The Black Hussar

Original Title: Der schwarze Husar. Historical comedy 1932; 95 min.; Director: Gerhard Lamprecht; Cast: Mady Christians, Conrad Veidt, Wolf Albach-Retty, Ursula Grabley, Otto Wallburg, Gregori Chmara, Günther Hadank, Bernhard Goetzke; Ufa-Klangfilm.

In 1812, Marie-Luise von Baden is engaged to the Brunswick Duke, who has fled to England. According to Napoleon’s request, she is expected to marry a Polish prince. However, an unsuspecting captain of the Black Hussars, who has fallen in love with her, is given the command to escort her to England. Before he can complete his mission, Napoleon suffers a defeat in Russia, and upon the Duke’s return, he selflessly relinquishes his claim to Marie for the sake of the captain.

In 1812, Prussia was burdened by French rule, with most of its territory occupied. However, the spark of resistance smoldered in the hearts of its people. Heroes like Schill, Dörnberg, and the Duke of Brunswick shed blood and fought for a cause. Husar patrols of the Brunswick Duke roamed the land, feared as black riders with skulls on their shakos. They appeared everywhere, elusive to capture, as every patriot aided them.

Decreeing the consequences, Darmont, the French governor of Erfurt, warned that any civilian associating with black Hussars, supporting them, or hiding them would face a military court.

In a simple inn room, two women conversed. Marie-Luise, a slender blonde, and Brigitte, the nimble daughter of the innkeeper. Suddenly, gunshots rang out outside the village, causing the women to anxiously rush to the window. French cuirassiers charged into the village, their sabers gleaming and commands echoing. The riders dismounted, and a carbine butt crashed against the door, accusing them of hiding a black Hussar. The women vehemently protested, insisting it was not true, but their pleas were futile. The riders searched the house. Marie-Luise, quick-witted, rushed upstairs and opened a door, revealing a black Hussar standing before her. Overcoming her shock, she pondered how to save him. With the house surrounded and heavy boots ascending the stairs, the riders broke in, only to find nothing. The danger had passed, and Rittmeister Hansgeorg von Hochberg of the Totenkopf Hussars emerged from his hiding place to thank his beautiful savior. He had arranged to meet his comrade, Leutnant Aribert von Blome, known as Bubi, the youngest and most audacious lieutenant in the regiment. Guided by Hochberg’s riderless horse, Blome joyfully reunited with his friend.

However, Bubi had not overlooked the charms of the petite and enticing Brigitte. They had an order from the Duke himself, who was still in England. Napoleon desired the Duke to marry a princess from Baden to the Polish Prince Potovski for political reasons. The Governor of Erfurt aimed to bring the princess, who had sought refuge in a small hunting lodge, to Erfurt, even by force if necessary. The two officers were tasked with rescuing the princess from the French and escorting her to the Duke in England. It was a treacherous mission, as the land teemed with spies and informants. Nevertheless, they resolved to press on, for life was already beautiful when a woman as charming as the blonde Marie-Luise graced their presence. Her pretty head affectionately leaned against the black cords of the Hussar’s Attila, aided by a little wine to fortify their resolve. Love emerged from somewhere, silently dreaming of the beauty it could behold. Without overthinking, they yearned to be together, finding solace even in the tiniest moments of happiness.

However, their idyll was short-lived. A spy grew watchful, forcing the Hussars to hastily depart. Unbeknownst to Marie-Luise, the spy had discovered more than just a few black Hussars. Arriving at the hunting lodge, the two Hussars found it empty. Darmont’s spies had executed their task with precision. The princess’s whereabouts had been revealed, leading the Governor himself to retrieve her and escort her to Erfurt.

Undeterred, Hochberg refused to abandon his plan. He was determined to rescue the princess from Erfurt, but the question remained: how? Serendipitously, the two Hussars stumbled upon the travel carriage of Prince Potovski, who was in a fit of rage due to the postmaster’s inability to provide relay horses. Hochberg devised a stratagem. Shortly after, a carriage arrived in Erfurt, carrying a man in Polish attire who bore a striking resemblance to Hochberg. Blome disguised himself as the coachman, perched atop the carriage, while the real Potovski seethed in a solitary hunting lodge, bemoaning the loss of not only his carriage but also his trousers, courtesy of the black Hussars.

