(director/writer: Wolf Gremm; screenwriters: Robert Katz/from the novel “Mord im 31. Stock” by Per Wahlöö; cinematographer: Xaver Schwarzenberger; editor: Thorsten Näter; music: Edgar Foese/Tangerine Dream; cast: Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Jansen), Günther Kaufmann (Anton), Boy Gobert (Konzernchef), Arnold Marquis (Police President), Richy Müller (Neffe), Nicole Heesters (Barbara), Brigitte Mira (Personnel Director), Jorg Holm (Vice President), Hans Wyprächtiger (Zerling), Petra Jokisch (Elena Farr), Franco Nero (Weiss); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Regina Ziegler; MGM; 1982-West Germany-in German with English subtitles)
“The result is a humorless film, even if meant to be a riot.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Wolf Gremm (“The Brothers”/”Fabian”/”Death or Freedom”) directs this oddly intriguing but sleep-inducing futuristic sci-fi thriller, that takes a stand against West Germany’s corporate ruled society and almost everything about modern West Germany. It’s based on the novel “Mord im 31. Stock” (Murder on the 31stFloor)) by the Swedish writer Per Wahlöö and is co-written by Gremm and Robert Katz in a confusing satiric manner.
In a totalitarian futuristic German society of 1989, “the combine” completely controls the media. Dressed in an imitation leopard-skin suit, the arrogant know-it-all police-lieutenant Jansen (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) and his obsequious assistant MK-1Anton (Günther Kaufmann) are sent to find the bomb supposedly planted in the company headquarters by an enemy of the corporate giant or to find out if it was only a threat meant to be a clever ruse to detract attention from the combine’s criminal activities. The alcoholic and flaccid Jansen, in a country that whitewashes its problems so the world can think it has no problem with such things as suicides, alcoholism, dissension, employment and pollution–investigates a variety of suspects from all classes and reports his findings to the corrupt combine chief known as the ‘Blue Panther’ (Boy Gober).
Supporting cast members of note are Franco Nero as an editorial writer on the 31st floor (which might not exist), who is possibly a conspirator, and Brigitte Mira as the harried personnel director who takes a plunge off a skyscraper for the cause of conspiracy.
The result is a humorless film, even if meant to be a riot, that only succeeds in being bizarre and visually pleasing. It is mostly grating, as it tells us in a condescending smug way something we already know or should know–life is not utopian in the West German paradise.
This was Fassbinder’s final role as an actor, he died a year later.
REVIEWED ON 8/14/2014 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/