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East Berlin, The Movie
Posted July 27, 2011 to photo album "East Berlin, The Movie"
From the 1948 spy movie Berlin Express to John Madden’s 2011 thriller The Debt, East Berlin has been a film destination for intrigue, espionage, and political tension. We take a look at how this European capital has changed in the decades since Berlin was divided after the end of World War II.
1962: Escape from East Berlin
A ripped-from-the-headlines story, this drama based on an actual escape that happened on January 15, 1962 was rushed into production by MGM. Erwin Becker, a chauffeur from the East German Parliament, led 28 people, including his girlfriend, to the West by tunneling under the newly constructed Berlin Wall. German-born, U.S.-based director Robert Siodmak was hired to direct. Siodmak, who’d made some of Hollywood’s best film noirs, wasn’t all that interested in the political angle of Escape from East Berlin. Some critics, like Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, applauded the film’s psychological weight, noting, how the “Berlin locales [were] effectively realistic.” He added that “Mr. Siodmak has a way of imbuing a physical action with meaningful symbolic overtones that give his little thriller a depth.” Many Europeans, however, couldn’t see past Escape from East Berlin’s obvious propagandistic appeal. Both the left and the right condemned its simplicity to such a degree that Secretary of State Dean Rusk had to go on damage control by pushing NBC to cancel a special broadcast of the movie. Siodmak, who was never a fan of the movie’s polemical tone, noted that it was “an insignificant film produced by MGM and destined for middle-class America…[where] it was a success."