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Kaiser's Lackey, The (Untertan, Der)

Kaiser's Lackey, The

Diederich Hessling, a "sissy" and mother's pet, is scared of everything and everyone. But as he grows up, he comes to realize that he has to offer his services to the powers-that-be, if he wants to wield power himself. His life motto now runs: bow to those at the top and tread on those below. In this way, he always succeeds: as a student in a duel-fighting student fraternity and as a business-man in a paper factory. He cajoles the obese district administrative president von Wulkow and wins his favors.

He slanders his financial rivals and hatches a plot with the social democrats in the town council. On honeymoon with his rich wife Guste, he finally finds a chance to do his beloved Kaiser a favour. And when a memorial to the Kaiser is unveiled in the town where Diederich lives and works, he delivers the festive address. He stands behind the lectern in pouring rain, saluting "his" Kaiser. The crowd has dispersed. Everything is laid in ruins ...


Wolfgang Staudte was born in Saarbruecken in 1906 and died in Slovenia in 1984. He appeared as an actor on the stage for Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator. Working at the East German studios DEFA after 1945, he became widely known with the very first German postwar feature film, The Murderers Are Among Us (Die Moerder sind unter uns, 1946), and subsequently continued with such films as Rotation (1949), the Heinrich Mann-adaptation The Kaiser's Lackey (Der Untertan, 1951), and The Story of Little Muck (Die Geschichte vom kleinen Muck, 1953). Staudte's decision, however, in 1955 to continue his work in the West forced him to compromise with commercial demands. In Roses for the Prosecutor (Rosen fuer den Staatsanwalt, 1959) and Stag Party (Herrenpartie, 1964), he returned to his critical stance, connecting the fascist past with West Germany's present.
Genre Literature
Category Feature
Year of Production 1951
Director Wolfgang Staudte
Screenplay Wolfgang Staudte, Fritz Staudte
Cinematography Robert Baberske
Johanna Rosinski
Horst Hanns Sieber
Cast Werner Peters, Paul Esser, Carola Braunbock
Producer Willi Teichmann
Production Company DEFA/Berlin
Length 108 min
Format 35 mm, b&w
Original Version
 German
Subtitled Version French
Sound Technology Mono
German Distributor PROGRESS Film-Verleih/Berlin

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