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Film / The Wildcat

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Rischka steals some earrings

The Wildcat (Die Bergkatze) is a 1921 German silent romantic comedy film starring Pola Negri, directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Lieutenant Alexis is an infantry officer who is sent off to a punishment assignment on the border (of some vaguely Germanic country) because he's been catting around with the local women too much. On the way he is waylaid and robbed by a group of bandits led by fiery Rischka (Negri). She takes a fancy to Alexis and lets him go, much to the puzzlement of her father, the nominal bandit leader.

After finally making his way to the frontier fortress, Lt. Alexis leads a punitive expedition against the bandits, but it ends in embarrassing defeat as the ragged bandits send Alexis and his men in headlong retreat. That doesn't stop Alexis from acting like he won a victory, though, and the whole fortress and town have an elaborate celebration—which Rischka and the bandits decide to rob.

The Wildcat didn't do that well in Germany, and unlike Lubitsch's other silent films did not even get released in America, but it didn't slow down the careers of Lubitsch or Negri, both of whom came to America soon after and went on to success in Hollywood.

Not to be confused with a trope called The Wildcats.


  • Affectionate Pickpocket: Rischka comforts a distraught Lilli, embracing her and agreeing to step aside and let her have Alexis. While she is doing this she also steals Lilli's necklace.
  • Arranged Marriage: The garrison commander matches up Alexis with his daughter, without even bothering to ask.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rischka, who loves Alexis, deliberately acts boorish and crass while they are alone together, causing him to kick her out. However, he seems more content with Lilli after this, and Risckha smiles at Pepo and kisses him when she returns to the bandit camp.
  • The Casanova: How popular was Alexis with the ladies at his prior duty station? Hundreds of women throng the streets as he's leaving. A group of dozens of children call out "Bye, Daddy!"
  • The Dandy: When he's walking to the fortress after having been robbed of everything but his underwear, Alexis still stops to comb his hair.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: The soldiers sending Alexis off finally get his hundreds of girlfriends to disperse by dumping a barrel of mice in the crowd.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the soldiers is taking aim with his rifle. Rischka hits him with a snowball. He gets indignant, and says "Don't get rough, now."
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Pepo steps aside and lets Rischka pursue Alexis. Ocular Gushers ensues.
    • And then Rischka steps aside, deliberately alienating Alexis so he'll dump her and go back to Lilli.
  • Lovable Coward: When a messenger arrives and says "The bandits—", the fortress commander dives under the table. (He was reporting that the bandits had robbed Alexis.) Later, Alexis and his whole platoon are easily sent running back home by the bandits.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Alexis and Rischka are drawn to each other, but he's already been paired off with the commander's daughter Lilli, and Rischka has Pepo, a timid bandit who is sweet on her.
  • Mildly Military:
    • The commander of the fortress and his garrison are all lazy, cowardly, and incompetent. In later years Lubitsch attributed the failure of this film to German audiences post-World War I having no appetite for films satirizing the military.
    • Alexis's departure for the frontier fortress is a parody of military parades. See The Casanova above.
    • See also Hypocritical Humor above.
  • No Name Given: For either the fortress commander or his wife.
  • Ocular Gushers: Rischka comes home to find that Pepo has created a literal river of tears due to his bawling after she left.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The letter to the fortress commander explicitly states that Alexis is being sent there as punishment.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: "I want to get comfortable", says Alexis, a rare male example of this trope and a decade before Trope Maker Jean Harlow in Hell's Angels—but in this case he's talking about changing from his uniform into a smart civilian suit, although the implication of seduction is still the same.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Rischka is the only girl among her group of bandits.
  • Storming the Castle: While the commander and the soldiers of the garrison are getting roaring drunk following their "victory", Rischka and the bandits raid the fort, stealing everything they can carry.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Rischka whips some of the bandits to keep them in line. They like it, and ask for more.
  • Uptown Girl: In the end, Rischka seems to feel that the divide between herself and Alexis the fancy army officer is too much to cross.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Rischka puts a silver spoon while robbing the fort.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Rischka says this to her father as the army assault on the bandits begins. And he does it, grinding up beans and bringing her a cup of coffee while she is couched in a sniper's nest, firing at the soldiers.