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Film: Die Feuerzangenbowle
Dieser Film ist ein Loblied auf die Schule, aber es ist möglich, daß die Schule es nicht merkt.
(Motto at the beginning of the film: "This film sings the praises of school, but it is possible school won't realize this.")
is a 1933 German novel by Heinrich Spoerl of which three film adaptations were made. The second one (b/w) from 1944 (sometimes called The Punch Bowl
in English) is actually the best-known one, which is why this article will be based on this film instead of the book. Also, the film is very close to the book.
The plot: The young but already successful playwright Dr. Johannes Pfeiffer (played by German star Heinz Rühmann) meets his friends, some older men who are sitting together, drinking the eponymous Feuerzangenbowle
and reminiscence about their school time, the fun they had, the pranks they played on their teachers... then, Pfeiffer confesses that he never went to a school, having had private teachers instead, and missed all the fun. So the others suggest him jokingly (and under the influence) to disguise himself as a student and go to a school, just for a few weeks, to know how life at school is - in the small German city of Babenberg, where nobody knows about the famous author Pfeiffer. Hilarity Ensues
You can watch the movie for free on archive.org, here
- Adaptation Overdosed: Three films and since 2004, a musical.
- All Just a Dream: At the end, we learn that Pfeiffer didn't realize this zany idea. He just thinks it would have been great.
- Anachronism Stew: During the chemistry lesson, the element radium is mentioned, which was discovered in 1898. But in the Direktor's room, there's a picture of the supposed current emperor Wilhelm I on the wall - who died in 1888.
- Audience Participation: Some German universities show the movie as a kind of event. Which involves a stiff drink (guess which scene), using flashlights, alarm clocks and Roman candles.
- Back to School: The whole premise (though the purpose is just for fun).
- Betty and Veronica: Marion, originally Pfeiffer's girlfriend, is the Veronica. Eva, 17-year-old daughter of the school's Direktor (principal), is Betty. Who wins at the end.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of the teachers are quite quirky, with their dialects and other peculiarities.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : In geography, the protagonist helps his fellow student by using the reflection of a pocket mirror to show him on the map where the goths (the Germanic people) went during the völkerwanderung. Unfortunately, Dr. Brett isn't fooled.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: When the chemistry teacher "Schnauz" lets the students taste "a teensy-tiny drop" of alcohol (blueberry wine), all of them act as if they were completely drunk.
- Catch Phrase: Bömmel's. "Da stellen wir uns einmal janz dumm..." (Let's act totally dumb...)
- Class Clown: What Pfeiffer soon becomes. Hey, he hasn't to fear anything.
- Comically Missing the Point: Intentionally. One day, Pfeiffer puts up a sign at the school gate which tells that there's no school that day. After being fooled like that, the teachers decide to act as if nothing happened. Which leads to this dialogue:
Tattletale: "But professor, I wanted to say, 'cause of the sign..."
Schnauz: "It's not ''cause of the sign', but 'because of the sign'!"
- Dawson Casting:
- Heinz Rühmann was 41 years old when he played a Gymnasium student (who'd be 18 or 19 years old). Of course, the character is supposed to be older and just playing a younger character.
- Played straight with most actors of actual student characters: Hans Richter was 24, Rudi Schippel 21, Maria Litto 24, Karin Himboldt 23 (playing 17-year-old Eva), and the most egregious case would be Clemens Hasse who was 35.
- Averted with Georg-Michael Wagner, who was 19.
- Elopement: Towards the end, Pfeiffer threatens to do this with Eva.
- Emergency Impersonation: When "Schnauz" misses the lesson he's supposed to give, Pfeiffer (we remember, he's responsible for Schnauz being late) disguises as him and gives the lesson in his place. Also, he invites a class from the nearby girls' school. When the Oberschulrat wants to take a look at the lesson, the Direktor actually begs Pfeiffer to hold up the masquerade, and the situation becomes this trope. And THEN, the real Schnauz walks in...
- Film of the Book
- Framing Device: See the description.
- Gilligan Cut: Several in a row. We see the face of the protagonist change while he protests his friend's wacky plan: "Do you really expect me to take off my dear moustache, cut the long hair, put on some glasses and a student's uniform?"
- Girl Next Door: Eva.
- Imperial Germany: When the story's set. An exact year isn't given.
- Important Haircut: To look like a student and not like an author.
- Insistent Terminology: "Your name?" - "Pfeiffer." - "With one or two F?" - "With three, one before the 'ei', two after."
- In Vino Veritas: Those stuffy old German guys are really fond of good pranks.
- Late for School: The teacher of "Hans"' class, because the protagonist used the opportunity to "readjust" all his clocks. On the very day when the Oberschulrat (superintendent) wants to take a look at his teaching. Fortunately, Pfeiffer takes his place.
- Moral Guardians: Education minister Rust tried to stop the movie, an account of making fun of school and authorities. Heinz Rühmann saved it by showing the movie in a private show to Hermann Göring, who convinced Adolf Hitler otherwise, and trumped Rust.
- The Nicknamer: The students call the chemistry teacher "Schnauz" (for his big moustache) and the principal "Zeus".
- Nostalgia Filter: Wilhelmine Germany never was so light-hearted and funny as in this movie.
- The Prankster: Pfeiffer again.
- Reality Subtext: Many scenes were made again and again, until they were perfect. (Another reason this movie is considered so good.) The reason? The actors who played the other students otherwise would've had to join the Wehrmacht, which could have meant their death. That's why the makers tried to extend the production as long as possible. Some actors still had to become soldiers and died in World War II.
- Real Name as an Alias: Dr. Johannes Pfeiffer becomes the student Hans Pfeiffer ("Hans" being a common abbreviation).
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Used by Rühmann for a good effect. Play out Hitler himself against his minister to save the movie from being forbidden.
- Stern Teacher: Dr. Brett. Due to Executive Meddling, since the NS propaganda wanted a teacher who wasn't a joke character.
- Troubled Production: Made in 1943/44, right during World War II. In fact, they tried to spend as much time as possible making the movie, as the alternative would have been unpleasant.