The rise of Nazi Germany was pretty astounding when you think about
it. Crippled under the strict Versailles treaty that force Germany
to pay reparations and banned they from having an army, the country seemingly
overnight became the most powerful nation in the world. What is even
more astounding and perplexing is that a poor, racist, failed painter with
a criminal record would have been able to seize the reins of power in such
a country. The Double Headed Eagle is an attempt to document
the rise of the Nazi Party, and Hitler in particular, from 1918 at the
end of WWI until 1933 when Hitler was elected Chancellor. Told solely
though vintage film clips and newsreel footage without narration, the film
largely fails to provide explanations or rationales and instead is just
a record of what we all know happened.
Starting with Hitler's first speech to the German people after raising
to power in 1933, in which he promises to leave office after four years,
the film jumps backwards in time to 1918. With a lot of film of the
German countryside and cities, it shows what Germany looked like in the
days between the wars. Interspersed throughout the movie are appearances
by Hitler, including a rare film of him in 1919 when the members of the
Nazi party could be counted on one's hands.
The excepts from Hitler's speeches are the highlight of the film, where
he blames Jews, communists, and the ever popular 'enemies abroad' for all
of Gemany's ills. There is also clips of communist marches as well
as Hitler Youth parades and groups of brown shirts goose-stepping through
As a window into the past, this was an interesting look at a bygone
era. The candid photos of Buster Keaton walking through downtown
Berlin, and some clips of Josephine Baker doing her famous 'banana dance'
were fun to see, as well as some of the nightclub scenes and the shelters
that were provided for the unemployed.
As far as documenting Hitler's Rise to Power as the cover claims it
does, technically I suppose they are right, but this film does nothing
to explain who he came to power or why the German people supported him
or his party. These clips are presented in a vacuum, with no real
information as to what's happening aside for the occasional subtitle that
tells how many people were unemployed at the time. The film states
that the Nazi party had 6,000 members in 1923 and 50,000 members by 1926
but it doesn't do more than that. Narration detailing the party's
strategy for increasing membership or even what they stood for at this
time would have helped greatly.
Though it purports to be a document of Hitler and the Nazis, there's
a lot of padding in this film. There is just as much footage of 1920's
Berlin, train stations, and the German countryside as there is of Hitler.
This is more than just providing a background, it takes up a large chunk
of the film.
Another problem that I had with this documentary is that some of the
footage was obviously recreations and clips from movies, but never identified
as such. Passing off scenes from a movie as being 'real' is something
that the filmmakers didn't have to do.
The two channel mono soundtrack is fine for what it is. Most of
the footage in this movie comes from silent newsreels and other early film.
These clips then had crowed noises and sound effect dubbed over it, which
sounded fake and distracted from the images. I didn't mind the German
music that was playing but having four or five people try to sound like
a hundred just doesn't work. The vintage audio tracks were rough
naturally, but the music that was dubbed in often had a hiss in the background
as well as pops and other audio defects which was surprising. In
addition to that, the English subtitles were burned into the print and
not optional. Overall not a very good sounding disc.
These vintage black and white film clips were acceptable but not outstanding.
They hadn't been restored so the contrast was often poor, the images soft
and there were a lot of scratches and spots as well. This is still
watchable, but it could have looked better.
The only extra is a gallery of images from the film.
When all was said and done, I'm not sure what the film makers were trying
to say. That Hitler rose to power? Well we all knew that.
Trying to illustrate how he came to power? Well they don't do that
at all. The film does succeed to a limited extent in showing
clips of life in Germany between the wars, but again they don't explore
that angle much. Though it was interesting too see some of the scenes,
when all was said and done I didn't walk away from this documentary with
any additional knowledge or insight to the subject. Unless you are a serious student of pre-war Germany, this film won't offer anything to you. Best to just skip it.