Kendra Steiner Editions

February 3, 2019

Durchs wilde Kurdistan (Germany-Spain 1965), starring Lex Barker, 2nd of the 3 ‘Kara Ben Nemsi’ films

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:05 am

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DURCHS WILDE KURDISTRAN (Germany-Spain 1965)

directed by F.J. Gottlieb

based on the writings of Karl May, starring LEX BARKER as Kara Ben-Nemsi

the second of three films with Barker in that role

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During the 1960’s, there was a large phenomenon in Germany and across Central Europe in general to create film adaptations of the works of adventure novelist KARL MAY, best known outside Germany for the series of WINNETOU books about the Apache character and his white friend and comrade Old Shatterhand, played by Pierre Brice and Lex Barker, respectively (with Stewart Granger as Old Surehand in a few, and Rod Cameron as Old Firehand in one, which is reviewed elsewhere on this blog), in the film adaptations. Those films were such a success that some films were made which adapted May’s works set in Central America, and these also starred Lex Barker as Dr. Karl Sternau . All of these films have been issued on DVD across Europe, though the Central American ones are not easily available in English-friendly form.

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The mania for May film adaptations was such that his somewhat philosophical and cerebral character Kara Ben Nemsi was also brought to the screen, played of course by the inimitable American actor LEX BARKER, whose name was synonymous with Karl May films, a former Tarzan who wound up being a bigger star in Europe than he ever was here in the USA. This character’s exploits took place over the Near East/Southwest Asia/Balkans area, and as with the May westerns, the character was a larger-than-life, somewhat stoic bringer-of-peace-and-understanding who was not afraid to tote a gun. I’ve read English translations of two of the Kara Ben Nemsi books (and I’ve read about a number of untranslated ones), and the three film adaptations of the character made in the 1964-1965 period tend to play down the long philosophical ruminations  found in what I’ve read of the novels and place the emphasis on a kind of stylized grandeur that leaves one speechless, at least the second and third films in the series. One presumes that the target audience would have been familiar with the books, at least in general terms, and that the memory of them would resonate as one watched the films.

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The first film in the series, DER SCHUT (The Shoot), was dubbed into English and played on American late-night television on independent and UHF stations. It was available on VHS and DVD-R and has never been hard to find.

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The third film in the series, Im Reich des silbernen Löwen (aka Kingdom Of The Silver Lion) surfaced a few years back with English subtitles, though they seemed automatically generated and didn’t always make sense. Still, it allowed English speakers to see the film and follow it somewhat. By the second or third viewing, things became relatively clear.

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The second of the three films, however, has not appeared in an English-friendly form that I’ve been able to discover until a few months ago. DURCHS WILDE KURDISTRAN (aka THROUGH WILD KURDISTAN) is now available on You Tube in a beautiful widescreen print, with English subtitles. Yes, the subtitles seem auto-generated, but they are not as bad as the ones on the third film, and anyone who knows a little German will have no problem getting the gist of what’s missed by the subtitles. I could barely order a cup of coffee or ask for the bathroom in German, and I could follow things on a surface level when the subtitles were inadequate.

You can find THROUGH WILD KURDISTAN here: https://youtu.be/APniCTMF17c

Lex Barker fans and English-speaking admirers of the film adaptations of Karl May’s works will be excited to finally see this film with subtitles.

The same person who uploaded THROUGH WILD KURDISTAN to You Tube also uploaded the other two films in the Kara Ben Nemsi series, in beautiful sparkling widescreen prints (and these films are beautifully photographed and possessing a sense of grandeur that is humbling), with English subtitles that are adequate.

DER SCHUT (The Shoot), 1st in the series     https://youtu.be/kFi4-mPO0Zs

IM REICHE DES SILBERNEN LOWEN (Kingdom of the Golden Lion), 3rd in the series https://youtu.be/kihhjCzxrn0

Let’s hope that these links will continue to work in the coming months and years.

I could comment on the significance of these films to me and on my view of the significance of the literary works of Karl May as I understand them, but this post is intended more as a resource for those who have been looking for these films. As for Karl May’s work, perhaps Hermann Hesse summed it up best when he described it as “the most brilliant representative of a truly original type of fiction–fiction as wish-fulfillment.”

Settle back and enjoy these sumptuous lesser-known films, which will take you somewhere you’ve never been before, which exists only in the imagination….and, one must admit, the imagination of the colonial age. These are NOT for everyone–they are artifacts of an earlier place in time, and when the films were released in the 1960’s they were quite old-fashioned then in terms of cultural attitudes. However, May’s wide-eyed and naïve literary quest for peace and understanding has a charming quality that can win over those capable of leaving behind the lens of present-day attitudes and dogmas to their studies of the artifacts and thought from earlier historical periods.

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