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Unsichtbare Gegner

Invisible Opponent
Öl ins Feuer

Austria/Germany 1933
produced by
Sascha Film, Pan Film
directed by Rudolf Katscher (= Rudolph Cartier)
starring Gerda Maurus, Paul Hartmann, Oskar Homolka, Peter Lorre, Paul Kemp, Raoul Aslan, Leonard Steckel, H. Kyser, Eva Schmid-Kayser, Jaro Fürth, John Mylong, Otto Schmöle
idea by Ludwig von Wohl, screenplay by Philipp Lothar Mayring, Heinrich Oberländer, Reinhart Steinbicker, music by Rudolph Schwarz

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Delmonte (Raoul Aslan) owns a worthless, dried up oilfield in South America, but he still wants to sell it to Europa Oil for an enormous amount of money based on an outdated expertise by his employee Ugron (Paul Hartmann). Ugron, fearing for his reputation, quits his job with Delmonte and wants to talk him out of it, and as it happens, they both find themselves on the same German-bound cruiseship. But on the boat, Delmonte shows only little interest in Ugron's reservations, and all the more in youns Sybil (Gerda Meraus), a young and pretty fellow passenger who for some reason feels drawn to him ...

This all is only half the situation though, because what neither Delmonte nor Ugron know is that there is a ruthless businessman, Santos (Leonard Steckel), out there who wants to prevent Delmonte from selling to Europa Oil by all means - so he can get his hands on the oilfields himself. So he has placed two of his men, Pless (Peter Lorre) and Godfrey (Oskar Homolka) on the ship who have hired Sybil to get close to Delmonte and spy him out. Santos figures if Delmonte fails to show up to an Europa Oil board meeting, everything will be over and done, and he tells his men to somehow detain Delmonte for three days. But while Pless and Godfrey still try to figure out a way to do this, Delmonte buys himself a seat on the mailplane to arrive even ahead of schedule. In his desperation to keep Delmonte from destroying Santos' plans, Godfrey throws him overboard. Sybil, who witnesses this, only now begins to realize what she has gotten herself into, and she also gets pretty friendly with Ugron, but she seems to be unable to escape the grips of Pless and Godfrey.

Godfrey in the meantime disguises himself as Delmonte to make it to land on the mailplane in his stead ... and gets himself into a heap of trouble when he is welcomed as Delmonte by the chairmen of Europa Oil. Suddenly, he finds himself playing a dangerous charade ... that gets all the sweeter for him when the the boss of Europa Oil offers him a $100,000 bribe if he seals the deal with the company.

Meanwhile though, Ugron has arrived in town as well, and he could destroy everything, but so have Pless and Sybil, and they try everything in their power to keep him from doing so, even go so far as to blame him for the disappearance of Godfrey (remember, since Godfrey is now Delmonte, it must have been Godfrey who has gone overboard). And suddenly, Ugron, who wanted to do nothing but save his reputation and prevent (the real) Delmonte from sealing a crooked deal, finds himself on the run from the police. But while Sybil was partly to blame for getting him into the tough spot, it's also her who helps getting him out again, helping him every step along the way.

Finally, Ugron receives a cabled photograph from South America showing the real Delmonte, which just about clears him, and then the police arrives ... almost too late, maybe, because Europa Oil and Godfrey have already inked the deal and he and Pless are on their way to the bank to cash their $100,000 check.

The big finale has Godfrey, Pless, Santos, Ugron, Sybille, the police and dozens of customers locked inside the bank after the bank has received news that the Mr Delmonte who's cashing his check is actually a fake, and now Godfrey panics, draws a gun, starts a shootout, locks himself inside the bank's vault ... and ultimately shoots himself, seeing there is no way out, both literally and metaphorically.

 

A crimemovie that suffers from quite a few setbacks: The plot has a few too many holes to fully engage the audience, the central character Ugron is a bit lifeless due to lack of sufficient motivation and a pale performance by Paul Hartmann, and the whole thing is a bit talky at times, loses itself in unnecessary supporting characters like Ugron's sister (Eva Schmid-Kayser) and her fiancé (Paul Kemp), shows irony at all the wrong spots, and lacks any real action (considering it's a man-on-the-run-film). However, at least Peter Lorre and Oskar Homolka give enjoyably meaty performances, and the scenes where Homolka despairs locked inside the bank's vault shows real inspiration. Still, nothing to write home about.

 

By the way, Invisible Opponent was simultaneously shot in French as Les Requins du pétrole (1933, Rudolf Katscher, Henri Decoin), with Lorre playing the same part in both versions.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

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directed by
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written by
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