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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Genocide > Political > Filmmaking > Prisoner Of Paradise (PBS)

Prisoner Of Paradise (PBS Home Video)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: D     Film: B



Kurt Gerron was a major German actor who did not leave Germany when he had the chance.  Instead, he stayed behind and after great success as an actor, then a director, became a prisoner of The Nazis.  But the final chapter of his “career” is the most bizarre of all in Prisoner Of Paradise, an amazing 2003 documentary co-directed by Malcolm Clarke (co-producer and writer) and Stuart Sender that offers how The Nazis decided to use Gerron’s talents for the darkest of propaganda purposes.


As dramatized (more or less) in the second half of the massive War & Remembrance mini-series (all reviewed elsewhere on this site), the idea was to fool allies, neutral countries, the ignorant, and naďve over where “all the Jews” went and that they somehow were being taken care of by The Third Reich.  After tricking a Red Cross photographer, they had Gerron go back to his love of filmmaking whether he liked it or not.  The idea was to have a film made that made the nightmare ghetto look like paradise in a film, for which Gerron agreed or face death.  He may have been happy in some way to get back to what he loved to do, but it was in the ugliest, worst possible way.


Ian Holm narrates this amazing chapter of the fall of a German cinema near-icon.  We see his work with Marlene Dietrich, who would not only leave the Nazified Germany, but would actively campaign against them in the most shocking and stunning of ways.  That included personally rejecting Hitler’s personal requests to return.  This runs about 100 minutes, but could have gone on longer.  Several dramatic and documentary films on how Nazis and Soviets manipulated cinema for their own dark purposes, but this is a side of filmmaking that is far from being exhausted.  This is impressive and deserved its Academy Awards nomination.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1/16 X 9 is not bad, intended for digital HD broadcast, traded down as well as it could be here.  In addition, the mix of footage is well done.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo has Pro Logic surrounds.  The only extra, if it can be called that, is a link to PBS on line.  Too bad there was not a separate resource of some of the film footage in the film, but this is a must-see DVD.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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