1809. Napoleon is carving up Europe. A medical student (Luis Trenker) returns to his native Tyrol and discovers that the emperor’s troops have plundered his village and murdered his mother and sister. After killing a French officer in retaliation, the young patriot organizes a resistance movement. Luis Trenker’s Der Rebell (The Rebel) recounts the Tyrolean war of liberation against Napoleonic occupation. In a dazzling setpiece, rebel peasants, hidden high in the mountains, bombard French troops passing below with masive boulders and tree trunks. As Siegfried Kracauer put it, “It is an elaborate, roaring wholesale slaughter, with the mountains as the allies of the rebels.”
Der Rebell was produced with a huge budget by Deutsche Universal-Film, the German subsidiary of Hollywood’s Universal Pictures. (Universal also shot an English-language version of the film, with Vilma Banky co-starring in the Luise Ullrich role.) Germany had a long tradition of Bergfilme (mountain films), many of which Trenker starred in, but Der Rebell is the most stunning of them all and an elaborately mounted historical action-adventure war epic to boot. Its dénouement, in which the executed Tyrolean freedom fighter raises his flag and leads his followers toward Heaven, is as inspiring as Douglas Fairbanks’ similar conclusion to The Iron Mask.
Der Rebell is the most spectacular mountain film ever made; because of its breathtaking location cinematography by Sepp Allgeier, it is also more impressive than most Hollywood action pictures. Luis Trenker’s rugged performance in the John Wayne mold is as charismatic as anyone Hollywood ever put on the screen. Directed by Kurt Bernhardt and Luis Trenker. Starring Luis Trenker, Luise Ullrich, Victor Varconi, Fritz Kampers. Cinematography by Sepp Allgeier and Albert Benitz. Music by Dr. Giuseppe Becce.
Germany, 1932, B&W, 83 Minutes, German Dialogue, English Subtitles.
DVD Special Features:
• Historical Background Slideshows:
-- “Third Reich Cinema: Luis Trenker Pan-German Nationalism, and the Bergfilm Tradition”
-- “Third Reich Cinema: How Adolf Hitler & Joseph Goebbels Exploited Luis Trenker’s ‘Der Rebell’ as Potent Propaganda” (AUTOPLAY)
• Original Promotional Materials Slideshow:
-- Film Kurier with English Translation
NTSC Region 0 encoding (Entire World)