Cast & Crew
En route from Neustadt to Berlin by bus, Grundeis, a petty crook, steals the 400 marks that 10-year-old Emil Tischbein had been entrusted to deliver to his grandmother. Emil suspects Grundeis of the theft and follows him to a Berlin cafe. Emil then summons a policeman, but the shifty Grundeis, known in the underworld as The Mole, escapes to a rendezvous with The Baron, a notorious figure. Emil meanwhile enlists a band of child "detectives" led by Gustav, a street urchin, and together the boys track down Grundeis and overhear him plotting with The Baron and Müller, another accomplice, to rob a large Berlin bank by tunneling into the vault from the cellar of an adjacent bombed-out building. The boys then trail the crooks to the ruins, but Emil falls through a hole in the upper level and is captured by The Baron, who forces him to aid in blowing apart the bank vault. The Baron and Müller doublecross Grundeis and leave him sealed in the tunnel with Emil, to be obliterated by a stick of dynamite with a burning fuse just outside their grasp. Gustav arrives with reinforcements, detaches the fuse, and alerts scores of neighborhood children. The children surround The Baron and Müller, detain them until the police arrive, and receive a handsome reward.
A. J. Carothers
Peter V. Herald
The Berlin Symphony
Emil and the Detectives
In the book and the film, Emil (Bryan Russell) is a fatherless boy who is raised by his struggling hairdresser mother (Eva-Ingeborg Scholz). She sends Emil to Berlin with some hard-earned money for his grandmother (Elsa Wagner), which Emil pins into his jacket for safekeeping. On the way, he meets a strange man named Max Grundeis (Heinz Schubert) and eventually falls asleep. When he wakes up, Emil realizes that both the money and Grundeis are gone. Determined to find Grundeis and get the money back, he meets up with a boy named Gustav (Roger Mobley) who rounds up a group of kids calling themselves 'The Detectives', and the hunt for Grundeis is on.
This was not Walt Disney's first adaptation of a Kästner novel. Walt Disney Productions had a huge hit with The Parent Trap in 1961, which was based on Kästner's Das doppelte Lottchen. Disney's 1964 film version of Emil and the Detectives was also not the first film adaptation of the book. Billy Wilder wrote an uncredited screenplay for Emeric Pressburger's 1931 film, a British version had been filmed in 1934 and a German remake in 1954. Peter Tewksbury directed Disney's film from an adaptation by screenwriter A.J. Carothers and with a cast that included veteran character actor Walter Slezak (who appeared in several Disney films) as the criminal mastermind, The Baron. The Disney film differs from the book in several ways including the added suspenseful plot point of having Emil captured by the criminal gang and forced to help them try to rob the bank, before the inevitable ending.
Unlike many of his films, which were done largely at the studio lot in California, Disney had Emil and the Detectives shot on location in Berlin and Alsfeld, Hesse, part of what was then known as West Germany. Production lasted between September 9 and November 23, 1963 and had a year for postproduction work. It opened in Los Angeles on December 16, 1964 and went into general release on December 18. Eugene Archer, in his review for The New York Times called it "one of [Disney's] best children's pictures. [...] For once, the producer has hired a good director--Peter Tewksbury [...]The direction makes all the difference. He has kept the kiddies from gushing too coyly, suppressed the mugging of a comic trio of thieves, photographed the fresh Berlin setting in effective color, and juxtaposed suspense and wit with a nice, bouncing pace."
AFI|Catalog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://catalog.afi.com/Film/22379-EMIL-AND-THE-DETECTIVES?sid=5ee1c057-0a04-40be-8c00-b09f6660edf5&sr=4.025346&cp=1&pos=0
Emil and the Detectives. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/67270.Emil_and_the_Detectives
Emil and the Detectives. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://movies.disney.com/emil-and-the-detectives
Emil and Detectives'. (1964, December 24). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1964/12/24/archives/emil-and-detectives.html
Emil and the Detectives (1964) - Peter Tewksbury, Peter Tewkesbury | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.allmovie.com/movie/emil-and-the-detectives-v62258
Emil and the Detectives: why it is a children's classic. (2013, November 16). Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/10441739/Emil-and-the-Detectives-why-it-is-a-childrens-classic.html
Entstehungsgeschichte / Erich Kaestner: Emil und die Detektive / ZLB. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.zeitreisen.de/kaestner/prolog/index.html
Reworking the German Past. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=jY3saFYEv44C&pg=PA69&dq=Emil+and+the+Detectives+Disney&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiO-8Cegc7iAhViCTQIHXv-CaYQ6AEIRTAF#v=onepage&q=Emil%20and%20the%20Detectives%20Disney&f=false
By Lorraine LoBianco
Emil and the Detectives
Filmed entirely on location in West Berlin. The story was filmed five times previously, in Germany (1932, 1954), Great Britain (1935), Japan (1956), and Brazil (1958).