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The long-awaited demise of Hitler's bodyguard, Rochus Misch, had finally arrived. His death at age 96 brings to mind my one and only dust-up with Bund-lovin' brown shirts.

It was one of the first films I remember driving to after my dad "tipped" the automaton at the DMV ten bucks to buy his kid a license. Commissioned by Hitler in 1934, Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl's stirring Nazi recruitment film, remains one of the most powerful, controversial, and influential pieces of propaganda ever produced.

My interest in Triumph stemmed from a censorious incident that occurred while attending Chicago's Columbia College. History professor, Bob Edmonds, did everything in his power to block a proposed personal appearance by Ms. Riefenstahl. Never mind separating the art from the artist. Edmonds was unmovable; in no way was a Nazi going to be granted free speech on his watch.

Edmonds' will be done; a chance to see the long-banned film was placed on the back burner.

But not for long.

Several months after the boycott, The 3 Penny Cinema secured a 16mm print of the contentious documentary for a one night only screening. A 1912 Nickelodeon converted into a garage and then in the late '30's back into a theatre, The 3 Penny was hands down Chicago's most undesirable single screen. What better place to welcome a bunch of jeering Nazi-wannabes?

Eager and curious, an audience of 30 sat waiting for the curtain to rise on the banned objet d'art. A few minutes prior to showtime, the theatre began filling up with arm-banded goons. Hitler's first appearance on screen was greeted with applause.

The print wasn't subtitled and not many in the audience impressed me as being bilingual. That didn't stop them from cheering on the message.

Aside from gales of reverent applause every time Hitler hit the screen, nothing inside the theatre interrupted the showing. Halfway through the film squad car sirens could be heard pulling up to the theatre as cops were called to help squelch an outside rally.

The bubble gum lights of the police cars were still blinking as the crowd exited the theatre. Never before was I so happy to see Chicago's finest.

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Burwell Sept. 6, 2013 @ 3:45 p.m.

It's shocking that genetic tests show Hitler had Jewish ancestry.


Scott Marks Sept. 6, 2013 @ 3:56 p.m.

Here is all the proof I need! That goes double for restricted Country Club proprietor, Arthur Godfrey.



Yankeedoodle Sept. 7, 2013 @ 5:20 p.m.

We rented Triumph of the Will a few years ago. One can see where it made its impact, given the times. She used many innovative techniques to make Adolph look manly and decisive and warm. Yeah, she did.

As I recall, it starts with shots from/of the plane in which he arrived, such that he is like a Savior descending from the clouds. Wild. I especially liked the part where the young men are getting ready for the rally, en masse, and snapping at each other with towels:)

I also remember another movie that came out quite a few years ago, called The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. It was most interesting that she quite brightened up when this masterpiece was mentioned and talked oodles about it. Life is strange.


Burwell Sept. 7, 2013 @ 6:47 p.m.

Riefenstahl is most remembered for her work on the 1960s TV series Hogan's Heroes.


Yankeedoodle Sept. 8, 2013 @ 1:04 p.m.

Scott: I don't think she invented the tracking techniques and crane shots, as much as she used them really effectively and imaginatively. Apparently, some of that stuff had been done in sports films, but I don't really know the details. There is some argument there.


Scott Marks Sept. 8, 2013 @ 7:16 p.m.

Leni no sooner invented the crane shot than she did the Snuggie. Shame on you, Yank, for not getting my reference to Bob 'Col. Hogan' Crane.


Yankeedoodle Sept. 8, 2013 @ 11:48 p.m.

Scott: Hence the fact that you were replying to the Hogan's Heroes remark by Burwell. Well, confession: I never have seen a Hogan's Heroes episode although I have seen bits and pieces of them. So, 'crane shot' very good but yes, like a crane, went right over my head.


Scott Marks Sept. 9, 2013 @ 12:42 p.m.

What funnier than a concentration camp sitcom?


Yankeedoodle Sept. 9, 2013 @ 2:29 p.m.

I wouldn't know. I heard it had many fans.


Yankeedoodle Sept. 8, 2013 @ 4 p.m.

Burwell: Oh no, I think you mean Lubitsch's 1942 film, To Be or Not To Be.


shirleyberan Sept. 7, 2013 @ 7:14 p.m.

My husband was from Chicago, he was Catholic. Amazing Reifenstahl only sees a picture.


shirleyberan Sept. 7, 2013 @ 7:48 p.m.

He was from Lincolnwood - Irish-Catholic and Al Capone's book-keeper's wife Sadie Guzniak was his grandmother's friend. I'm part German, farmers I'm sure.


shirleyberan Sept. 8, 2013 @ 3:38 p.m.

Scott - How-The-Hell did he live that long?


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