1981. Austria. Peter Patzak. 113 min.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 4:00 p.m.
Theater 2 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2), T2
1981. Austria. Directed by Peter Patzak. Screenplay by Helmut Zenker, Patzak. With Bibiane Zeller, Ernst Konarek, Fred Schaffer. By 1980, the great cycle of European political thrillers about high-level, all-too-real corruption had almost run its course. It received a shot in the arm, though, with this richly textured film, set in Vienna at a time when the city was roiling with a political corruption scandal of its own. The Uppercrust is fueled by a deep love of American “B” movies—much more so than French and Italian variations on the genre. Frank Gorshin, a wonderful American actor whose career unfortunately never took off—brief fame as The Riddler on the 1960s Batman series notwithstanding—has the role of a lifetime as an American hit man lured to Vienna for his latest job. Though the film opens with him bumping off a legend in San Francisco (Broderick Crawford, in one of his last roles), the shores of the gray Danube hold a much more unnerving set of challenges for him, including a nearly wordless intimacy with a fellow loner, a single woman whose apartment he commandeers. Screenwriter/novelist Helmut Zenker, author of the great Schwitzkasten, and director Peter Patzak (to whom Martin Scorsese pays passing tribute by name in After Hours) were central figures during the brief “first wave” of New Austrian Cinema in the late 1970s and early 80s. Their most famous creation was the gruff Viennese police detective Adolf Kottan in a series of cult movies for television (1976–83). Kottan also finds his way into The Uppercrust, but even he is no match for the larger and more sinister forces of corruption at work. Courtesy Filmarchiv Austria and Peter Patzak. In German; English subtitles. 113 min.