INSIDE THE THIRD REICH REVEIWS

 

 

DIRECTOR: Marvin Chomsky

CAST: Rutger Hauer, Blythe Danner, Derek Jacobi, Sir John Gielgud, Ian Holm, Elke Sommer, Trevor Howard, Stephen Collins, Renee Soutendijk, Maria Schell, Randy Quaid, Robert Vaughn, Michael Gough, Maurice Roeves, Derek Newark, David Shawyer, George Murcell

REVIEW


Inside The Third Reich, a lengthy, critically acclaimed TV miniseries from two-time Emmy winner Marvin Chomsky, is a film adaptation of the same-named memoirs by Albert Speer, a bright, cultured German architect who became Adolf Hitler's personal designer and later Minister of Armaments and War Production, ultimately spending 20 years in Spandau Prison for his use of slave labor to keep the German war effort going, during which time he ostensibly reflected on his errors in judgment and began to write his memoirs. Although forbidden to do so in prison, Speer smuggled them out through a sympathetic guard and formed them into a novel upon his release. As the only surviving person to have had such intimate contact with Hitler, Speer lived well off of book sales until his death shortly before its film adapatation. While many believe Speer to have whitewashed his own role in the Third Reich, and criticize the miniseries for not questioning his account, its historical value is undeniable. Inside The Third Reich was filmed on a low budget over a few months of winter in Munich, which is made apparent by the presence of snow in nearly every outdoors scene throughout the miniseries. While the vast scope of Speer's writings require numerous events to be skipped over, it serves to give the viewer the basics of the workings of the Third Reich.

After the credits play against archive footage of Nazi rallies and death camps (providing the most graphic images in the film), the miniseries begins with a young but already notably intelligent Albert Speer growing up during WWI with his upper-class, loving parents (British actor Sir John Gielgud and Austrian Maria Schell, sister of Maximilian). Both give fine performances, Gielgud is particularly good as the dignified, aristocratic Albert Sr., a man who may seem somewhat stiff, but is warmer than he may at first appear. As Speer grows up (now played by Dutch actor Rutger Hauer in one of his first American roles) and falls in love with Margarete Weber (Blythe Danner), the anti-Nazi feelings of his father, Professor Heinrich Tessenow (Trevor Howard) and his new bride Maragarete (whose anti-Nazi feelings were pointed out as having been exagerrated by the filmmakers), make for an uncomfortable situation when Speer attends a speech by Hitler and likes what he hears.

Several times throughout the miniseries we switch to Speer's post-war conversations with an American Major (Don Fellows), when Speer is asked one simple question: why? Why did a person such as himself: cultured, intelligent, even in friendly relations with Jewish colleagues, support Adolf Hitler? We see what may be part of the answer upon Speer's first encounter with the future Führer. Although Speer has professed agreement with Professor Tessenow, curiosity compels him to go see Hitler for himself. What follows is one of the best sequences in the miniseries, as respected British actor Derek Jacobi delivers a passionate speech about the suffering of struggling Germans, increasing his believability by doing a dead-on imitation of Hitler's speech patterns and mannerisms, although his physical resemblance is not particularly close. It is not impossible to see why Speer approves of what he hears and ultimately stands in open support; this is before the Holocaust, before the massive crimes against humanity which made Adolf Hitler a despised name in history, and what he says about the shattered German economy and the plight of German workers is true. By the time he finally, inevitably, lashes out at the Jews, the crowd is already won over.

Things pick up fast as Speer becomes an active member of the Nazi Party, first becoming a chauffeur alongside American-born Nazi supporter Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengel (Randy Quaid) and next commissioned by Karl Hanke (a gung-ho Stephen Collins) to construct a Party headquarters building. Speer is excited to have his abilities recognized and appreciated, but the price is the end of his friendship with Tessenow. His increasing success also persuades him to overlook the negative aspects of Nazism. His rise in Nazi circles brings him into contact with Josef Goebbels (Ian Holm), Magda Goebbels (Elke Sommer), Martin Bormann (Derek Newark), Heinrich Himmler (David Shawyer), Hermann Goering (George Murcell), Rudolf Hess (Maurice Roeves), Eva Braun (Renee Soutendijk) and eventually Hitler himself. At the same time, he is increasingly alienating himself from his father, who deplores his son's association with what he recognizes from the beginning as a dangerous criminal gang. When war breaks out, Speer worries about the consequences but continues to throw his support behind the Reich, appointed Minister of Armaments and War Production, in which position he and Field Marshal Milch (Robert Vaughn) keep the German war effort going through the use of slave labor. Despite the eager-to-please faithfulness with which he is portrayed by Hauer, Speer is never made to seem as cold-hearted as the other leading Nazis- he is shown shaking his head as if in regret when reviewing the new slave laborers, and uses his clout to protect the anti-Nazi Tessenow from Gestapo official Dr. Rust (a stern, cold Michael Gough). When Hitler finally declares that Germany be destroyed rather than surrender, a horrified Speer contemplates assassinating him, and travels to the headquarters of German field commanders, persuading them to disobey his scorched-earth orders. Nevertheless, he feels guilty about betraying Hitler's trust, confessing his actions and shortly thereafter crying upon news of Hitler's suicide, which he confesses to his American interrogator as the only time he has cried in his life. The Nuremberg Trials are not included, and the film ends with the aftermath, as Speer is taken away to begin his twenty year imprisonment.

