Sunday 21 September 2014

The 66th Hitler: A Party In Hell (1956)

Samuel Khachikian
Olaf Möller, in his introduction to Conference - Notes on Film 05 (Norbert Pfaffenbichler, 2011), speculates on configuration of 65 Hitlers that are assembled and put in a cinematic conference in this 8-minute-long Austrian film: "[Hitler] appears as if from the depths of space, the darkness, and the Erewhin, from beyond the frame. As if through certain gestures, routines and repetitions thereof, variants and variations, a narrative, an essay, a study is created of what's characteristic about Hitler and it spans decades."

The film was shown at Il Cinema Ritrovato as a part of "Cinema at War Against Hitler." I promised Olaf to add a film to that entry, a very fascinating piece of surrealist kitsch from Iranian cinema, A Party In Hell (1956).

Party was partly directed by veteran Iranian filmmaker Samuel Khachikian [picture above], co-directed by rather insignificant Mushegh Sarvarian. It revolves around Haji Jabbar's journey in Hell, visiting famous residents and enjoying half-naked dancers.

Executed with the technique of Ed Wood and the imaginative innocence of Georges Méliès, there is a scene in the film towards the end, when Hitler is seen dancing around the globe (lifted from Chaplin) along with Napoleon and Genghis Khan! That's the 66th Hitler, and as far as I know, the only one from the Middle East. (Any Hitler film made in other Asian countries?)

I have extracted this superb sequence from a horrible copy of the film. If the faces are not clearly visible, please do use your imagination:

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