daniels
Major Raymond Harvey
Because gung-ho WWII movies had largely fallen out of fashion in the late 1950s, Verboten! was instead promoted as a juvenile delinquent film, at a time when leather-clad, marauding youths were the hot-button topic of paranoid parents and low-budget filmmakers alike.
Part love story, part war movie, Verboten! is an angry attack on the complacent mentality that allowed fascism to flourish in 1930s Germany and to continue long after the war had ended. Fuller's cynical view of German denial was not something he had read about in newspapers, but had witnessed first hand. "I did not meet a single German, from the day we invaded Germany to the end of the war in Czechoslovakia, who said he was a Nazi," Fuller told biographer Lee Server, "The one exception was a fifteen- or sixteen-year-old girl...who told us she was a Nazi and told us to go to hell." Fuller served in the First U.S. Infantry Division during WWII (the legendary "Big Red One") and was part of a military unit that liberated a Nazi concentration camp near Falkenau. Corporal Fuller shot 16mm home movie footage of the camp, and this material later became the centerpiece of the 1988 documentary Falkenau, the Impossible, in which he returns to the site and recounts the experience.
The memory of the death camps was scorched in Fuller's mind and he wanted others to witness the same, lest we forget. When Helga's teenage brother and aspiring Werewolf Franz (Harold Daye) refuses to believe the horror stories of the Third Reich, she takes him to the Nuremberg trials, where he and the audience are subjected to a no-punches-pulled, documentary-style summation of the atrocities committed by the Nazis -- narrated by Fuller himself. Seldom were moviegoers of 1958 subjected to such horrific images, especially woven into the fabric of a traditional war movie. The audacious scene is quintessential Fuller -- a cinematic punch in the gut. "I used the contrasts in shooting to help maintain chaos," Fuller told Server.
Fuller often flirted with contrasting styles in his films, mixing Molotov cocktails of emotion, imagery and messages, none of which were ever administered with much subtlety. Verboten! typifies this reckless approach to filmmaking, a hard-boiled war movie that opens with a syrupy love song ("Verboten!") sung by Paul Anka. Once this ends, the American dogfaces are shown advancing upon a bombed out, sniper-ridden village, their dance of death eerily choreographed to the strains of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (a favorite piece of Fuller's, which also appears prominently in The Naked Kiss, 1964). Fuller also flavors the film with the grandiose works of Richard Wagner, a composer whose operatic works have come to represent the sweeping power of German legend, even as it reminds us of the anti-Semitism lurking beneath.
At times, Fuller seems to be offering an olive branch to the German people, while at other times, he merely wants to crush those weak-willed sympathizers who allowed the Nazis to take over their country in the first place. In one powerful sequence, Brent becomes fed up with hearing the Germans blaming the Americans for their misfortune, demanding food and medicine from the AMG. "We're not here as liberators!" he shouts at the angry mob, "We're here as conquerors! And don't you forget it!" Immediately thereafter he dives, fists swinging, into the crowd of ungrateful "krauts."
One reason this jumbled and angry film manages to succeed as entertainment is the central performance by Best, who portrays Brent as a hopeful, lovesick, loyal puppy of a sergeant, absolutely dripping with sincerity. When, near the film's climax, he is fired from his government job and begins to suspect that Helga has only married him for his political connections, the painful disillusionment he suffers is heartbreaking, as his boyish idealism crumbles into bitter resentment. Originally, Fuller intended to have Brent shot by military police in the end (after being mistaken for a German), but this conclusion was considered too pessimistic.
Best was a talented character actor who provided Southern color to many a Western and war film during the 1950s and '60s (including the asylum inmate who thinks he's a Confederate General in Fuller's Shock Corridor, 1963). Unfortunately, this delicate character work has been overshadowed by his most famous role, that of the bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on TV's "The Dukes of Hazzard."
Director/Producer/Screenplay: Samuel Fuller
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Art Direction: John B. Mansbridge
Music: Harry Sukman
Film Editing: Philip Cahn
Cast: James Best (Sgt. David Brent), Susan Cummings (Helga Schiller), Tom Pittman (Bruno Eckart), Harold Daye (Franz Schiller), Joe Turkel (Infantryman), Paul Dubov (Captain Harvey), Steven Geray (Mayor).
by Bret Wood
Samuel Fuller's onscreen credit reads: "Written, Produced, Directed by Samuel Fuller." Although Tom Pittman's cast credit reads "introducing," Pittman made his film debut in the 1956 film D-Day the Sixth of June and had appeared in several films before Verboten!. As noted in a April 1, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Verboten! was the last U.S.-based film made by RKO before the studio ceased production. The studio owned twenty-five percent of the film and Fuller's company, Globe Enterprises, Inc., owned the rest. As RKO was unable to distribute the completed film, it was passed to Rank Film Distributors of America, Inc. which also went out of business. The film then passed, with other Rank products, to Lopert Films Inc., which did not want it. As Fuller had, by then, a six-picture deal with Columbia, that studio took over the distribution of Verboten!.
The film includes war and post-war newsreel footage. According to a June 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture was sent to Munich to be scored because of a musician's strike then going on in Hollywood. Although the film's credits indicate that Paul Anka sang the title song, Verboten!, it was not heard in the print viewed. A June 7, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that, although the film was popular in Germany, it was banned in Israel. The Israeli censor stated that the film's "tendency and its contents are liable to hurt the feeling of the public in Israel."
Released in United States July 1991
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1958
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1958
Released in United States July 1991 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum: Sam Fuller Retrospective) July 28 & 29, 1991.)