The film depicts the war and Hitler's inner circle in a basic, superficial manner, and the extermination of the Jews is not mentioned during the war sequences, only discussed with Speer and the American Major in the post-war prison scenes, when Speer denies any knowledge of it and seems genuinely upset by the death camp footage he was shown during the trials. In my opinion, one of the film's strongest performances comes from British actor Ian Holm as Dr. Goebbels. While he does not overly resemble Goebbels aside from his diminutive stature, he has the cold glare and the tight, grim expression, playing "the poison dwarf" as an intelligent but malicious and fanatical man who viciously defends his place in Hitler's inner circle. Aside from Goebbels, Speer, and Hitler himself, the other member of the Nazi hiearchy to receive more than fleeting attention is Hitler's power-hungry secretary Martin Bormann (Derek Newark). We see how Goebbels, Bormann, and the others resent Speer's sudden entry into the circle, but are forced to accept him when he falls under Hitler's good graces. Holm and Newark are memorably venomous, but the other top Nazis are not examined in much depth. Hess, Hanfstaengel, and Hanke leave the stage early on, although Roeves as Hess does have one frightening moment where he berates Speer for referring to Hitler as "Chancellor" rather than "Führer"- and Goering in particular (Italian actor George Murcell) is never raised above a foppish caricature. Himmler (David Shawyer) seldom does more than stand in the background. Rutger Hauer has a somewhat limited acting range, with a tendency toward playing variations of the same character, but he does a fine job as the intelligent, elegant, but morally confused Speer, and manages to comes across as less of "himself" than usual. In fact, it is Sir Derek Jacobi's Emmy-winning, critically acclaimed performance which- besides his one effective speech scene- failed to impress me. Jacobi is not a poor actor, but he lacks a certain fierce conviction necessary for playing the Führer. For most of the film, Jacobi comes across as a doddering, rambling dreamer, which is how Hitler did often seem to Speer, and he at least does not fall into the one-dimensional wild-eyed maniac approach which Steven Berkoff overindulged in War and Remembrance, but Jacobi goes too far in the other direction, and just never seems as menacing or as dangerous as he should have. It does not speak well of Jacobi's performance that Holm as Goebbels comes across as far more sinister. Since the role of Hitler is so key to the storyline, this is a handicap to the miniseries. (Given Jacobi's mousy appearance and manner, if I were going to cast him at all it would have been as Himmler) We see Speer's friendship with Eva Braun, portrayed as a childlike innocent devoted to her Adolf despite the pain he often causes her, but we see little of Magda Goebbels, with whom Speer also had a friendly relationship. The miniseries gives the basic story of Speer's involvement in the Third Reich, but an interested viewer should by all means read the book, which contains infinitely more material and much more in depth examinations of the principal personalities such as Himmler and Goering. Ultimately the viewer and reader must place themselves in Speer's shoes and decide for themselves when he should have placed his conscience ahead of his career.

 

 

 

REVIEW


Superior made-for-TV teledrama based on the autobiography of Hitler's confidant Albert Speer. Hauer stars as the brilliant architect who works his way through the ranks of 1930s Germany to become Hitler's right-hand man. Jacobi is sensational as the maniacal dictator.

Michael Sjodin

This is a really exciting story as well as it is interesting from a historical point of view.   Albert Speer, probably the most fascinating architect and, certainly the most "forgotten" architect, of this century!  If you havent seen this I recommend you to!  We follow Albert Speer through childhood, school, building,  planning, the family life, the inner circle and finally as minister.  The job that resulted in 20 years in Spandau prison.   As said, great story, great costumes and sets as well as the very good actors with Rutger Hauer as Speer.