This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian) Deutsch (German)
by Arthur Maria Rabenalt
The Vienna of Mann im Schatten is a dark, shadowy Vienna, witness to the most horrific crimes, which, in his time, Carol Reed had succeeded so well in portraying in The Third Man. And director Arthur Maria Rabenalt was equally able to stage a brutal crime, drawing heavily now from Reed’s own cinema, now from German Expressionism, now even from the legendary figures of detectives like Hercules Poirot or Lieutenant Columbo.
Imperial Vienna. The Vienna of the Prater, of museums, of the Belvedere, of the Albertina. And again, the Vienna of Grinzig, of Kahlenberg, of the charming Wienerwald. About the luxury and the good life of the Viennese upper class, much has been told to us in films, especially between the 1930s and the 1950s. Yet, like any big city, even Vienna has its dark side. And every year, numerous murders are also committed here. Just as a voice-over in the opening of the feature film Mann im Schatten, directed by Arthur Maria Rabenalt in 1961, states.
The Vienna depicted here, then, is a Vienna we are not used to know. A dark, shadowy Vienna, witness to the most horrible crimes, which Carol Reed had so well depicted in The Third Man (1949). And director Arthur Maria Rabenalt was equally able to stage a brutal crime, drawing heavily now from Reed’s own cinema, now from German Expressionism, now even from the legendary figures of detectives like Hercules Poirot or Lieutenant Columbo.
A man runs through the streets of Vienna at night. A frenetic montage emphasises his hurry. Then, suddenly, he enters a night club and someone warns him that the show has already begun. The man sits down at the piano and joins the orchestra. When a colleague asks him why he is late, he replies that he has just committed a murder. But is this really true?
Arthur Maria Rabenalt has really thought of everything in creating a complex and surprising story of impossible loves, train departures and corpses found inside a bathtub. The director of a fashion company has been brutally murdered in her home. Her former partner and housemate has a secret relationship with her niece. Everything suggests a possible crime of passion. And who could better investigate the situation than Commissioner Radosch (played by a great Helmut Qualtinger)?
Mann im Schatten immediately stands out as a feature film with an international character. And, indeed, although this detective story by Rabenalt faithfully follows the approach of American noirs, images of shadows on the walls, of figures moving from behind a curtain or behind the half-closed shutters of a window show clear references to the successful expressionist movement. Similarly, the smoke-filled environments, where shadows almost always prevail over light, are almost the absolute protagonists. Everyone seems to have a motive. And when the spectator finally begins to have his or her own certainties about it, then, out of the blue, everything is cleverly turned upside down.
And then there is him: the great Helmut Qualtinger. His figure almost overshadows all the other characters and even the tender love story between the victim’s niece and her former lodger. Reassuring but uncompromising and self-confident at the same time, his commissioner Radosch – also the result of numerous influences from overseas cinema – immediately wins the audience’s heart, now during interrogations, now at a restaurant table, when he reveals his idiosyncrasy towards spinach.
Mann im Schatten relies almost exclusively on him from a certain point onwards. And thanks to him, this precious noir by Arthur Maria Rabenalt recalls what was made in Hollywood in the same years. This shows that the Austrian film industry, after several decades in which mainly sentimental or musical films set in the world of the Viennese upper class – the so-called Wiener Films – were being produced, was looking for new directions, new ways of understanding cinema itself, and gathering all possible cues from all over the world.
Original title: Mann im Schatten
Directed by: Arthur Maria Rabenalt
Country/year: Austria / 1961
Running time: 95’
Genre: mistery, noir
Cast: Helmut Qualtinger, Ellen Schwiers, Barbara Frey, Katharina Mayberg, Helmuth Lohner, Fritz Tillmann, Peter Neusser, Erik Frey, Gerd Frickhöffer, Robert Lindner, Wolf Neuber, Hans Thimig, Raoul Retzer, Helene Arcon, Ralph Boddenhuser, Felix Czerny, Emil Feldmann, Herbert Fux, Willi Hufnagel, Ossy Kolmann, Traudl Müller, Otto Sauer
Screenplay: Wolfgang Menge
Cinematography: Elio Carniel, Michael Epp
Produced by: ÖFA