The Champion Shot

Original Title: Der Schützenkönig. Folk comedy 1932; 82 min.; Director: Franz Seitz; Cast: Weiß-Ferdl, Max Adalbert, Hugo Schrader, Gretl Theimer, Berthe Ostyn, Joe Stöckel, Paula Menari; Prod. Franz Seitz-Tobis-Klangfilm.

Bavarian small town. A tavern owner and clothing merchant faces serious competition from a Berliner who also challenges his title as the champion shot. However, the affection between the children of the two rivals ultimately resolves the conflict.

In the picturesque old town of Tölz, situated along the Isar River with its charming painted houses, bustling market, and historic “Isarbrücke,” Mr. Wilhelm Funke, hailing from Berlin, has recently opened a modern and stylish fashion store. Just across the street, Mr. Josef Siebzehnrübel maintains his inherited old shop. On the day of Funke’s grand opening, Siebzehnrübel is celebrating his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, resulting in his store being closed for the occasion. Siebzehnrübel has several legitimate reasons to be displeased with Funke. Firstly, being a true Bavarian, he holds a distaste for “Prussians” like Funke. Secondly, Funke’s store boasts the latest advancements, while Siebzehnrübel’s haberdashery has failed to keep up with the times. Furthermore, he learns of Funke’s exceptional marksmanship skills, fearing that the newcomer will overshadow him, the esteemed shooting champion of Tölz. Lastly, aggravating matters further, the audacious Funke has shamelessly been pursuing Siebzehnrübel’s daughter, Anni, since the very beginning. These reasons suffice to tarnish the jubilant celebration for the couple’s twenty-fifth anniversary. To exacerbate the situation, Siebzehnrübel’s club members, as well as the volunteer fire brigade and medical column, exhibit poor behavior, focusing more on jests than bringing thoughtful gifts. In short, Mr. Siebzehnrübel is livid.

Fortunately, he possesses a remedy for his frustrations—an intimate wine tavern where he knows precisely which barrels hold untapped wine. He serves the others from these barrels when Funke makes an appearance at the tavern, seeking membership in the shooting club. By promising the club a new flag, Funke secures admission, with only one dissenting voice—the voice of the irate shooting champion. Consequently, a fierce battle ensues between the Bavarian and the Berliner. Amidst this miniature war, Lola, Funke’s girlfriend from Berlin, abruptly arrives on the scene. The elder Funke secretly accommodates her in a modest boarding house, visiting her every evening. Enraged by his competitor’s nocturnal visits, Siebzehnrübel unexpectedly conducts a fire brigade exercise near the boarding house, resulting in Funke Sr. and Lola being smoked out, and the elderly Funke ultimately having to jump into a rescue net. Strangely enough, the two rivals find a common ground when it comes to wine. As Funke sinks beneath the table in Siebzehnrübel’s wine tavern, accompanied by the laborious zither playing and Lorelei singing of the waiter, Flori, the proud shooting champion’s anger momentarily dissipates. In this vulnerable moment, Siebzehnrübel agrees to give his consent for the marriage between Otto Funke and Anni, but with the condition that Funke must emerge victorious in the shooting competition on Sunday. Otto and Anni have been in agreement from the very start that they wish to be married.

And so, the shooting festivity draws near. A triumphal arch, adorned with fresh fir branches, has been erected in the bustling market, while marksmen from the mountains have traveled from afar. The crowd erupts in cheers as the procession of marksmen makes its entrance. The procession reaches the festively adorned Isarbrücke and the shooting range, amidst the thunderous echoes of cannons, harmonizing with the tapping of the first kegs, the symphony of orchestrions and music bands, barrel organs, and carousel melodies. In the midst of the fair’s chaos, Siebzehnrübel discovers his daughter with her admirer on a swing ride and attempts to separate them. He then heads to the shooting range, where his rival Funke has just achieved two twelves and a ten. However, the conceited Siebzehnrübel remains undeterred, oblivious to the fact that Funke has bribed the scorer to declare Siebzehnrübel’s final shot as a miss. Siebzehnrübel takes his shot and loses. Overwhelmed with despair, he flees the scene, lamenting his fate—an emblematic Bavarian shooting chain on a Prussian chest! Unaware that he has reached the end of a pier, taking a step too far, he tumbles into the water. His servant, Flori, comes to his aid, pulling him ashore and providing dry clothes.

