Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

May 10, 2017

SKI FEVER (Austria-Yugoslavia 1966), directed by Kurt Siodmak, starring Martin Milner and Claudia Martin

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 2:15 pm


SKI FEVER (aka Liebesspiel im Schnee)


starring Martin Milner, Claudia Martin, Vivi Bach, Dietmarr Schonherr

directed by Kurt Siodmak

I vaguely remember the short theatrical run of this film in 1969, and I vaguely remember seeing it listed in TV Guide as playing once in the middle of the night on a day when I had to be up for school at 530 a.m. I’ve always been on the lookout for it ever since, and when offered a cheap DVD-R of it recently, I had to take the plunge. It was well worth it.

Imagine an Austrian-Yugoslavian attempt at a frothy “Palm Springs Weekend”-style frolic set at a ski resort, with music and songs by AIP’s Hemric and Styner duo who did the music for the beach party films, and imported American stars Martin Milner (post-Route 66, pre-Adam 12) and Claudia Martin (Dean Martin’s daughter)…no one has ever reviewed it at the IMDB…

It would be easy to lampoon something like this—-indeed, it was screened once during the satirical mid-80’s TV show “The Canned Film Festival” which presented campy/cult films in a manner like Joe Bob Briggs or Elvira (in other words, they’d talk between the breaks, which I don’t mind,  NOT over the movie as is done in MST3K, which I don’t like). However, I don’t think this can qualify as a “cult” movie as it’s never been available in any video format, so few have seen it. The copy I have is NOT from Canned Film Festival (sans satirical comments) but seems to be taken from a 16mm TV print.

Another way to describe the film is that it’s like a European take on a mid-60’s Elvis film, minus Elvis. There are a number of songs in it. The title song (which I can’t get out of my head) is sung by its co-writer Jerry Styner, Claudia Martin sings a song, and there are a number of songs sung in a heavy German accent by co-star Dietmarr Schonherr. Claudia Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, is an attractive and pleasant presence. She’s in the role that might be played by, say, Mary Anne Mobley in an Elvis film, although Ms. Martin’s persona is more reserved and “classy” than the spunky persona Mobley often projects. She had a number of TV credits and appeared in the films FOR THOSE WHO THINK YOUNG in 1964 (which I would bet got her this role) and GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI in 1966, the same year this was made…

There’s nothing like screwball comedy that’s dubbed….it’s surreal….Martin Milner is a strong enough presence to carry the film, as the American ski instructor who’s a bit of an outsider to the European instructors who have a kind of clique and who have tasteless “contests” to see who can seduce the females in their ski classes first. Milner does not go along with this and thus is not accepted. Coincidentally, the character played by Vivi Bach has a huge crush on the instructor played by Dietmarr Schonherr, who is initially not interested, and Milner helps Bach to learn to ski better so she can attract him more. Simultaneously, Schonherr has an interest, not returned in Martin and….well, you know how these silly romantic comedies set in Florida or Catalina Island or wherever work out. Just change the setting to an Austrian ski resort, and you’ve got it.

There is A LOT of skiing footage here, and it’s quite imaginatively photographed—-director Kurt Siodmak has more credits as a writer (for instance, the original WOLF MAN with Lon Chaney, Jr.) than as a director, with BRIDE OF THE GORILLA, THE MAGNETIC MONSTER, and CURUCU, BEAST OF THE AMAZON being his best-known credits as director. He also directed 7 episodes (which would be the majority of them) of the interesting 13 DEMON STREET Swedish TV show with Lon Chaney, Jr. Some of these were cut into the patchwork feature THE DEVIL’S MESSENGER, which did well on the American drive-in circuit in the early 60’s and was also seen widely in TV horror packages on indie and UHF stations. The full run on 13 DEMON STREET episodes were made available on a series of SWV dvd-r’s many years ago, and it was a fascinating Twilight Zone-esque anthology horror-mystery series which should be better known. Siodmak directs a LOT of lowbrow humor here and also musical sequences, which are certainly genres he’s not associated with. It’s all as well done as, say, a PETTICOAT JUNCTION episode (that’s meant as a high compliment, by the way), and the film’s REAL locations and modest budget make it actually a much more interesting viewing experience than, say, PALM SPRINGS WEEKEND, which seems to be what it’s aiming for, but with a ski resort setting.

ski 2

This was not released in the USA until 1969, when Allied Artists released it on the drive-in circuit. AA was putting out a number of films in this pre-Cabaret era, more than I remember. You can look at their release schedule here:    There are a lot of gems here, especially the imports. However, they also handled interesting domestic product in this period such as THE END OF THE ROAD with Stacy Keach and the made-in-Florida sci-fi epic MISSION MARS with Darrin McGavin and (in one of his last performances) Nick Adams (and also featuring during the credits the wonderful psychedlic music of THE FORUM QUORUM, which certainly put ME in the right frame of mind to appreciate the film, although others often slam their music in the context of the film)….as well as fellow-Floridian William Grefe’s gritty THE HOOKED GENERATION (aka Alligator Alley), starring Jeremy Slate and Steve Alaimo.  Interestingly, while it was released AFTER Milner hit pay dirt a second time in television with ADAM-12 (surely a motivating factor in its domestic release), the poster highlights Milner’s appearance in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (!!!). He was certainly good in that film, but is there anyone who thinks of it as a Martin Milner vehicle?

I’d love to know what would have been on the other half of an Allied Artists double-bill with this, but in judging the quality of the film, I ask myself….what if I’d seen this after a long work-week at a drive-in in Stillwater, Oklahoma or Lexington, Nebraska or Alice, Texas? Well, I think I and most viewers would be quite satisfied. It’s got an interesting and visually attractive setting with a lot of location footage, it’s got a number of songs (and the title song will stick in your head for days), it’s got the kind of couples-mix-up shenanigans that have been successful with audiences since the days of Leon Errol comedy shorts, it’s got lowbrow humor, and it’s got an attractive lead couple in Milner and Martin. Also, Martin Milner was born with screen presence and also a self-deprecating sense of humor, something which always wins over audiences.

I’d rate it a winner. However, please be aware that you are watching a dubbed (the two American stars do their own voices, thankfully, as do the two other stars in their charmingly accented English) Austrian-Yugoslavian attempt at an Elvis film, but with no Elvis. If that’s appealing to you the way it is to me, go for it!

ski 3

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