Der Todesking (1990)

Comments Off on Der Todesking (1990) 30 August 2015


Studio: Cult Epics

Theatrical Release: January 25, 1990

Blu Ray Release: June 9, 2015

Director: Jorg Buttgereit

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Having never been officially released in the U.S. until now, Der Todesking (aka: The Death King) marks the second film directed by Jorg Buttgereit, his follow up to the controversial Nekromantik. While Nekromantik plays like a heavy metal-in your face shockfest filled with sex and gore, Der Todesking is Buttergeit’s art house film, an anthology tale that is much more somber and serious in tone than his two Nekromantik films. For those looking for a more linear, straight forward film you need to look elsewhere as Der Todeskin has much more in common with a Goddard film or a Lynch film than say Fulci or Deodato.

Made up of seven vignettes, each tale takes place on a different day of the week involving seven suicides. Starting with Monday and going into Sunday, each tale is basic and short (the film clocks in at only 76 minutes) which may leave many viewers scratching their heads wondering what’s the point. And that dear readers, may be Buttergeit’s point; suicide/death doesn’t have to make sense. Many of us wonder why people take their own lives, is there a reasoning behind one’s own murder of their body? Many questions go unanswered when a person takes their own life which has always been frustrating as we all want to know “why”.

Without giving too much away some of my favorite vignettes are “Tuesday” involving a man’s video rental of a Nazi exploitation film that pushes him over the edge (this segment may be the goriest story as it involves an Ilsa-like castration that made my stomach turn), “Wednesday” has a man and a woman sitting on a park bench in the rain as he opens up to her about his marital issues, and “Saturday” which I found the most chilling about a woman who straps on a body camera and records herself going to a nightclub armed with a gun, opening fire on everyone. This segment reminded me of the 2004 murder of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell as well as the recent live killing of news reporter  Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward.

Der Todesking is not a happy film, in fact the movie left me very depressed. Having a childhood friend who committed suicide many years ago, it’s not a subject matter that I find enjoyable or wanting to spend my Sunday afternoon watching. But I cannot fault the filmmaker for that as the movie, shot in 16 mm, is very well made and ambitious. Buttgereit’s use of the camera is rather inventive and he even makes the dullest of his stories (“Monday” and “Sunday”) fascinating because of his direction.

Cult Epics once again doesn’t disappoint as their releases for Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2 were both filled with extra features. With this release, one gets a brief introduction by Buttgereit regarding the film, an audio commentary track by Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen (this is a must watch for fans of the film as the two retell some great stories about the making of the film) a short making of, still photos, and trailers. In what may be the best special feature is the long lost documentary Corpse Fucking Art from 1993. This is a documentary about the making of the three films, never released in the U.S. until now. Cult Epics has also released Der Todesking in a collectible limited edition that has a slipcover as well as a Corpse Fucking Art postcard.

As I mentioned already, the film was shot on 16 mm, so right away don’t go expecting some super clear version of the film. There is some heavy print damage remaining but compared to my old VHS bootleg, Der Todeskin looks pretty damn good. Even on the commentary track, Buttgereit admits the film looks much different than what he is used to as he’s never seen it look this clean before. The blu ray even gives one the option of watching in 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround. I have my fingers crossed that Buttgereit’s serial killer film Schramm will someday be released on blu by Cult Epics.

While the artistic merits are there, Der Todeskin is a depressing and bleak film about suicide/death. It’s not pretty nor should it be. If you can stomach 76 minutes of death and depression, by all means check out Der Todesking.

Movie Rating: ★★★½☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★★

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