Battle for Blonde

Original Title: Kampf um Blond. (Mädchen, die spurlos verschwinden.) Human trafficking drama 1932; 86 min.; Director: Jaap Speyer; Cast: Ursula Grabley, Edith Meinhard, Hertha von Walther, Herti Kirchner, Harry Frank, Alfred Beierle, Albert Lieven, Paul Heidemann, John Mylong, Harry Hardt, Otto Kronburger, Leonard Steckel; Deltz-Union-Tobis-Klangfilm.

A dance troupe destined for the Balkans becomes a subject of suspicion for the police. A female officer infiltrates the group, getting hired there. After encountering numerous dangers and with the assistance of a colleague, she manages to rescue a young girl and neutralize the criminals.

Lotte and Daisy, wards of a reform school, have escaped. After an adventurous journey, they arrive in Berlin where they meet Mr. Lipkowicz, who takes care of them and gives them the address of Frau Kluge, a woman looking for dancers for an international engagement. The reform school reports Daisy and Lotte’s escape to the police headquarters, falling under the jurisdiction of criminal investigators Dr. Weber and Dr. Berg, with Jessie Körner working as a police secretary. Due to an increase in cases of missing young girls, they thoroughly investigate all leads, frequently encountering the name Frau Kluge but unable to prove any wrongdoing. Jessie Körner shares her plan with Dr. Weber to be recruited by Frau Kluge as a dancer to uncover the secret.

Lotte and Daisy are hired by Frau Kluge based on Lipkowicz’s recommendation. Jessie Körner manages to obtain a contract as a dancer as well. Their journey begins, heading to Sagossa, an oriental city where they are to perform at the “Moulin Rouge.” Eight girls have been hired by Frau Kluge. During the train ride, Lotte meets Victor, a young man also traveling to Sagossa, and they develop feelings for each other. The “Moulin Rouge” is a venue with a mix of European and oriental character, attracting a diverse audience. After the show, the girls are expected to entertain the guests.

Lotte finds herself in a compromising situation when she is led to a private box by a Levantine man, unable to defend herself against his advances. Victor comes to her rescue and punches the man. Meanwhile, Jessie continues her active investigation. She overhears a conversation between Frau Kluge and the director of the “Moulin Rouge,” strengthening her belief that she is on the right track. Jessie witnesses Frau Kluge making a long-distance call to Berlin and manages to discover the number from which the call was made. However, the director of the “Moulin Rouge” spots Jessie and reports her observation to Frau Kluge. Suspecting Jessie’s intentions, Frau Kluge searches her belongings and finds her stolen police identification card. Determined to make Jessie disappear, Frau Kluge sets her plan in motion.

Despite her predicament, Jessie instructs Victor to send a telegram to Dr. Berg at the Berlin Police Headquarters, requesting assistance in locating the owner of the telephone line from which Frau Kluge received the call. Suddenly, two men posing as criminal investigators arrive, arresting Jessie. She realizes her identification card has been stolen, leaving her no choice but to follow the false investigators. Meanwhile, Victor learns of Jessie’s arrest and suspects Frau Kluge’s involvement. Frau Kluge signals a man to follow Victor, preventing him from going to the police.

In Berlin, Dr. Berg discovers that the owner of the telephone line, Alexander Lipkowicz, is a dangerous criminal and joins forces with Dr. Weber to investigate further. They search Lipkowicz’s apartment, finding incriminating evidence, but Lipkowicz manages to escape arrest. Dr. Berg rushes to the airport to personally take charge of the Kluge case in Sagossa. Meanwhile, the girls are dismissed by the director, claiming they are incomplete without Jessie, leaving them bewildered. Frau Kluge seizes the opportunity and offers them a new engagement, loading them into three cars.