The Princess of Baden, thoroughly displeased with the corpulent governor, adamantly refused to dine with him and the Polish Prince. When the prince stood face to face with her, her heart skipped a beat, for before her stood Hochberg, and he too was frozen, as the princess was none other than his beloved Marie-Luise. Both struggled to maintain composure in the presence of Darmont. When they finally found themselves alone, Marie-Luise attempted to escape into Hochberg’s arms, but he remained loyal to his Duke and friend, choosing to stay faithful. He intended to free the Duke’s bride and bring her to England, sacrificing his own desires. Time was of the essence, as the true Prince could arrive at any moment.

Through deception, they managed to fool the Governor. Darmont issued a passport to the presumed Prince, who angrily prepared to depart since the Princess refused to comply. At gunpoint, Hochberg compelled the Governor to grant passage to the carriage, saving their plan from failing at the last moment. In a daring and desperate escape from the castle, Hochberg himself raced through the gate on a French horse. Mistaken for the Emperor’s courier, who had just arrived to inform the bewildered officers of the retreat of the Grande Armée from Russia, he stirred a storm of patriotism in Prussia. The people rose up! The Black Duke had returned to Brunswick. Hochberg, the loyal paladin, stood before him, and in recognition of his loyalty, the Duke bestowed upon him command over his famous Hussar Regiment. After speaking with the princess, he magnanimously relinquished his claim in favor of the man Marie-Luise loved. The Hussars marched forth, ready to fight for freedom. Sabers were unsheathed for one final march in their homeland, under the command of their beloved sovereign, the irreconcilable enemy of Napoleon, who led his Brunswick soldiers into battle. Proud yet sorrowful, two women waved from the balcony, bidding farewell to the black Hussars.

Onward, Hussar, no matter what happens,
Onward, Hussar, the storm sings its song to you.
Onward, always onward!

Georg Herzberg’s review in Film Kurier No. 242 (October 13, 1932)
A tale from the time before the wars of liberation. Individual fates are overshadowed by historical events, and the resolution of conflicts comes with Napoleon’s defeat in Russia. The film concludes with the departure of the Brunswick Cavalry Regiment.

The screenplay, written by Curt I. Braun and Philipp Lothar Mayring, is based on a story by Leo Lenz. The story revolves around an officer of the “black Hussars” who receives a mission from the Duke to escort his fiancée, a princess from Baden, to London. Napoleon intends to forcefully marry her to a Polish count for political reasons.

The officer meets his charge incognito and falls in love with her, unaware of her identity as the innkeeper’s brave daughter who provided shelter to the pursued. He is unwilling to take the bride away from his friend and superior, the Duke, and is ready to sacrifice his own desires. However, when the Duke discovers the truth, he realizes that he must set free the woman who never loved him and belongs to someone else.

As evident, the film is a skillfully constructed and intensified piece of cinematic material. Few films are as well-supported in terms of dramaturgy as this one. Gerhard Lamprecht, known as one of our most visually secure directors, further enhances his reputation through his brilliant portrayal of the given actors. It has been a long time since such an excellent ensemble has been seen.

Lamprecht is not one to indulge in bombastic patriotism. He handles grand words like “God” and “fatherland” with caution, unlike what has recently occurred on similar occasions. Conrad Veidt effectively expresses the character’s depth through concise gestures and few words, conveying his fearlessness and unwavering determination. This role stands as one of Veidt’s finest performances, skillfully guided by Lamprecht to prevent any stiffness, allowing his star to triumph with a confident superiority.

After a long absence, Mady Christians returns to the screen and portrays a woman who passionately loves and fights for her love with captivating sincerity. The comic duo of Ursula Grabley-Wolf Albach Retty delivers an outstanding performance. Grabley has not been in such good form since her debut with May, as she has been mistreated in recent films. Here, she shines as a quick-witted and cheeky girl, flawlessly delivering every line. Wolf Albach Retty supports her as an amiable jack-of-all-trades.

Wallburg impressively portrays the French governor with a round belly, who falls short in the grand intrigue. Grigori Chmara’s portrayal of the Pole leans toward excessiveness. Bernhard Goetzke serves as a reminder of his unjustifiable neglect by the producers. Additionally, notable performances by Gerhard Dammann, Franz Stein, Fritz Greiner, and Günther Hadanck add to the film’s quality.

The music, composed by Eduard Künnecke, holds substance and effectively underscores the narrative. However, it is worth considering whether every sound film truly requires musical interludes.

As expected from Ufa, the technical aspects are well-handled. Franz Planer’s photography consistently captures the essence of both outdoor and studio scenes. The sets by Herlth and Röhrig provide a dignified framework for the film, while Dr. Leistner’s sound stands out for its exceptional clarity.

The actors and director of this Duday film received well-deserved applause. There is no need to worry about the future of this work; it is a cavalry charge for Ufa distribution.