Meanwhile, at the shooting range, word spreads that Siebzehnrübel had actually achieved three hits. He is once again hailed as the shooting champion, triumphantly escorted to the honorary spot. Swiftly regaining his composure, the bewildered Siebzehnrübel accepts the accolades, paying homage to his opponent from the northern lands. Following this, he joins the hands of Anni and Otto, as everyone cheers for the newlyweds. The shooting band celebrates the union between the southern Bavaria and the northern Prussia with a march, embraced by the harmonious voices of the crowd.

j-n.’s review in Film Kurier No. 258 (November 1, 1932)
This “champion shot” will leave you with tears of laughter. The film successfully embarks on its intended journey with thunderous hilarity, encompassing the full force of unrestrained mirth.

It’s a popular comedy that skillfully avoids veering into farcical and slapstick elements, eschewing tomfoolery and nonsense, as industry jargon goes.

Despite its lightness, simplicity, and humor, this film meets the demand of theater owners today, as well as the long-standing demand from audiences like us, to be lifelike!

Moreover, this comedy is also timely!

The story revolves around the theme of Prussia-Bavaria, but it doesn’t dwell solely on that. It authentically portrays the diverse reactions of a nation’s soul and the fundamental differences among the people of an empire. Few other films and even fewer politicians accomplish this feat, which is why one may assign a certain political significance to this film and lament the scarcity of humorous politicians.

Weiß Ferdl, the owner of a fashion store and delightful wine tavern in the picturesque Bavarian town of Bad Tölz, finds himself faced with Max Adalbert, who opens a fashionable store right in front of him. What ensues is a competition that begins innocently and is carried out with good spirits. As both are sharpshooters, their rivalry reaches its peak when the “Prussian” son openly pursues the daughter of the Bavarian, potentially tarnishing the Bavarian lineage, according to popular opinion.

By God, it’s a simple fable crafted by authors J. Dalimann and J. Stöckel! Yet, it’s far better to create a good film from a simple fable than a weak one from a convoluted tale.

The simplicity of the fable never descends into banality. It brims with ideas that cinematographer Franz Koch, a valuable asset to Munich cinema, skillfully enhances, capturing the strengths and weaknesses of the characters with a discerning eye. The architect Ludwig Reiber ensures that these ideas don’t drown in typical film architecture, instead surrounding them with buildings that allow them to unfold in a concentrated and lifelike manner.

While it may seem contradictory to associate the editing pace with “Prussian” traits, it amplifies the punchlines of the visual sequences and generates tension for the more anxious segments of the audience in northern German cities, without detracting from the calmness associated with the South.

Weiß-Ferdl passionately embodies the Bavarian spirit, while Max Adalbert portrays the Prussian character with an icy expression. Their contrasting personas create a magnificent juxtaposition. Adalbert quickly garners sympathy, and Hugo Schrader delivers a very personal and endearing portrayal of a lover.

Unfortunately, Gretl Theimer’s performance as the daughter of Tölz is unconvincing. Among the Munich actors, including Lotte Lang, there could have been more spirited performers.

It’s a delight to see a natural actor like Joe Stoeckel back on the screen!

Director Franz Seitz unfolds the theme of “South and North” in a genuinely understandable and human manner, with humorous touches that transcend provincialism, and concise parallels, surpassing any of his previous films in this genre.

Predicting a triumphant march of this film across the realm doesn’t require the gift of foresight.

The pre-program featured slap dances and shoe-slapping performances by the Tölz sharpshooters and musicians. The audience was in high spirits from the start, expressing their appreciation with resounding applause.