TOWN WITHOUT PITY (director: Gottfried Reinhardt; screenwriter: from the novel by Manfred Gregor/George Hurdalek/Jan Lustig/Silvia Reinhardt; cinematographer: Kurt Hasse; editor: Werner Preuss; music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: Kirk Douglas (Major Steve Garnett), Barbara Rutting (Inge Koerner), Christine Kaufmann (Karin Steinhof, rape victim), E.G. Marshall (Col. Jerome Pakenham), Hans Nielsen (Karl Steinhof), Ingrid van Bergen (Trude), Robert Blake (Cpl. Jim Larkin), Frank Sutton (Sgt. Chuck Snyder), Mal Sondock (Pvt. Joey Haines), Richard Jaeckel (Cpl. Birdwell “Birdie” Scott), Gerhart Lippert (Frank Borgmann), Eleanore van Hoogstraten (Frau Borgmann); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Eberhard Meichsner/Gottfried Reinhardt United Artists; 1961)
“A grim courtroom drama about a shocking gang rape.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Gottfried Reinhardt (“Situation Hopeless… But Not Serious”) directs a grim courtroom drama about a shocking gang rape of the 16-year-old Karin Steinhof (Christine Kaufmann) committed by four off-duty drunken American G. I.’s (Sgt. Chuck Snyder, Cpl. Birdwell “Birdie” Scott, Pvt. Joey Haines and Cpl. Jim Larkin) in the small occupied German town of Neustadt. The girl just had a spat with her 19-year-old student boyfriend (Gerhart Lippert) at the beach and she tried to seduce him to stay by posing naked in front of him, but the flustered boyfriend takes off. The drunken soldiers then come out of the woods and brutally rape the girl who is supposedly clad only in a skimpy bikini.
It’s based on the novel by Manfred Gregor and written by George Hurdalek, Jan Lustig and Silvia Reinhardt. Its two main flaws are that it never gets to saying much that has an impact except the town is angry at both the victim and the GIs. Secondly it strangely fails to elicit much sympathy for anyone involved in the case. What it does leave you with is the impression that the law is highly fallible.
The victim’s stern father (Hans Nielsen) and the bürgermeister demand the death penalty, which calls for Karin to take the stand to testify. In the military trial held in the town’s high school gymnasium, Maj. Steve Garrett (Kirk Douglas) is the competent defense counsel who gathers evidence from the locals to smear the girl’s reputation and during the trial breaks her down as he badgers and taunts the victim causing her to faint and not go on with her testimony. Since she can’t testify the lawyer saves the soldiers from the death sentence; instead they are sentenced to long prison terms. As a further result Karin is made to feel dirty by the town and rejected by her ashamed father, which causes her to commit suicide. Garrett leaves town shunned by both his fellow officers and the local citizens, but fought fair according to the law.
The cast is composed of a mix of Americans and Germans. There’s a female narrator throughout whose presence is nothing short of annoying.
REVIEWED ON 2/6/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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