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Mike_Gauthier

Climbing Film - The White Hell of Pitz Palu

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I was sent a link to The White Hell of Pitz Palu, an old German climbing film. I hear that's it pretty good, so I hope to catch it tomorrow night. Anyway, I wanted to share this w/ cc.com.

 

http://www.theparamount.com/artists/artist.asp?key=407

 

German Expressionist Silents

with Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ

Seattle actor Judith Shahn to translate German subtitles

 

One of the most celebrated mountain films of all time, THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU was also an international box-office success--indeed it was the first German film to play the giant Roxy Theatre in New York City. Riefenstahl stars as a newlywed who gets trapped on a mountain ledge with her husband on their ill-fated honeymoon. While Arnold Fanck staged the outdoor action with his characteristic pictorial flair, the Expressionist director G.W. Pabst was brought in to oversee dramatic scenes shot in the studio. Working for Pabst, Riefenstahl distinguished herself as an accomplished actress among Fanck's gang of mountaineers, and the critics were quick to single her out for praise: "For the heroine, Leni Riefenstahl, renewed and unexpectedly fresh, unexpectedly charming. A flowing free rhythm, breath-catching beauty, genuine alarm. Not blatant or manufactured, but sensed with authenticity."

 

 

 

 

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Still photos from "Pitz" show her in the middle of a 3-person hemp rope on a 70-foot pitch of nearly vertical water ice with no visible anchors. She didn't use a double. Despite this, I strongly suspect the film is pretty schmaltzy.

 

From recent tabloid story:

 

UNTIL she died at 101 in 2003, director Leni Riefenstahl was reviled as an evil cog in the Nazi war machine, churning out pro-Hitler flicks like "Triumph of the Will." But a new book suggests she detested one of the Third Reich's chief architects. In "Leni," out in March, Steven Bach reveals she was repulsed by Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, who would plead for sex despite the metal brace he wore because of a shortened leg.

 

"She referred to him as 'the cripple' in private and was repelled. . . [when] he fell to his knees, clutched at her ankles, and sobbed with desire, or he grabbed her breasts, 'his face completely distorted' with lust," Bach writes. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, according to Bach, leggy Riefenstahl scandalized both the Germans and the Americans when she had a secret affair with U.S. decathlon gold-medal winner Glenn Morris. Their passion was literally bared when Morris "grabbed me in his arms, tore off my blouse, and kissed my breasts, right in the middle of the stadium," Riefenstahl recalled. Morris was later hired by 20th Century Fox to don a loincloth for "Tarzan's Revenge

 

 

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What a pleasant surprise this film turned out to be! I haven't seen "Touching the Void," but from the climbing films I've seen, this one was the best so far.

 

Seeing it at the Paramount made it a "you had to be there moment." AS it turns out, the silent film was accompanied by a pipe organ which really made the film. It was over 2 hours, and the cinematography and acting keep the film going... Esp if you like climbing and the alps. There were some really wild avalanche, rescue and accident scenes. And given the date of the film, I was impressed by how real it all looked. The film maker must have loved mountains, glaciers, and clouds. And they were all skiing and climbing around in nice wool climbing suits... ;)

 

Definitely worth the trip, glad I saw it. Don't know if it's as special on DVD, but maybe worth the try.

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"Expressionist director G.W. Pabst was brought in to oversee dramatic scenes shot in the studio."

 

Must be a true climbing movie if "Pabst" is involved.

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Check out The Holy Mountain Even better than Piz Palu, same director, also starring Riefenstahl. Bellinghammers can find it at Film Is Truth

 

Luis Trenker was a real mountaineer before he started making movies. There is the Trenker route on the First Sella Tower in the Dolomites.

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Watching the Pitz Palu movie tonight from netflix. Wow, great stuff. Makes one feel like a real pansy using goretex, flashlights, and frontpoints. Cool movie.

 

Does swinging a lantern suffice for an electronic signaling device?

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At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, according to Bach, leggy Riefenstahl scandalized both the Germans and the Americans when she had a secret affair with U.S. decathlon gold-medal winner Glenn Morris. Their passion was literally bared when Morris "grabbed me in his arms, tore off my blouse, and kissed my breasts, right in the middle of the stadium," Riefenstahl recalled.

 

Imagine the scandal if her affair had been with the biggest American winner in those Olympics: Jesse Owens. Hitler would've shit his mustache.

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Talk about going lightweight! Guess they planned for a quick summit huh.

 

I would agree the footage in Pitz Palu is impressive. I kept trying to picture in my head how they went about getting some of those shots.

 

I thought it was interesting Leni Riefenstahl said the apex of her creativity was the day WWII broke out in 1939 when climbing in the Dolomites. I had no idea she'd directed Triumph of the Will while I was watching, wow!

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I would like to see a cut of "Holy Mountain" with all the romantic crap pulled out, leaving just the outdoor scenes. I kept getting bored and distracted onto other things, then I would look back and there was cool climbing footage on. As is, I would never watch it again or recommend it.

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Brief quote from current biography reviews....

 

Why Fanck cast Riefenstahl as the star is not entirely clear. She herself never doubted the magic of her personal appeal. Fanck, too, allegedly threatened suicide when Riefenstahl shifted her amorous attentions to the leading man, Luis Trenker (Sokal had already been left pining in the cold, despite his largesse). "All of them were in love with me," she recalled. "Oh, it was a drama always!" But the fact that Harry Sokal offered to finance the movie must have helped her get the part. More than that, Sokal bought out Fanck's company. After The Holy Mountain, Riefenstahl starred in The Great Leap (1927), The White Hell of Piz Palü (1929), and Storm over Mont Blanc (1930).

 

Although none of these films rose above crude melodrama, Fanck had a real talent for visual effects. He was a great experimenter with different lenses, camera angles, and filters. Working with such superb camera-men as Hans Schneeberger (another Riefenstahl conquest), he was a master of dramatic cloud effects and backlighting that gave human figures as well as Alpine landscapes a mystical aura. The hyped-up drama of expressionism was fused in his work with a quasi-religious mood of German Romanticism. Susan Sontag used the phrase "pop-Wagnerian," which seems about right....

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Thanks for the suggestion! Piz Palu is one of my favorite mountains (and the first one I climbed!). It was great to see what the now giant restaurant-lodge used to be like! Plus a fun, action-filled flick that makes all of us today look like wimps... :-P

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