Raid in St. Pauli

Original Title: Razzia in St. Pauli. Urban drama 1932; 74 min.; Director: Werner Hochbaum; Cast: Gina Falckenberg, Friedrich Gnaß, Wolfgang Zilzer, Charly Wittong, Max Zilzer, Ernst Busch; Orbis-Lignose-Hörfilm.

A street girl lives with a musician. She hopes to escape St. Pauli with the help of a tough guy. At the eleventh hour, he gets arrested. Now she returns to her musician.

Ballroom-Else, one of the many street girls from St. Pauli in Hamburg, finds life with Leo, a drunken weakling musician, unbearable. And when she encounters Sailor Karl, a notorious burglar who seems to understand her secret longing, she falls in love with him. They both decide to leave Hamburg. Their plan is to go to the Kongo Bar, the gathering spot for crooks and girls, to inform Leo that Else is leaving him forever. Karl is wanted by the police for a burglary. A terrible battle erupts in the Kongo Bar between the underworld and the policemen, leading to Karl being overwhelmed and taken away. His final cry for Else is, “I’ll be back.” The girl, desperate and hopeless, returns to her little room with Leo, just like every other day.

Anonymous review in Film Kurier No. 118 (May 21, 1932)
The evening offers many fruitful aspects, even engaging with film politics—and there is no unpleasant song. It is worth noting with pleasure that Lignose sound film is on par with other recording systems. The music resonates fully, and the dubbed dialogue possesses depth and color. In the past, new sound film systems faced temporary injunctions, but this time the court battle was absent, allowing independent production to seize attention.

Rather than sound discord, could it be distorted images?

No, it is precisely in its visual imagery that the film exerts a strong albeit haphazard effect. A young man has made his mark in Hamburg’s cultural films (not everything should be labeled “avant-garde”). His name is Werner Hochbaum, and when provided with greater resources, amidst the walls of the Neubabelsberg studios, he proves to be no less talented than many established directors who depict the world in the evening and on Sundays, infused with a touch of romance and remnants of Marxism in their hearts. The Marxist remnants are particularly commendable in this film. It captures incidental details with accuracy. In this St. Pauli, which is merely a name, where one does not witness a raid in the style of the Reeperbahn world, there are genuinely authentic faces and characters, free from film kitsch. The folksinger (Charly Wittong), real crooks, and police types are portrayed convincingly.

In between them is the actor Zilzer, a numbed human instrument. His character study, subtly and spontaneously depicted by Zilzer, is unassuming and incidental, underscoring the importance of nurturing this talent. The St. Pauli fairy, Gina Falckenberg, portrays authenticity in her language and captivates through her physical expression. Certain lines in the colorless dialogue grip the audience. Friedrich Gnaß, as the Reeperbahn giant, perhaps displays a tad too much theatricality.

You see, the film has enough substance and duration to linger on the faces of its performers. It tells a simple story that captivates for half an evening at the cinema. The author and director Hochbaum receive valuable support from the diligent cameraman Weitzenberg and the skillful sound work of Franz Schrödter. The music by Kurt Levaal dramatically enhances the scenes, reminiscent of the silent film era. A song full of character, performed by Ernst Busch, brings the film to a meaningful conclusion. Encouraging applause ensues.