#193 – Devils in Harbin, The (Teufel in Harbin, Die)

(1979, WGer, 111 min) Dir Nickolaus V. Müller. Cast Wolfgang Feebler, Alfred Abel, Patti Bapp.

Of course Nickolaus V. Müller, the constant enfant terrible of German cinema, would reimagine the spectre of European terrorism in the form of this absurdist comedy. Based less on the exploits of his countrymen the Red Army Faction and more on the Italian Red Brigade’s kidnapping of Aldo Moro meshed with the Symbionese Liberation Army’s brainwashing of Patty Hearst, Devils sees incompetent middle class terrorist group the Red Devils (who have no connection to Manchester United football team or parachute displays) abduct fictional German President Hans Beuller and persuade him to their side. Of course their kidnapping is all an accident with Beuller initially mistaking the group for a half-dozen Young Christian supporters and his eventual indoctrination more to do with LSD spiking and free love than his prolonged exposure to their muddled ideology. By the end he’s joining in on the raid of a television station dressed, like them, as a Nazi in clown paint. As subtle as a sledgehammer and as politically incisive as a children’s drawing it remains unmissable due to the sheer verve of the filmmaking.

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