Original Title: Teilnehmer antwortet nicht. (Das letzte Spiel.) Crime drama 1932; 80 min.; Director: Marc Sorkin, Rudolph Cartier; Cast: Dorothea Wieck, Gustaf Gründgens, Gustav Diessl, Truus van Aalten, Teddy Bill, Eugen Burg, Bernhard Goetzke, Tibor Halmay, Hans Hardt, Hans Henninger, Wolfgang Klein; Elite-Tobis-Klangfilm.
The safes supplied by a specific factory are continuously being opened with duplicate keys. A police commissioner is searching for the copier and suspects a driving school owner as the thief. The son of the cash register manufacturer also tries to expose him, but ends up being suspected of being the burglar himself. Eventually, he ends up with the secretary of the driving school owner, who is finally caught.
Mysterious safe break-ins have put the entire city on edge. Money vaults are being opened without any signs of violence, and the targets are consistently the safes from Akkermann & Son. The police are perplexed, except for Commissioner Roller, the head of the burglary department, who remains steadfast in his belief. He has been following a lead for some time that he believes will lead him to the culprit: Nikolai, a smooth and elegant driving instructor who appears to use his driving school as a cover. In reality, Nikolai is the leader of a dangerous gang of burglars who are likely responsible for the Akkermann break-ins. However, Roller lacks concrete evidence against Nikolai, who consistently manages to escape due to his airtight alibis.
Over time, an irreconcilable enmity has grown between Nikolai and Roller. While Roller discovers that the safes are being opened using skillfully crafted duplicate keys, Nikolai catches a supposed unemployed locksmith breaking into his apartment. Recognizing the potential in the young man, Konrad Quandt, Nikolai involves him in his criminal plans once Konrad proves his trustworthiness. Nikolai’s secretary, a beautiful young woman who valiantly resists her boss’s dark intentions, becomes attracted to Konrad’s fresh and open demeanor.
Unexpectedly, Roller conducts a search at Nikolai’s place, causing Nikolai and Doris to fear capture. However, Konrad cleverly saves the situation with a surprising idea, forcing Roller and the detectives to leave empty-handed. Despite Konrad’s actions, Nikolai feels no gratitude. He believes that Konrad’s confident demeanor has ruined his chances with Doris and fears that Konrad will outshine him professionally. Consequently, Nikolai begins contemplating a way to get rid of his troublesome employee.
Meanwhile, Konrad has fallen in love with Doris, a delicate and quiet beauty. He seeks to understand why she, who clearly doesn’t belong in this criminal world, is involved with the gang. Unfortunately, Doris cannot provide a sufficient answer due to her intense fear of Nikolai. However, when Konrad promises to help her escape, she realizes his genuine love and agrees to his plan.
During this time, Nikolai discovers Konrad’s true identity. Consumed by intense hatred, he decides to teach Konrad a lesson he will never forget. As Nikolai secretly prepares for his next heist, breaking into a diamond cutting shop, he stations an accomplice on the street. Through a skillful maneuver, Konrad is lured to the crime scene long after Nikolai has fled, and the alarm is quickly raised. The police arrive to find Konrad in front of the looted safe, and despite his protests of innocence, he is seen as the culprit and sentenced.
The trap has been set, and the police triumph, believing they have finally captured the long-sought-after criminal. However, Commissioner Roller, the sole believer in Konrad’s desperate claims of innocence, suspects that his freedom won’t last long, as he exchanges a knowing glance with Doris. Roller visits Nikolai in his apartment and, with Doris’s assistance, who has learned of Konrad’s misfortune, he manages to expose the criminal and force him to confess through a brilliant scheme. Konrad is released, but Commissioner Roller suspects, with a mischievous smile aimed at Doris, that this freedom won’t endure for long.
-g.’s review in Film Kurier No. 196 (August 20, 1932)
This is a solid, well-constructed crime film that effectively entertains its audience for an hour and a half. What sets it apart from many similar works is its clear and straightforward plot, avoiding confusing viewers with a barrage of unexplained and mysterious events. Authors Egon and Otto Eis, along with Rudolf Katscher, understand the limitations of portraying complex criminal entanglements in film. The film takes the audience through the peculiar incidents of safe break-ins, showcasing how a cunning thief bypasses the laborious task of cracking safes by obtaining duplicate keys. Eventually, the viewers witness the triumph of the police over their adversary.
Co-directed by Rudolf Katscher and Marc Sorkin, the film doesn’t introduce groundbreaking elements but demonstrates a sense of impact, avoiding risky experiments that could jeopardize their debut work. The direction impresses with its refreshing approach to cinematic elements, often revealing the dedicated efforts of those involved. A group of police trainees provides fresh energy to the film, frequently appearing together, encountering setbacks, and ultimately making valuable contributions. The scenes where these young individuals speed away on their motorcycles to achieve something are visually appealing and vibrant. They embody the deep yearning felt by countless young people who aspire to create but find themselves restrained.
With a carefully chosen cast, the film achieves success. Gustaf Gründgens delivers another notable performance, portraying the criminal with dignity without turning him into a hero. Gustav Dießl, playing his antagonist, exhibits a relaxed and free demeanor, capturing the audience’s attention with his charming and elegant gestures. Unfortunately, Dorothea Wieck has limited material to work with, highlighting the need for a director to recognize her potential once again. Oskar Sima impresses as a determined detective, delivering impactful moments. Wladimir Sokoloff and Truus van Alten showcase their talent through their performances, highlighting their unjust neglect in the casting process. Tibor von Halmay, Harry Hardt, Hans Henninger, Eugen Burg, Teddy Bill, Wolfgang Klein, and Hertha von Walther also deserve acknowledgment for their contributions.
The film’s music, composed by Otto Stransky, is generally well-done, although there is one song that feels somewhat arbitrarily inserted. Musical direction is handled by Hans I. Salter. The technical aspects of the film are flawless, with Franz Planer’s cinematography particularly standing out in the outdoor shots. Alfred Junge’s set design and Jansen’s sound camera further contribute to the film’s quality. Production management is credited to C. H. Jarosy.
This film demonstrates that regional distributors have a significant influence in the upcoming season, as they have proven with its success. The initial premiere was a promising start, and theater owners will undoubtedly be pleased to include this high-quality film in their schedules.