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SON OF HITLER [a.k.a. Hitler's Son] (1978).

With black comedies like HAROLD & MAUDE and BREWSTER McCLOUD to his credit, 29-year-old Bud Cort must've seemed like the perfect candidate for a Nazi-themed laff-fest. Nevertheless, this German-made farce about der Fuhrer's secret offspring was barely released. That's because it's one of those rare, unfathomably wrongheaded projects -- in this instance, a $5 million production, funded by misguided German industrialists -- that makes you wonder "what the hell were they thinking?" The cinematic equivalent of a 20-car pile-up, any vaguely interesting notion is quickly crushed in favor of an unsuccessful cheap laugh. 30-year-old orphan Willi (Cort) has lived in the Bavarian mountains for his entire life, secluded from civilization and education, but when his beloved Uncle Fritz passes away, he finally uncovers info about his dad. His birth father was none other than Adolph Hitler, but uneducated Willi doesn't recognize the infamous name or know anything about World War II. With birth certificate in hand, Willi journeys to Munich, is quickly arrested for vagrancy and tossed into a mental hospital. Top-billed Peter Cushing plays aged, still-unapologetic Nazi officer Heinrich Haussner, who's spent three decades searching for Hitler's MIA son, in hopes of resurrecting the Nazi Party with this "chip off the old block." Busting Willi out of the asylum, Haussner is unaware Adolph Jr. turned out to be a gentle simpleton who's mainly interested in next-door cutie Veleska (bland Felicity Dean). But rather than make an absurd comedy about Hitler's nice kid in the modern world, the plot focuses on how Willi creates a rift in the local Neo-Nazi party over its leadership... What went wrong? Almost everything! It might've been more successful if not for the deadening script delivered by Burkhard Driest (Fassbinder's QUERELLE) and Lukas Heller (WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX). Or if it had been directed by someone other than Rod Amateau, whose urbane filmography ranges from the original pilot for GILLIGAN'S ISLAND to THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE, and whose idea of humor is having Willi roam the city in his pop's old, oversized Nazi uniform. Cort isn't too bad as this sweet and wimpy oddball, who's suddenly thrust into potential greatness-- while making Chauncey Gardiner look quick-witted in comparison. Cushing (hot off of his STAR WARS gig) plays it relatively straight, plus Anton Diffring turns up as Veleska's dad and burly Leo Gordon is Haussner's assistant. It's definitely painful, but worth a look just to see poor Bud Cort shuffling about with a classic Hitler haircut, looking understandably uncomfortable with this gig.

© 2003 by Steven Puchalski.