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11 April 2012

Der Schatz am Silbersee/Treasure of Silver Lake

Der Schatz im Silbersee/Treasure of Silver Lake (1963, Harald Reinl) was the most successful German film of the 1962/1963 season. Surprisingly it even beat the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962), at the German box offices. Der Schatz im Silbersee starred for the first time Lex Barker in the role of Old Shatterhand and French actor Pierre Brice as his friend, the Apache-chief Winnetou. For many people born in the 1950s or 1960s Winnetou became one of our favorite heroes.

Pierre Brice in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Pierre Brice. German postcard, no. ED 51. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker and Pierre Brice in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Lex Barker, Pierre Brice. German postcard, no. ED 52. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Lex Barker. German postcard, no. ED 53. Photo: Constantin.

Götz George in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Götz George. German postcard, no. ED 54. Photo: Constantin.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 55. Photo: Constantin.

Old Shatterhand
Although it was a western,Der Schatz im Silbersee was a truely European film, a co-production of Germany, Yugoslavia and France. The film starred Hollywood star Lex Barkerin the role of Old Shatterhand. Barker was best known as a former Tarzan, who played the King of the Jungle in films like Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949, Lee Sholem) and Tarzan's Peril (1951, Byron Haskin). He had also appeared in westerns like the film adaptation of James Fennimore Cooper's The Deerslayer (1957, Kurt Neumann), which had been very successful in Germany. When his Hollywood career dried up, he moved to Italy, where he appeared as a Hollywood movie star in La Dolce Vita/The Sweet Life (1960, Federico Fellini) starring Marcello Mastroianni. German producer Artur Brauner invited him to work in Germany, where he starred in such crime films as Das Stahlnetz des dr. Mabuse/The Return of Dr. Mabuse (1961, Harald Reinl) opposite Gert Fröbe. Then the role of Old Shatterhand made him a cult star. At his side, Pierre Brice played Apache-chief Winnetou. It made the till then unknown French actor an icon of the 1960's. The supporting cast was also an international mix. British Herbert Lom was cast as the bad Colonel Brinkley. From Germany there were the young lovers Karin Dor and Götz George. Grand Old lady Marianne Hoppe had her first international film role and for the laughs Eddie Arent (Lord Castlepool) and Ralf Wolter (Trapper Sam Hawkins) can be seen. There were also many Yugoslavian actors in the cast, including Mirko Boman (Gunstick Uncle), Sima Janicijevic a.k.a. Jan Sid (Patterson) and Jozo Kovacevic (Grosser Wolf).

Karin Dor, Jan Sid, Der Schatz im Silbersee
Karin Dor, Jan Sid. German postcard, no. E 56. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker, Der Schatz im Silbersee
Lex Barker. German postcard, no. E 57. Photo: Constantin.

Götz George, Der Schatz im Silbersee
Götz George. German postcard, no. E 58. Photo: Constantin.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 59. Photo: Constantin.

Karin Dor, Marianne Hoppe in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Karin Dor, Marianne Hoppe. German postcard, no. E 60. Photo: Constantin.

Non-stop Action
Der Schatz im Silbersee/Treasure of Silver Lake (1962, Harald Reinl) was the first filmisation of a novel by Karl May (1842 - 1912) set in the American West. He was one of the best read authors of Germany, and many kids played Cowboys and Indians, inspired by May's stories. Earlier films after his exotic adventure novels, like Die Teufelsanbeter/The Devil Worshippers (1920, Marie Luise Droop) starring 'the Indiana Jones of the 1910's and 1920's' Carl de Vogt and Béla Lugosi, and Die Sklavenkarawane/The Slave Caravan (1958, Georg Marischka, Ramón Torrado) with Viktor Staal as Kara Ben Nemsi, were all set in the Near East. However, principal shooting took place in national park Paklenica karst river canyon, Yugoslavia (now Croatia). The result was surprising. John Seal at IMDb: "Treasure of Silver Lake is one of the most entertaining films I've ever seen. Establishing the template for every euro-western that followed, it features non-stop action, beautiful scenery (unfortunately compromised by the pan and scan version recently aired on Encore Westerns), and an amusing and watchable cast. Like most euro-westerns the film is more sympathetic to Native Americans than a typical Hollywood movie, but the Indians aren't really the focal point of the story".

