Is the desert eagle practical
"Bull Arizona - Der Wüstenadler" - that was the title of this German western from 1919, produced and distributed by the Heidelberg company "Chateau Kunstfilm-Werke". The same year the company was founded in Heidelberg by Dr. Adolf Basler, a photo chemist from Ludwigshafen, was founded as a family business. He had sent his son Hermann (1896-1982) to the USA in 1916 to withdraw his conscription to the military. When Hermann returned to Germany after the end of the First World War, he brought with him numerous suggestions from the well-developed American film industry. In the USA he had seen, among other things, the rapid rise of the Western genre and the first figures and stars of the Western. For example, from “Broncho Billy”, a serial hero who preferred to appear as a “good bad man”, that is, as an outlaw who was accepted back into society through a good deed. This figure was invented by Gilbert M. Anderson, who was initially director, author and leading actor rolled into one. Both the figure of the hero and the person of the inventor fascinated and inspired the multi-talented Hermann Basler, who immediately joined the "Chateau Kunstfilm" as a screenwriter, director and leading actor after his return from the USA.
“Bull Arizona - Der Wüstenadler” was the first western from Heidelberg's “Chateau Kunstfilm” with Hermann Basler as the scriptwriter and as “Bull Arizona” in the leading role and with Hermann's mother Maria Basler in a supporting role. Two other southwest German film pioneers, Phil Jutzi and Horst Krahé, directed. The outdoor shots were shot on Bergstrasse in Baden in the Dossenheim porphyry quarries north of Heidelberg and in the floodplains around Ludwigshafen. The interior shots were taken in the "Glashaus am Neckar" film studio founded in 1912 in the Heidelberg district of Schlierbach, which was in operation until 1924. The film extras all came from the region, especially with the Indian actors from the Ludwigshafen district of “Hemshof” the nickname “Hemshof Indian” remained alive for a long time.
The time was favorable for the production of local westerns. Due to the First World War and the isolation of the national film market, the import of American westerns practically came to a standstill by the early 1920s. The interest of the German public in the Western, however, remained unchanged. The abolition of compulsory censorship after the end of the war also enabled more revealing depictions of violence and eroticism until the “Reichslichtspielgesetz” came into force in 1920.
From the end of the war until 1921, around 40 western films were made in Germany, which adapted the American models with the simplest of means. Twelve of these westerns were produced in Heidelberg and Ludwigshafen. As a rule, the films were distributed almost only regionally in the cinemas in southwest Germany. Of these so-called "Neckar Westerns" or "Kurpfalz Westerns", only three films have survived: "Bull Arizona - The Desert Eagle" (1919, 52 min.), "Bull Arizona 2 - The Legacy of the Prairie" (1920, 56 Min.) And "Feuerteufel" (1920, 58 min.).
Although popular with audiences and cinema owners, the films had a hard time with the film examiners after the reintroduction of compulsory censorship in 1920. Mainly because of their scenes of violence, they were all banned from young people, which made it difficult to market them. Others failed to get permission to perform at all. The censorship rulings of the test centers were essentially taste judgments, which were supposed to preventively protect the audience from "filth and trash". Occasionally this went hand in hand with insulting those who are “protected” in this way, for example in the reason for the prohibition of the Neckar Western “Feuerteufel” from 1921: “The plot and the game are clearly designed for morally inferior moviegoers and speculate ... on their lowest instincts ". For the producers, this practice of censorship meant the total loss of the capital invested. In 1924, the Heidelberg Chateau Kunstfilm-Werke went bankrupt.
A contribution by Dr. Thomas Schneider in Moments 3 | 2016.
facts and figures
From April 2015 to April 2016, 20 students in the master’s degree in cultural anthropology / folklore prepared the topic “Cowboys and Indians - Made in Germany” with a view to films for the exhibition. A total of 40 contemporary films and TV series were examined and 19 video clips of epoch-typical western films à 3 minutes each were cut for the exhibition cinema, including “Bull Arizona - The Desert Eagle”. In addition, content was created for media stations with table of contents, technical data and short biographies of the most important actors. See results in "Cowboy and Indian - Made in Germany", published as: Volkskunde in Rheinland-Pfalz, Vol. 31, Mainz 2016, ISSN 0938-2964.
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