Saturday, November 5, 2011

Black Fox: The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler (1962)

Here's something different.

Black Fox is a war documentary that cuts between the life of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and a 12th century folk tale. Reynard the Fox was a cunning killer with a quick tongue perfect for getting him out of trouble. His reassuring words also soothed the worries of other animals. It's an apt comparison to Hitler.


Add in narration for Marlene Dietrich (Witness for the Prosecution, Destry Rides Again) and an often jarring score from Ezra Laderman and Black Fox is a documentary that is a little off-the-beaten path.

There are no interviews in this film, just Dietrich's off-camera narration and mountains of archival photographs, film footage and artwork from talent such as Pablo Picasso, George Grosz and Gustave Dore.


Black Fox offers a solid base tracing Hitler's rise to power beginning with his disillusionment with the defeat of Germany in the First World War.

A message runner on the western front for four years, Hitler was wounded twice and temporarily blinded by a British gas attack.

Hitler blamed Jews, Communists and pacifists for his country's defeat in the four-year war.

An attempted putsch in 1923 didn't end well for Hitler, but he soon developed a more cunning approach to seizing political power. The German military was still a strong force in the European country post-First World War. Hitler pushed military might to attract support while eliminating rivals within his own party. Free speech? Not under Hitler's rule. Books are burned. Writers and artists were exiled, put in prison or killed.

Black Fox offers numerous graphic shots of Nazi atrocities before, and during, the Second World War. Parents of younger viewers taken note. Shootings, hangings, incineration and mass graves are all depicted in this film.

Black Fox reminds viewers of the numerous opportunties countries such as England, France and United States had to challenge Hitler before Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Fear of war, and lack of preparation, stopped this possibility.

Black Fox quickly skips by 1941 to 1944 with a montage of shots including the liberation of France, invasion of Italy and bombing of Germany, before ending with Hitler's last hours.

This nearly 50-year-old documentary's big strengths are its description of how Hitler seized power and its prominent use of artwork to depict one of the darkest times mankind has known.

RATING: 7.5/10

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