2 April 2018

ARROW VIDEO PRESENTS: DER TODESKING or THE KING OF DEATH. (1990) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




DER TODESKING or THE KING OF DEATH. (1990) DIRECTED BY JORG BUTTGEREIT. STARRING NICOLAS PETCHE, HERMANN KOPP AND HEINRICH EBBER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This was a grim choice of viewing for Easter Sunday Night, lol, and yet not entirely out of keeping with the themes of death and resurrection that pervade the religious aspect of Easter Weekend. No resurrection in DER TODESKING, though, only death. Death and murder and murder-suicide and plain old regular suicide, to be precise. Told ya it wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs, didn't I...?

It's the work of controversial and dashed attractive German film director Jorg Buttgereit, who admits himself that everything he does is to rail against censorship in cinema- 'The whole concept of censorship doesn't work any more, you know!'- and also to prove that 'horror movies can be art.' Well, you'd certainly agree with him on that if you've seen DER TODESKING, an experimental film that doesn't feature any one central character or characters.

It's a series of seven vignettes, each marked by a day of the week, and all on the theme of death. The vignettes or short stories are bookended at either end by a child's drawing of Der Todesking or The King of Death, a happy little chappie (not!) who makes folk want to die. Well, I suppose he's not called The King of Tiptoe-ing Through The Tulips, after all, or The King of Happily Ever After... The clue's obviously in the name, folks.

After each vignette has been completed, we cut to animated scenes of a corpse that degenerates a little bit more with the dying of each scene or section. It's cool and creepy at the same time and I guess I don't need to tell y'all what remains at the end of the film. You're all horror fans, right? You've all attended DECOMPOSITION 101, I'm sure...

The first story was one of my favourites, but it's also really sad. An attractive young German man, who is by-the-by obsessed with fish (he eats sardines, he keeps a goldfish as a pet, he has a JAWS poster on his wall and another one depicting some of the many varieties of fish), quits his job and quietly and neatly commits suicide in the bath by swallowing pills.

That's probably the way I'd do it. I don't mean the bath or the pills, necessarily, but the tying-up-the-loose-ends-before-I-die element. I'd actually be afraid to die without having paid the gas bill or collected my stuff from the dry-cleaners. If I died with an unpaid bill on my conscience or an errand I forgot to run, it'd haunt me for all Eternity, I swear to God.

In the second vignette, we see this man's friend reading the suicide note in a most unusual place for the reading of a suicide note. He's in the video-store, purchasing hardcore Nazi porn, when he reads it. I'm sure that that gets the prize for 'weirdest place ever in which to read a suicide note,' haha.

I'm sure that you guys are not remotely interested in what happens in the porno flick, but I can reveal that a lady Nazi chops off a blindfolded male prisoner's... Well, maybe we don't need to go into details after all. It can hardly be of interest to us intellectuals, lol. But the guy's girlfriend comes into the room while he's watching this porno and he... Well, I won't tell you what happens there either. I'm just that strict. Ja wohl, mein commandant!

In the third vignette, a beautiful young woman is seated on a park bench in the lashing rain next to a soaked-to-the-skin, utterly miserable man who starts immediately to confide in her. He's been having a bit of trouble with the old trouble-and-strife, the wife.

Apparently, the wife has recently been reacting to her husband's lovemaking by bleeding profusely from down below, which is pretty disturbing and definitely a case for the doctor. Today, this day on which the man and the strange woman in whom he's confiding are talking on the park bench, it was the couple's wedding anniversary.

After a perfectly lovely day which was spent at the Museum, an overpriced restaurant and finally the cinema, the man decides to cap it all off with some anniversary sex. He makes love to his wife, hoping against hope that 'it' won't happen again. 'It' does...

Next, a motorway bridge somewhere in Germany. On the screen in front of us appear the names of all those who have committed suicide by jumping from it, surely a terrible way to go. But the varying ages and occupations (young students to elderly farmers) make for fascinating, if grim, reading. Suicide, a curse on our modern society, is no respecter of age or occupation, it seems.

A lonely woman who watches from her window as a couple in another flat makes love is the recipient of a nasty chain letter full of threats. Is this letter the key to why everyone in the film dies? It comes from some people calling themselves 'The Brotherhood Of The Seventh Day' and it orders the woman to kill herself after she's passed the letter onto x amount of people. You know how these things work.

Most people agree that the best place for these despicable letters is the bin. What does this lonely woman, who reminds me of Miss Lonely Hearts from Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW, think about it all? Maybe, after she falls asleep eating chocolates and dreams of herself as a child, watching her parents having sex, she'll be ready with her decision.

A woman in a red polka-dot summer dress reads a highly inappropriate book on death and suicide aloud in a garden while a little girl sits beside her quietly. Then, this same woman (I think it's the same woman) attaches a bizarre apparatus obviously intended for the firing of a gun, to her upper body. She then goes to a rock concert, but not to listen to music...

The last vignette is the most distressing of all visually. A young man in obviously terrible emotional pain decides to end it all in a horrible way which makes me feel queasy to think about it. Is he mentally disturbed, or perhaps reacting to a specific tragic event? Or has he, too, received a nasty chain letter from 'The Brotherhood Of The Seventh Day?'

DER TODESKING is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD from ARROW VIDEO. It comes with a ton of great extra features, including a brilliant interview with director Jorg Buttgereit. He's in conversation with journalist Graham Rae at the 2016 Manchester Festival Of Fantastic Films.

Clad in jeans and a FRANKENSTEIN T-shirt, the good-looking, blonde-haired and bespectacled director chats easily in his fantastically sexy German accent about his love of films and his dislike of censorship.

I enjoyed picking up some funny random facts about him, like the fact that he thinks that Nazi exploitation films like ILSE, SHE-WOLF OF STILBERG are too badly-made to give any real offence to anyone. I saw that film and loved it but yeah, it was a bit silly, lol. I certainly would take everything that happens in it with a big massive pinch of salt, that's for sure.

The prolific theatre playwright, radio playwright and comic book writer reveals how he got his first camera for his First Holy Communion. He also talks about how Germany didn't have its own in-built horror culture in the same way that England had its beloved HAMMER HORROR and America its slasher movies, like John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN and the FRIDAY THE 13TH films.

Ted Bundy, the notorious American woman-killer of the early-to-mid-'Seventies, whom Buttgereit describes as an 'intellectual', gets a few mentions here. So does the fact that DER TODESKING is a huge influence on the church-burning, black metal community of Norway. Aw, isn't that good to know? As long as the church-burners are happy...

I loved the story about how the big-shot Berlin Film School turned down Buttgereit's application to be a student there back in the day, but how nowadays they're happy to pay him big bucks to guest-lecture there. As his interviewer Graham Rae remarks at the end: 'Living well is the best revenge.' It surely is.

DER TODESKING is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD from ARROW VIDEO.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com










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