Westerns with a Twist (1966 - 1973)

3 film, 3 disc collection of East German Indianerfilms starring Gojko Mitic. FRF R0 German boxset.


In the early 1960s, Rialto Film in West Germany produced Der Schatz im Silbersee (1962) an epic Old West adventure film based on the novels of popular German writer Karl May whose books, penned at the turn of the 20th Century, were still enourmously popular. The film also proved a success and quickly spawned a series of sequels which became known as the Karl May Westerns. The success of the films did not go unnoticed in the Communist East Germany and not wanting to be outdone, the state film company DEFA looked to make their own Western. Die Söhne der großen Bärin (1966) became the first Indianerfilm with Gojko Mitic (a star of the Rialto Film series) in the lead role

While the West German Westerns had shown a romanticised version of the Old West with the Native Americans being exploited by villaneous white men, but protected by the noble cavalry, the DEFA films looked to be far more realistic and Die Söhne der großen Bärin shows the Sioux being forced off their land by settlers and into worthless reservation land thanks to crooked treaties. That theme would continue with most of the later films, including Apachen (1973) set in the deserts of the Southwest and recreating the brutal Santa Rita massacre. The second film, Chingachgook, die grosse Schlange (1967) was slightly different, being based on a novel by American writer James Fenimore Cooper and set in the frontier times, but it still allowed criticism, this time of the British and their aggressive policies to wipe out the troublesome native tribes.

The Films

In Brief

Anyone famous involved? Jugoslavian actor Gojko Mitic, who appeared in several of the Karl May Westers, appears in all three of the films.
Who is it for? A fascinating and largely forgotten series of Westerns, fans of the European Westerns and particularly the Karl May Westerns will certainly be interested in seeing these films and one for all those who enjoy obscure cinema.

The DVDs

Visuals All films are in 1.85:1 ratios and not anamorphically enhanced. The films might well have been shot in 2.35:1 but only Chingachgook, die grosse Schlange has noticable cropping.
The picture quality is good, with good colours and only light damage.
Audio All discs have German mono soundtracks that sound strong.
Subtitles All the discs include English subtitles.
Extras The discs include:
  • An interview with actor Gojko Mitic is split across the three discs, covering his involvement in many parts of the film series. Very interesting. (20 minutes total)
  • On screen text notes on the background to the film and biographies of the main actors and cast are included on all three disc, providing a lot of detail that explains the history of the series.
  • A manually scrolling gallery of still images from all three films are included on all three discs.
  • A newly created trailer for the DEFA Western collection - includes selection of clips from the three available films as well as several more not yet on DVD. Interesting but tantalising viewing. Same on all three discs. (10 minutes)
Packaging Three seperate, amaray boxes within a cardboard slipcase.
Region Region 0 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Availability All three films are available on their own as well as in the boxset.
Other regions? The three films are available on DVD in Germany although without English options.
Cuts? Cut status is unknown. Prints are German langauge.


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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - August 2009.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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