DVD: Deathmaker, The / Totmacher, Der (1995)

May 4, 2020 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Anchor Bay

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  January 7, 2003

Genre:  Crime / Docu-Drama

Synopsis: A battle of patience, domination, and wits as a psychiatrist in 1920s Germany must give a sanity assessment for an infamous serial killer.

Special Features:  2 Short Films: “Coup De Boule” [Headbutt] (7:25) / “Demontage IX (25:40).




1996 German Film Award for Outstanding Feature Film, Actor (Götz George), Direction (Romuald Karmakar). Best Actor (Götz George) Venice Film Festival (1995)


Adapted from the actual psychiatric examination records of Germany’s infamous serial killer of prostitute boys, this is one of the finest dramatizations of a shrink extracting information from the playful mind of murderer without special effects, manic editing, or music. What you get is primarily two characters: disciplined psychiatrist Ernst Schultze who refuses to give into the charms and affected manic behaviour of his subject; and killer Fritz Haarmann, aware the gallows await, once his six-week incarceration comes to a close.

Though taking place in one location – the large interrogation room – director Romuald Karmakar takes a nod from classic fifties teleplays – Twelve Angry Men being a good example – and relies on a rock-solid screenplay as his narrative, and two dynamic actors that are so immersed in the realities of their characters, they ably perform their scenes when Karmakar extends some takes with circular motions; it’s a dynamic ballet of exceptionally choreographed performances. Viewers will be glued to the screen as Haarmann (Götz George, in a stellar performance) finally realizes time is running out, and will find a peculiar familiarity as he vainly attempts to build up a notorious image to give his miserable life some meaning. Punchline: though taken from a 1920s case file, the mind of a sexual predator and his vicious ego is no different from the characters we see on the nightly news and monthly cable specials.

Anchor Bay’s transfer is fairly clean, showing some minor artifacting during the low light and night scenes. Overall the colours are subdued – keeping in line with the director’s evocation of a clinical environment – and the film’s mono soundtrack offers a clean dialogue track with minor sound effects.

Sporting a “Monte Hellman Presents” banner, the DVD also includes two of Karmakar’s early films which come off as experimental ventures that baffle the mind. Both shot full frame, Coup De Boule is essentially grainy chunks of film showing French soldiers performing their initiation and courage-boosting routing – bashing their foreheads against metal lockers, with dialogue subtitles in English. The colours are raw, the footage grainy, and the whole thing feels like a coarse home movie with a surrealist undercurrent.

Surrealism completely dominates the nearly half-hour short Demontage IX, which, to avoid spoiling its shock value, deals with a masochistic bell knocker of sorts. Call it Luis Bunuel meets Sprockets, with music by Strauss. There’s visible grain, but the frame’s central object will either engage or test your devotion to performance art.

Some bio details regarding Karmakar and the short films would have given the subjects some historical background, but crime fans and filmmakers alike will find this drama highly rewarding.



© 2003 Mark R. Hasan





External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB
Vendor Search Links:

Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK



Tags: , , , ,

Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

Comments are closed.