Nachts auf den Straßen 1952

(UK title: Nights on the Road)

(US title: The Mistress) aka Detour

 

Director: Rudolf Jugert

 

Writers: Helmut KäutnerFritz Rotter

Rôle: Kurt Willbrandt

Release Date: 14 January 1952

 

Synopsis: A middle-aged truck driver with a newly-wed daughter, Heinrich Schlüter (Hans Albers), finds smuggled money and becomes involved with a hijacking gang. During one of his trips from Bavaria to Frankfurt, he has a fateful encounter with a hitch-hiking young woman (Hildegard Knef), who is already engaged in a liaison with a black marketeer (Marius Goring).

Comment: We first come across Kurt passed out stoned on a sofa in the office of the bar where he plays piano at night. His girlfriend (Hildegard Knef) has come back to Frankfurt after supposedly visiting her mother and finds him there. It shows the gulf between British and German (and certainly American) films of this era that a main character would be shown smoking marijuana and lying passed out in a stupor. This is one of the many films where Marius plays piano and he also sings the film's theme song. It is a well-crafted film, with an interesting story, excellent performances by some of the best German actors of the time (including Marius Goring's real life wife, Lucie Mannheim, as Anna Schlüter, the wife of the truck driver), and beautiful black and white cinematography which captures the fascinating background of a Germany in transformation but still scarred from the war.

 

Marius Goring, in one of his rare German films, is astonishing as Kurt, giving him the cold and cynical as well as the human and frail side of his character.

Reviews: On the German website Der Film Noir/The Film Noir (der-film-noir.de):

 

"With a lot of affection for his precisely drawn figures and a keen eye for vivid details,'Nachts auf den Straßen' paints a noirical moral picture of the beginning of an economic miracle", writes Sebastian Schubert for his KinoTage book. It is exactly like that. Based on a script by Helmut Käutner and Fritz Rotter and with the veteran Václav Vich (Der Verlorene, GER 1951) as a cameraman, Rudolf Jugert and his actors Hans Albers, Hildegard Knef and Marius Goring made an exceptional example of West German filmmaking of the early 1950s. In the field of tension between "voluntary self-control", i.e. the morally sour requirements of the entertainment industry, and those seductions that provoke first one step and then a second step off the beaten track, the author Käutner and his director Jugert succeed in never being homely or narrow-minded. This makes 'Nachts auf den Straßen' clearly different from other works of his time. Theft, drug addiction and adultery are treated with a remarkably timeless nonchalance, which at best can be found in a few English films of those years and in the French Nouvelle Vague in the late 1950s. In fact, the film is influenced in part by André de Toth's film Pitfall (USA 1948), which was never shown in theatres in Germany, and Michael Curtiz's 'The Breaking Point (Menschenschmuggel)' (USA 1950) or Byron Haskin's 'Too Late for Tears (Der Blonde Tiger)(USA 1948) are represented with a few motifs. The unvarnished staging with its often time-critical undertone and the unusual reluctance of the main actor Hans Albers, who actually endows his character with a lot of empathy, provide a solid basis for the plot development that was unfortunately foreseeable in the last quarter. Here, freedom of movement must be brought back into the petty-bourgeois corset of that image of people and society in the Federal Republic of Germany under Konrad Adenauer. So the father of the family remorsefully returns to home, stove and potatoes, and the smugglers receive the punishment they deserve.

"You promised me explicitly that you would not touch marijuana any more". The presentation of the effects of marijuana and the talk about it is a typical nonsense of the time. But how the then 25-year-old Hildegard Knef as Inge Hofmann wraps the truck driver Schlüter - Hans Albers was already 60 years old - around her finger is almost perfectly staged. 'Nachts auf den Straßen' was awarded the German Film Prize in three categories in 1953, including best feature film, with Fritz Rotter and Helmut Käutner as best screenwriters and with Rudolf Jugert as best director. Today the film is practically non-existent, except in film dictionaries, where it is often praised. There is no BD or DVD, not even a VHS video of the classic, which is circulating in online forums in visually and sound-technically excellent versions with English subtitles as 'The Mistress', which is the title of the film as it was shown in the USA in 1957. 'Nachts auf den Straßen' is not a masterpiece, its ending is far too conventional for that, but it is definitely a film that is worth discovering for friends (not only) of European film noir."

Wardrobe Trivia: The black leather jacket that Marius wears in the later scenes, he also wears in Circle of Danger (1951) and in an episode of Maigret (1963). The spotted bow tie that he wears in earlier scenes when he first meets Heinrich Schlüter and when he plays the piano and sings at the bar, and the pyjamas, dressing gown and the gold and cream scarf he wears, he also wears in The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (1952). He also wore the scarf in The Red Shoes (1948).

Availability: DVD (Pidax Film Classics) available on European sites from 28 May 2021. Can also be viewed in a very good print with English subtitles on YouTube.

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Marius singing 'Schwarzen Kaffee' written for the film by Werner Eisbrenner