Sunday, October 5, 2008


"What A Way to Die" (*1/2 out of ****) concerns two true-life criminals that raised hell in Germany during the early years of the Third Reich. Velte (Spaghetti western star William Berger) and Sandweg (Helmut Formbacker) steal cars, rob banks, gun down citizens as well as cops, and make love to thrill-seeking chicks throughout this aimless epic. Formbacker also directed this monotonous melodrama that boasts beautiful scenery, artistic photography, but little in the way of substantial drama. Formbacker's obsession with wide-angle lens becomes tedious after an hour or two as does his reliance on carefully obscured sex scenes. The Monterey Video VHS copy of this film matted out frontal male nudity and some female nudity during the sexual liaisons. Other than Velte's antipathy to Adolf Hitler, we learn very little about these guys and what motivated them to embark on a life of crime. The lackluster screenplay by Martin Roda-Becher and director Formbacker provides no surprises, zero tension, and little in the way of characterization. The humor is also sparse. Sure, they steal a car when the owners are skinny dipping with their girlfriends but such scenes are worth only with a smirk or two at best. Similarly, the dialogue is bland with no quotable lines. The most intense moments, such as when they decide not to leave Germany, are minimal with monosyllabic dialogue. Formbacker relies far too heavily on his lush visuals to tell a story. Neither Berger nor Formbacker imbue their characters with any trace of charisma. They enjoy their wayward life of crime until about an hour into the action when the German authorities get wise to them. The final scene occurs in a park and our buddies find themselves completely surrounded by the police with no way out. Predictably, they die. Twenty minutes into this biography you will find yourself tempted to hit the fast-forward button. The only redeeming feature is the scrupulous attention to period detail. Skip this movie unless you need an excuse to fall asleep.

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