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Film / Die Feuerzangenbowle

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"Dieser Film ist ein Loblied auf die Schule, aber es ist möglich, daß die Schule es nicht merkt." Translation 
Motto at the beginning of the film

Die Feuerzangenbowle 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. That 1944 film is very close to the book, and it is also notable as (within Germany) possibly the most enduringly popular movie from Nazi Germany.

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 (with three "f") 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, here.


  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Catchphrase: 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.
  • Clock Tampering: Pfeiffer manages to set all clocks at Professor Crey's home he can get hold of back by one hour. This being Pfeiffer, it's of course part of something way more elaborate.
  • 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'!"
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Thanks to blueberry wine. Or not?
    Pfeiffer: "Die alkoholische Gärung oder die Gärung des Alkohols erzeugt Alkohol, der Alkohol erzeugt Gärung, die alkoholische Gärung."
  • Elopement: Towards the end, Pfeiffer threatens to do this with Eva just to get thrown out of school which still hasn't happened after all he's done.
  • 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 bit by bit 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.
  • 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.
  • Nice Hat: Since the film takes place in Wilhelminian Era, they're all over the place, including Adult!Pfeiffer's top hat, the teachers' Homburg hats and the revelers' boaters. Special mention however goes to the schoolboys' Deckel.
  • The Nicknamer: The students call the chemistry teacher "Schnauz" (for his big moustache), the physics teacher "Bömmel" and the principal "Zeus".
  • No-Sell: One does not simply successfully prank Dr. Brett.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Wilhelmine Germany never was so light-hearted and funny as in this movie.
  • The Prankster: Pfeiffer again.
  • 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.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The "Closed due to construction" sign on the school gates.
    • The normal reaction would be for the teachers to go outside and remove the sign. No day off, but everyone would know that all the teachers plus the principal have been pranked. Pfeiffer would win by fooling them all in one fell swoop.
    • Bömmel's suggestion is to leave the sign hanging and make the school building look like there has been actual construction work. The school would stay closed for a day, but the teachers keep their dignity, so this is what they actually do. Still, Pfeiffer wins by giving all students a day off.