Despite the fact that, contrary to Bettauer’s book, the film is more a comedy rather than a real plea against antisemitism, and that it includes pretty negative archetypes against Jews, screenings of the film were actually subject to disturbances by NSDAP members. Furthermore Bettauer, who had not approved the changes made by Brelauer, was assassinated a few months later by a Nazi who, although accused as an “assassin”, had to spend only a few months in various mental hospitals and was released in 1927 without further requirements.
After initial screenings notably in Vienna, Berlin and New-York, the film was no longer seen after the accession of the Nazis to power in Germany and their annexation of Austria. A last screening took place in Amsterdam in 1933 in the context of an event against Hitler’s Germany. After that, the film was believed to be lost until an incomplete copy with Dutch intertitles was discovered in 1991 in the archives of the Dutch Film Museum and was restored by the Austrian Film Archive. A better preserved copy was found in 2015 on a Paris flea market and again restored by the Austrian Film Archive thanks to a crowd-funding campaign.
I am very ambivalent about this film. On the one end, with hindsight, it appears as surprisingly premonitory of what was going to happen in a much worse version 10 to 15 years later and can appear therefore as a strong plea against antisemitism. On the other hand, the film is a comedy relying heavily on classic antisemitic archetypes both in the physical description of some of the characters and even more in their actions: jewish bankers abroad are speculating against the Krone and it is only by deception that Leo manages to have the decree repealed. Its conclusion actually seems to be that the Jews are a necessary evil. I find the film nevertheless fascinating if only by the way it shows the normality of antisemitism in Austria in the 1920’s.
1.98GB | 1h 30m | 760×576 | mkv