Götz George in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Götz George. German postcard, no. E 61. Photo: Constantin.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. ED 62. Photo: Constantin.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. ED 63. Photo: Constantin.

Karin Dor, Lex Barker, Pierre Brice in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Karin Dor, Lex Barker, Pierre Brice. German postcard, no. ED 64. Photo: Constantin.

Götz George and Karin Dor in Der Schatz im Silbersee
Götz George, Karin Dor. German postcard, no. ED 65. Photo: Constantin.

Successful Track
The Old Shatterhand-Melodie, the title melody played on the harmonica by René Giessen and composed by Martin Böttcher was the most successful track in the German hitparade in the 1960’s. It stayed there for several months and over 100,000 copies were sold. At the time that was very unusual, especially for a soundtrack without any singers. The music was played by members of the symphony-orchestra of the Norddeutscher Rundfunk. The theme was later also recorded as vocal track by several singers, including a version by Pierre Brice. Composer Böttcher wrote in 1955 the music for his first film, Der Hauptmann und sein Held/The Captain and His Hero (1955, Max Nosseck). Already his next film Die Halbstarken/Teenage Wolfpack (1956, Georg Tressler) starring Horst Buchholz, was a great artistic success for himself. He became one of the busiest composers for Cinema and TV in Germany.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. ED 66. Photo: Constantin.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 67. Photo: Constantin.

Jan Sid, Lex Barker, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 68. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 69. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 70. Photo: Constantin.

Bambi
German director Harald Reinl and producer Horst Wendlandt came up with a series of Eurowesterns which didn´t copy the American western. The American trade magazine Variety wrote in 1963 that 'See' was obviously better than the average Hollywood western: "Although there are the inevitable fistfights and shoot-outs, the film does not copy the Hollywood format, but has a more philosophical (European!) Touch. The western (filmed in Cinemascope) also benefits from the wonderful landscapes." The European audiences loved it and Der Schatz im Silbersee/Treasure of Silver Lake became a huge success. It was the very first German film to receive the Goldene Leinwand (Golden Screen) for having over 3 million visitors within 12 months. The film won the Bambi-award 1963 as best box-office-production, and also received a sum of 200,000 DM from the government in 1963 as a film-prize. Der Schatz im Silbersee was sold to 60 countries - an incredible success for the European film industry.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 71. Photo: Constantin.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 72. Photo: Constantin.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 73. Photo: Constantin.

Pierre Brice, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 74. Photo: Constantin.

Pierre Brice, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 75. Photo: Constantin.

Götz George, Karin Dor, Der Schatz im Silbersee
Götz George, Karin Dor. German postcard, no. E 76. Photo: Constantin.

Herbert Lom, Der Schatz im Silbersee
Herbert Lom. German postcard, no. E 77. Photo: Constantin.

A Popular Sub-Genre
Although Der Schatz im Silbersee/Treasure of Silver Lake introduced Old-Shatterhand (Lex Barker) and Apache-chief Winnetou (Pierre Brice), Der Schatz im Silbersee is set in time after the sequel Winnetou - 1. Teil/Apache Gold (1963, Harald Reinl). This would not be the only sequel. Between 1962 and 1968, 11 Euro-westerns were produced based on the novels by Karl May. The early films preceded also another popular European film sub-genre, the Spaghetti western. And Eastern-Germany had its own Indian films, produced by the DEFA studio. Between 1966 and 1979 there were 12 East-German westerns, often starring Serbian actor Gojko Mitic, who became an equally popular Icon in Eastern Europe as Pierre Brice was in the west.

Herbert Lom, Der Schatz im Silbersee
Herbert Lom. German postcard, no. E 78. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 79. Photo: Constantin.

Karin Dor, Jan Sid, Der Schatz im Silbersee
Karin Dor, Jan Sid. German postcard, no. E 80. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker, Pierre Brice, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 81. Photo: Constantin.

Lex Barker, Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 82. Photo: Constantin.

Sources: Bernd Desinger & Matthias Knop (Der Schatz im Silbersee), IMDb and Wikipedia (German).

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