Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 22nd, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: West Germany, 1990
Director: Jörg Buttgereit
Writers: Jörg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen
Cast: Hermann Kopp, Heinrich Ebber, Michael Krause, Eva-Maria Kurz, Angelika Hoch, Nicholas Petche, Susanne Betz, Mark Reeder, Hille Saul, Ades Zabel, Jörg Buttgereit, Bela B.
BluRay released: June 9th, 2015
Approximate running time: 76 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 German, Dolby Digital Stereo German
BluRay Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $34.95
After shocking audiences with his debut feature film Jörg Buttgereit decided that he did not want to repeat himself and thus become pigeonholed as a filmmaker. So with his next film Der Todesking he would create a film that is the antithesis of his debut film Nekromantik.
Der Todesking’s narrative is not connected by a protagonist, but by one central theme death. There are seven tales which make up this film’s narrative and In between each of these stories is an image of a rotting corpse. Also there are briefs scenes which open and close the film with a young girl who has been drawing Der Todseking (aka The Death King).
Content wise, where Buttgereit’s debut film was meant to shock audiences with its gruesome imagery. This is not the case with Der Todesking a film which depicts seven deaths and yet when it comes to actually onscreen gore things are rather tame.
Though dialog is sparse in these seven tales about death and its ramifications. This never becomes an issues since it is after all this film’s visuals which drive this film’s narrative. And without a doubt this film’s strongest moment is a scene which involves no people and just a bridge. Reportedly said bridge was notorious for being a place where many had jumped off from it and instead of doing a reenactment of these deaths. The episode is told via a series of tracking shots over the bridge and while this is happening people’s names and their occupations appear onscreen. Ultimately this scene resonates all the more due to its less is more approach to the subject matter at hand. Another of this film’s standout moments visually is the second episode which features a film within a film moment. And this said film which is a recreation of a Naziploation film there is a moment where a man is castrated. This scene is the only moment in the film that is reminiscent Nekromantik.
When it comes to the imagery that appears onscreen in Der Todesking it is aesthetically in line with Jörg Buttgereit’s other films. Also what this film is lacking in shock value, it more than makes up for with its interesting premise which is filled with subtext throughout, most notably the cycle of life.
Der Todesking comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.33:1 aspect ratio. For this released a brand new 2k transfer was created from this film’s original 16mm negative. And the end result is another strong transfer that greatly improves upon all previous home video releases for this film. With increased image clarity, a marked improvement when it comes to contrast and black levels. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and print debris is minimal.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in German and a Dolby Digital stereo mix in German. Both audio mixes are in great shape as dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. Range wise the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix provides a robust sound-scape that also does a great job in regards to the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a postcard, an extensive stills gallery and trailers for Nekromantik (2 minutes 1 second – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive), Der Todesking (2 minutes 21 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive), Nekromantik 2 (1 minute 5 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive), Schramm (1 minute 31 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive) Hot Love (1 minute 10 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive) and Angst (3 minutes 5 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen).
Other extras include an option to play a brief introduction with Jörg Buttgereit before the film (1 minute 14 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a featurette titled ‘The Making of Der Todesking’ (15 minutes 43 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive, in English), an option to listen to the complete score for the film (28 minutes 13 seconds), a documentary titled ‘Corpse Fucking Art’ (58 minutes 11 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive, in English) and an audio commentary with director / co-screenwriter Jörg Buttgereit and co-screenwriter Franz Rodenkirchen.
Topics discussed in the ‘Making of’ featurette include, how the success of Nekromantik pigeonholed him as a horror film that he decided to make a film that was anti horror, the origins of Der Todesking and how film evolved from idea to what ended up in the film, he explains how shot key locations like the camera tracking shots over a bridge and special effects.
The extra titled ‘Corpse Fucking Art’ is essentially the ‘Making of’ featurette that is included with this release and the ‘Making of’ featurettes that were included for Cult Epics Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2 releases.
Topics discussed in this lively audio commentary include,T the opening credits, the score, how there were originally nine episodes and two of these episodes did not make the film’s final cut, their thoughts for the reviews written for the Nekromantik, locations featured in the film, Nazisplotation and how they were never released in Germany, the cast, why there is a lack of gore in this film and various other production related stories. Overall Der Todesking gets a solid release from Cult Epics.
Note: Cult Epics are also releasing this film on DVD.