NewsAbout tough guys and raw potatoes

About tough guys and raw potatoes

The adventure flick for Advent: 50 years ago, “Der Seewolf” with Raimund Harmstorf and Edward Meeks was shown on German television for the first time.

If you can still remember the time when even TV reruns were still family events, you probably met the “sea wolf” on television at the end of the 1980s. The older semesters may even remember the original in Advent 1971. 50 years ago – on December 5, 1971 – ZDF presented the film adaptation of Jack Londons’ novel to its audience, who were allowed to sit on the living room sofa in the first row. The sea wolf ”. The trip to the oceans down to the South Seas gave the station top ratings in the cold Christmas season – and the families in the living rooms with the still rare and accordingly getting used to the Advent four-part format several evenings together in front of their tube sets.

Jack London’s novel originally appealed to the readership’s thirst for adventure and wanderlust in the early 20th century. With his film adaptation, producer Walter Ulbrich, affectionately also known as the father of the Advent four-parter, remains largely close to the original: the shipwrecked writer Humphrey van Weyden (played by Edward Meeks) is taken on board by the seal schooner “Ghost” and its captain, who ruled with brute force Wolf Larsen (Raimund Harmstorf) demoted to cabin boy. Raubein Larsen also has an intellectual and well-read side – the relationship between the two ranges between hatred and fascination for the other. Their rivalry is exacerbated by the arrival of the shipwrecked poet Maud Brewster, whose favor they both seek. Van Weyden later flees with Maud Brewster in a dinghy to an uninhabited island, on which Larsen soon ends up stranded as a result of a mutiny. In the end, the novel and the book differ greatly from each other, but both end with Larsen’s death.

But Ulbrich (directed by Wolfgang Staudte, incidentally) does not take London’s original so precisely at the end: He lets Maud Brewster die while on the run, while she is allowed to survive in Jack London’s novel. In addition, Ulbrich has used London for secondary lines in other literary sources and knitted a young acquaintance of the main protagonists into the plot, which does not appear in the novel. The important role of Larsen’s brother in the book is not included in the film.

Apart from that, one reason for the success of the film is possibly Ulbrich’s faithfulness to the work, despite these deviations, made possible by the multi-part format with a running time of around six hours, which was still rare at the time. And although the film has its length, even for a 1970s flick, it did well with the critics at the time.

One of the main reasons for the success is probably the cast. For the main actors Edward Meeks (now 87) and especially Raimund Harmstorf (1939-1998), their roles were each a significant step in their vita. And many viewers will not be forgotten: inside London’s legendary dialogues: “From now on you will take over the post.” where he could subjugate the whole world: “Hump, my mistake was that I ever touched a book.” Whereby that quote – compared to the novel – is easily taken out of context. And then of course there is the matter of the potato. It is said to have been raw when the superman Larsen crushed it with his bare hand. The (!) Scene of the film.

If the rather cheap trick of pre-cooked vegetables was only able to fool the audience in a few cases, some scenes 50 years ago were due to film tricks that were not only more difficult to read, but also plenty of mail for the Mainz broadcaster flushed into the mailbox. As the “Spiegel” reported in its first issue in 1972, the TV audience in those letters was apparently concerned about whether the ferry “Martinez”, as seen in the film, was really sunk and the horses washed off board had to die in agony – the answers, of course: neither nor.

However, some of those who played in “Seewolf” did not want to leave the drama and tragedy aside: Raimund Harmstorf’s image of the strong man stuck to his role. “I’m not a tough man, even if I look like that,” he is reported to have said while filming. The really big roles stayed away for him. In the mid-90s, the main actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, possibly because of the medication he slipped into depression. “His greatest fear was that someone would notice. Because the sea wolf was not allowed to have Parkinson’s. He had to be able to mash a raw potato with one hand, ”said his partner Gudrun Staeb later in the“ SZ-Magazin ”.

Shortly after a “picture” report on Harmstorf’s treatment in psychiatry, in which, according to Staeb, a lot was “simply a lie”, Harmstorf committed suicide. So memories of the sad fate of Raimund Harmstorf are attached to (childhood) memories of a great film.

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