A Special Klaus Kinski Film Jukebox by Raechel Leigh Carter

Raechel Leigh Carter

Raechel Leigh Carter fronted mid-90s pop band Baby Birkin, a band styled around the works of Serge Gainsbourg and his muse Jane Birkin (plus the occasional Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Brigitte Bardot song), who released a Russell Senior-produced album on Dishy as well as numerous singles. Raechel also contributed vocals to Mike Alway’s faux-psych band Sunshine Day and to cult band Piano Magic. A Klaus Kinski obsessive, she now runs the Du Dumme Sau blog that, even if you’re not a particular fan of Klaus, is very entertaining and will surely lead to a hunt for the featured films. Over to Raechel… Delia Sparrer

Most people remember Klaus Kinski solely for his five collaborations with Werner Herzog and there’s a tendency to write off the rest of his film work; considering that he acted in between 100 and 200 films (no one really knows the exact number), that’s a lot of work to write off. And while there’s a lot of trash among his filmography, if you look closely (and I do) there are quite a few gems there too. Here’s ten lesser known Klaus Kinski films I’d recommend:

1. Kinski Paganini (1989)
Klaus directed himself in this film, which was his final film before he died in 1991. Klaus had an affinity with the virtuoso ‘devil violinist’ Niccol&#242 Paganini and was driven to create this movie, which he wrote, directed and starred in. There’s genius, there’s sex, there’s hero-worship, there’s craziness. Klaus proved Werner Herzog wrong by filming a script that Herzog had deemed to be ‘unfilmable’ and making it into a stylish and very personal work of art.

2. The Great Silence (1968)
This is a fabulous Italian Western, which I can’t recommend enough. Klaus plays Loco, a bounty killer looking for outlaws in the Nevada mountains, who finds himself being pursued by a mute gunman (il grande silenzio) looking for revenge. The path is paved with corpses. See this film now!

3. Footprints on the Moon (1975)
Florinda Bolkan’s character Alice suffers from memory loss, nightmares about a film called Footprints on the Moon and feelings of paranoia and persecution. Klaus plays the bad Professor Blackmann, who, while although little seen, has a lot to do with Alice’s state of mind. There’s beautiful cinematography, a great soundtrack and the perfect cast in this incredibly stylish thriller.

4. Lifespan (1975)
Klaus, the mysterious ‘Swiss Man’, wants to live forever so he engages a young scientist to find a ‘cure for ageing’ – along the way there are a few dead OAPs left behind. Even though Tina Aumont’s clothes fall off at the drop of a hat (she engages in a bit of bondage with Hiram Keller and has a kinky sex scene with Klaus, who is wearing a mask that was used in 1937 when Faust was performed for the Nazis…), this film has substance and a lot of style and gives you plenty to think about.

5. Nosferatu in Venice (1988)
In this kind of unofficial sequel to Herzog’s Nosferatu (1979), Klaus reprises his role as a vampire bringing with him a sadness and world-weariness that makes his character’s wish to end his immortal life utterly believable. Beautiful to look at but heartbreaking to behold, this film is massively underrated. Klaus was so naughty on set that there were several directors involved and he even claimed that he had to direct himself in the end.

6. Crawlspace (1986)
Klaus plays a landlord who traps his young female tenants and slowly tortures them to death. When one of the tenants goes into the crawlspace to escape from him, Klaus follows her, wearing a hideous cardigan, black eyeliner and smeared lipstick, riding down the crawlspace on a trolley. It’s the stuff of nightmares! It’s so bad, it’s good. And Klaus created so much chaos on set that the director David Schmoeller later made a film about his experience called Please Kill Mr Kinski (1999).

7. Fruits of Passion (1989)
This is a sequel to The Story of O (1975). Klaus plays Sir Stephen, who makes his girlfriend O go and work in a bordello to ‘test their insane pact of violent love’, as you do. That’s right, it’s an erotic art-house film. But it’s full of far more visual pleasures than just female nudity; it’s stylish, it’s clever and it’s very theatrical. And there’s something for the girls: you get to see Klaus’s hot old man body in its full glory (it’s worth a good look!).

8. The Pleasure Girls (1965)
Klaus plays a slum landlord who pays for his menacing ways with a beating and a whipping in an underground car park. This film about Swinging London in the 60s takes in beatniks, compulsive gambling, pregnancy outside of wedlock, homosexuality and extramarital affairs. These days it may seem tame but back in the day one viewer complained that The Pleasure Girls would ‘incite juvenile violence at holiday weekends’!

9. Jack the Ripper (1976)
If you’re looking for a good Jess Franco film, here’s one I recommend. There’s great cinematography, and for once the story doesn’t involve women’s clothes falling off every five minutes for no apparent reason. Klaus plays a Jekyll and Hyde version of Jack the Ripper – Dr Dennis Orloff – who kills prostitutes as a way of getting revenge for the abuse he suffered as a child. Klaus plays his character in the only way he can, with ‘a kind of madness that could be transformed into brilliance’ and a sense of pain and torment.

10. That Most Important Thing: Love (1977)
When a photographer borrows money from the mafia to turn a soft-core porn actress (played by Romy Schneider) into a Shakespearean thespian, who does he turn to for help? Yes, Klaus Kinski! So you know it’s going to end in tears for someone (or everyone). Klaus gets dramatic, camps it up as a homosexual, has fist fights, takes his clothes off, sleeps with two women and then cries while looking out of a rain-spattered window. Andrzej Zulawski’s film is incredibly pretentious but also very, very stylish.

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