Sunday, February 11, 2024
The Treasure of the Silver Lake (1962)
I also like the fact that The Treasure of the Silver Lake (Der Schatz im Silbersee), the first movie in Rialto’s very successful 1960s Karl May film franchise, was made by a German director, written by a German screenwriter and shot on location in what is now Croatia. This is a western with practically no American connection whatsoever. So again it’s the Wild West of the German imagination.
Karl May’s westerns deal most famously with the friendship between a German immigrant trapper known as Old Shatterhand and an Apache chief, Winnetou.
I’ve only read one of Karl May’s westerns and I have to say it was heavy going. The Treasure of the Silver Lake is much much better. It’s much less stodgy. In fact it isn’t really stodgy at all.
The Old Shatterhand of the novels is a very devout Christian and that aspect gets a lot of emphasis. The film makes no mention at all of religion. The film also dispenses with the slight mystical overtones of the books.
Engel’s son Fred (Götz George) wants to avenge his father’s death single-handedly. Old Shatterhand, famous for his wisdom and honesty and courage, persuades him that he will need help. Old Shatterhand will provide that help.
Fred, Old Shatterhand, Old Shatterhand’s blood brother Winnetou (Pierre Brice) and a few trusted friends set off to hunt down the Colonel’s gang.
Lots of action follows including some full-scale battle scenes, among which are an all-out assault by about a hundred of the Colonel’s bandits on the heavily fortified Butler’s Farm. Our heroes encounter other hazards, they are put on trial by the chief of the Ute people, there are more battles. The Colonel holds Patterson’s beautiful daughter Ellen (Karin Dor) hostage, which upsets Fred since Ellen is his lady love. There are narrow escapes from danger.
It becomes a race to find the treasure.
Lex Barker is reasonably good as Old Shatterhand. Casting Herbert Lom as an outlaw gang leader in a western was nothing if not interesting. Karin Dor is very good, as she usually was. I liked Götz George as the brave well-meaning but over-impulsive Fred.
Eddi Arent provides comic relief as a pith-helmeted big game hunter. The game he is hunting is - butterflies!
A fairly entertaining adventure saga. Recommended.
The German Tobis DVD (part of a Karl May boxed set) provides a superb anamorphic transfer. Options are provided to watch The Treasure of the Silver Lake in English or in German with English subtitles.
I’ve reviewed the first of Karl May’s Winnetou novels, Winnetou I.