Dr. Berg arrives in Sagossa and learns from the local police that his colleague, Jessie Körner, was taken aboard a ship by false criminal investigators. Victor, who was also kidnapped but freed himself, informs Dr. Berg. They manage to stop two cars during the pursuit, but the third one, with Lotte inside, escapes. However, Lipkowicz is on board the ship where Jessie has been abducted and Lotte taken. Dr. Berg and Victor reach the ship using a motorboat. A dramatic scene unfolds below deck involving Lipkowicz, Jessie, and Lotte. A fight ensues, and Jessie manages to neutralize Lipkowicz.

At that moment, Victor appears and takes the partially unconscious Lotte to the deck, with Jessie following. However, the sailors overpower Dr. Berg, causing him to fall into the sea. The attention now turns to Victor, and he is thrown overboard as well. Lipkowicz spots a harbor police motorboat approaching and attempts to escape using the motorboat brought by Dr. Berg and Victor, forcing Lotte to join him. The police boat that rescued Dr. Berg and Victor gives chase. Both boats land on the rocky shore, one after another. Dr. Berg pursues Lipkowicz and catches up with him on a rocky ledge, leading to an exciting fight that ends with Lipkowicz plunging into the depths.

j-n.’s review in Film Kurier No. 003 (January 3, 1933)
The film’s subtitle is “Mädchen, die spurlos verschwinden” (Girls Who Disappear Without a Trace). The theme revolves around human trafficking, a subject with which director Jaap Speyer has been familiar for years. Upon watching this film, one might exclaim, “Wow, time doesn’t fly!” The old, familiar faces greet us as if awakened from an enchanted slumber: the young, impulsive police officer, and the older, more moderate one; the suave gentleman-swindler, elegant without ever revealing how he affords such luxury. Airplanes, cars, motorboats, luxury trains, and provocative bars, one thing setting the other in motion. The villains possess a keen sense for the good and unsuspecting, relentlessly pursuing them. Sorrow races, seeking its victim!

In this film, we witness a variation of the story about dancers sought-after in South America, following a proven and captivating blend. The new twist, known from the revue Beine und Banditen, involves one of the girls infiltrating the group of dancers, being less naïve than the others and, in this case, playing the role of a criminal secretary.

The plot takes us to Sagossa, to Veracruz. These beautiful, picturesque locations are carefully chosen by the criminals for their victims, leaving the audience astonished by the abundance of beauty in the world.

We become engrossed in the captivating portrayal of two female characters, Edith Meinhard and Herta Kirchner. Kirchner exudes timidity, with blond hair and helplessness, evoking the image of a pure, straightforward child. On the other hand, Meinhard portrays determination, cunning, and maturity beyond her years. She exudes a bit of brashness, perfectly fitting the character’s savvy nature while remaining entirely likable. Meinhard’s performance is convincing, and there’s a sense that something is stirring within her.

Jaap Speyer masterfully places her alongside Ursula Grabley, creating a pair that bears a striking resemblance in photographs. However, the resemblance does not work to Grabley’s advantage.

The audience eagerly embraces the outstanding performances of several characters, including the heartbreaker Paul Heidemann and the jovial and plump police officer played by Beierle.

A particularly captivating figure is the suave swindler played by Jack Mylong-Münz. He moves naturally, exuding superiority and masculinity, leaving us eager to see him again soon.

The ensemble consistently features excellent characters played by Harry Frank, Leonard Steckel, Fritz Greiner, Harry Hardt, and F. A. Lieven.

The film culminates in an exciting chase, during which the participants encounter all sorts of obstacles. Fans of action-packed fare will undoubtedly find it enjoyable!

Three catchy songs, composed by Willy Rosen and Fritz Wenneis (with lyrics by Günther Schwenn and Peter Schaeffers, who also wrote the screenplay that didn’t fully exploit its potential), leave a lasting impression. The music significantly enhances the overall cinematic experience. The sets, authentically designed by Heinrich Richter, add to the film’s immersive atmosphere. Emil Schünemann’s cinematography precisely captures the characteristics of people and objects.

After the premiere, the cast had the opportunity to express their gratitude for the audience’s enthusiastic applause.