Verboten! (1959)

“We’ll build a democracy, even if it’s with Nazi bricks.”

Verboten!  from writer/director Sam Fuller, is cheesy, clumsy in parts and packed with patchy acting and terrible fake accents, but apart from all its problems, the film still carries a surprisingly timely message about the perils of occupation. When the film begins, three American soldiers approach a gutted German town under fire from a lone German sniper. The surviving wounded American soldier, Sgt David Brent (James Best) is hidden by a plucky German girl, Helga Schiller (Susan Cummings) who insists she isn’t a Nazi–and Brent finds this hard to believe–thanks to the portrait of Adolf that hangs in her home. Her young one-armed brother Franz (Harold Daye) isn’t keen on the idea of hiding an American, but Helga manages to keep Brent safe even when an amorous SS officer moves in too.

After the war, Brent decides to stay and marry Helga. His commanding officer tells Brent that he’s an idiot to marry a Nazi, and Brent insists that Helga’s different. Brent gets a job working as a civilian in the American administration of the reconstruction of Germany, and he marries Helga.

Meanwhile, German soldier Bruno Eckart (Tom Pittman) returns home and discovers that his entire family is dead. He too gets a job working with the American administration, but he uses his position to further his own personal gang of “Werewolves”–disgruntled former Nazis who establish a flourishing black market business and also sabotage the Americans efforts to rebuild. Bruno–who’s both a bully and a manipulator–manages to rope in the impressionable Franz into his operation.

Fuller uses his typical bold strokes here as both director and writer, and he’s right on target with many of his ideas. When it comes to showing the underlying prejudice on both sides, Fuller achieves his goal, and the film is at its best when showing the inherent problems of occupation. However, it would have been a good idea to get some real Germans in the lead German roles. The accents just don’t work. Many of the sets–especially in the early part of the film–seem to have been constructed on the idea of an American ghost town, and the first scenes are uncannily similar to a shoot out in a western. The German buildings are covered with slogans: such as “Heil Hitler” and giant swastikas, and these clumsy attempts at adding authenticity result in making the buildings look like fabricated Hollywood sets. Fuller fans won’t be able to resist catching this obscure title, but it’s far from his best.

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