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Der Schatz im Silbersee (The Treasure of Silver Lake) is a West German-Yugoslav co-production from 1962, the first of the so-called Kraut Westerns of the 1960s, adapted from a Karl May novel of the same name. Director Harald Reinl, having to a large extent defined the popular genres of post-World War II West German cinema with Heimatfilme, war films, and Edgar Wallace thrillers, now set his sights on the works of the popular adventure novelist (1842-1912). Produced by Horst Wendlandt for 3.5 million marks, it was the most expensive German post-war movie up until then.In an effort to increase international sales, it was decided to give the part of the leading hero, Old Shatterhand, to American actor Lex Barker, while Frenchman Pierre Brice was cast as Winnetou, the noble Apache chief. Since costs of filming the story in the American Southwest were prohibitive, it was decided to shoot the film (and its sequels) in Yugoslavia, which offered some spectacular landscapes that could double for America with the addition of a few fake cacti etc.The "Tramps", a bunch of desperadoes led by the nasty "Colonel" Brinkley (Herbert Lom), kill the owner of half a map leading to a treasure near Silver Lake. The victim's son, Fred Engel (Götz George), sets off in hot pursuit, running into Old Shatterhand. They accompany him to the homestead owned by the resolute Mrs. Butler (Marianne Hoppe), where they are met by Patterson, owner of the second half of the map, and his daughter Ellen (Karin Dor). But the Colonel also wants the other half of the map, and soon the Butler farm is under attack, only to be saved in the nick of time by an Osage war party brought by Winnetou. But the Colonel escapes with many of his men.The good guys now set out to find the treasure of Silver Lake ahead of the Tramps, going through the land of the Utahs. The Colonel had massacred a Utah village, so the Utahs regard the other group as enemies. But after Old Shatterhand defeats their chief Great Wolf in personal combat, they smoke the Peace Pipe and offer their help. Unfortunately the Colonel in the meantime succeeded in capturing Fred and Ellen, and now knows where to find the treasure. Leaving his captives behind, he and a few trusted men cross Silver Lake to a cave, where the treasure is guarded by an old blind Indian guardian. The Colonel strikes him down, but then the sight of the pile of gold is too much and the Tramps knock the Colonel out and start to fight among themselves for the treasure. But the Colonel comes to and quickly guns them all down. But in his moment of triumph the dying guardian pulls a chain which sets off a mechanism which hurtles the treasure and all into a mud-filled pit where the Colonel dies.Back on the other side of the lake, the good guys succeed in freeing Fred and Ellen and overcoming their guards. In the final shot, Winnetou and Old Shatterhand are paddling off in a canoe, onwards to new adventures!The commercial success of Der Schatz im Silbersee at the time was noticed by the Cahiers du Cinéma, who called it a "Black Forest Western", and even across the Atlantic, where The Western was at that time once again seen as a dying genre. The film was followed by a prequel Winnetou I (1963), and several sequels.The series is fondly remembered and loved by generations of children in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
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