Original Title: Das Millionentestament. (Der Querkopf.) Adventure comedy 1932; 98 min.; Director: Erich Engels; Cast: Charlotte Ander, Johannes Riemann, Karl Etlinger, Julius Falkenstein, Gerhard Dammann, Ida Perry, Harry Hardt, Vera Witt, Hugo Flink, Eugen Rex; Engels & Schmidt-Tobis-Klangfilm.
A testament clause forces two young people – who unbeknownst to them are cousins and colleagues, boss and employee – to embark on a nighttime chase for a document that has been handed over to them by someone they only know by name. They must deliver it to the executor of the will within a week. By chance, they fulfill the condition and, in the meantime, they have fallen in love with each other.
Horst Meißner, the owner of a radio factory, has a cousin named Eva Röder. They only met as children, and it wasn’t until Eva wrote to him after the death of her parents, asking for a job in his business, that he remembered her existence. Eva’s application letter includes a photo of herself, depicting a plain, conservatively dressed girl wearing glasses. Nevertheless, Horst brings Eva from the small town to Berlin and hires her as a saleswoman in his store. Without having seen her, Horst departs on a business trip that lasts several months.
When Horst returns, Eva immediately contacts him, but he feels no desire to receive his “ugly” cousin. He has his secretary inform her that she should make herself remembered within the month. Offended, Eva leaves. Among the incoming mail, Horst discovers a letter from the Lucerne District Court, informing him that his uncle, Josuah Chesterton-Meißner, who lives in America, had a fatal accident while on his trip to the Swiss mountains. Chesterton-Meißner left behind a will, and Horst is asked to appear at the Lucerne District Court the following day, where the deceased’s last wishes will be read.
By chance, Eva also learns that her presence at the reading of the will is necessary. Desperate, she confides in her kind-hearted landlady, Mrs. Huschke. Eva is completely destitute and unable to afford the trip to Lucerne. Feeling sorry for her, Mrs. Huschke decides to finance the trip herself and accompany Eva as her chaperone. But first, she completely transforms Eva’s appearance by discarding the glasses, sacrificing her braided hair, and providing her with modern clothes left behind by a former tenant. The newly transformed Eva boards the train to Lucerne with Mrs. Huschke.
Eva and Mrs. Huschke arrive late for the reading of the will, as women are usually unpunctual. Horst, who arrived punctually and eagerly awaits the reading, beams with joy when he hears that his uncle has left two million dollars to him and Eva. However, there’s a twist! Uncle Chesterton-Meißner has always been stubborn, and with the acquisition of the money comes a challenge. The will states that the heirs must demonstrate their skills in criminal investigation. A small document containing the exact conditions for inheriting the fortune must disappear from the sight of the heirs for one week. The document is given to a third party beyond reproach, who can do whatever they want with it within the week. The heirs’ task is to cunningly, but not violently, snatch the document from the third party and deliver it back to the executor of the will at noon, one week later. Failure means the bearer of the document receives $50,000, and the heirs receive nothing.
Horst is stunned by this unexpected challenge. With his consent, Notary Hill decides to hand the document to an old childhood friend, the hat dealer Pfefferkorn. Horst’s task now is to snatch the document from Pfefferkorn. Annoyed by his deceitful uncle, Horst leaves the executor’s room and bumps into Eva outside, whom he doesn’t recognize or pay attention to. And so, the chase for the document begins. Pfefferkorn, who already envisions himself in possession of $50,000, is not the final obstacle. Horst and Eva launch a two-pronged attack, but the document proves to be a persistent adversary, always disappearing at the last moment.
During the hunt for the document, Horst encounters Eva but fails to recognize his pretty cousin and even mistakes her for a thief. He suggests that the charming “thief” use her skills to help in the document affair. Eva accepts the offer, secretly intending to outwit her foolish cousin and snatch the document from under his nose. However, their rivalry quickly turns into love. The chase spans the entire Switzerland, and the deadline for returning the document to the heir approaches closer and closer. Yet, they still don’t have it. They don’t have it in the morning of the fateful day, and they don’t have it at noon… and yet, they get the 2 million dollars! How? That shall not be revealed here.
-g.’s review in Film Kurier No. 181 (August 3, 1932)
When a film author chooses the testament of an eccentric American as the centerpiece of his narrative, the experienced moviegoer will already know that it’s pointless to try to follow the logic of the endeavor. Erich Philippi’s work is less of a funny adventure film and more of a rough and hearty farce with a slight adventurous touch. If every audience finds as much amusement in this film as the one at yesterday’s premiere did, then it will bring joy to the theater owner. When the weather outside still feels summery, it’s good to sprinkle some spice into the moviegoers’ menu. The sluggish brain mechanism reacts better that way. Director Erich Engels says what he wants to say, loud and clear. He doesn’t beat around the bush. Apparently, the worst jokes for him are the ones that aren’t understood by the audience due to excessive restraint from the narrator.
Gerhard Dammann, the great comedy star of the post-war years, can continue the tradition of his successes here. When he walks through the streets of Lucerne dressed in a loden coat and hunting hat, stroking his mighty full beard and observing the area through binoculars, joyful laughter resounds from the stalls. It swells when he meticulously uses the toilet and flushes the water. Julius Falkenstein gets his laughs with more subtle means. Eugen Rex delivers magnificent Swiss German, his caricature of a clairvoyant is excellent and will hopefully have an educational effect. Karl Etlinger also contributes to the cheerful atmosphere of the audience.
The heroes of the story are Johannes Riemann and Charlotte Ander. They chase after a piece of paper by train, car, tandem, and motorboat, over hills and valleys, lurking under hotel beds at night or splashing in clear Alpine waters. Both are in invincible spirits, with Riemann displaying all the good qualities of his bon vivant routine, while Ander shines with her talent for grotesque comedy. The film triumphs under their banner. Vera Witt, Harry Hardt, Hugo Flink, Ida Perry, Trude Lehmann, Rudolf Platte, and Natascha Sylvia are still on the program.
A pantomimic scene behind a shop window is excellently directed by Engels. At a festive club reception, he can let loose with his clowning hobbyhorse. The beauty of the Swiss mountains is skillfully integrated into the film. Bruno Mondi created very clean cinematography, Heinz Letton worked on the smooth music, Emil Hasler built the sets, and Hans Grimm provided the flawless sound. The hairstylist had the most work; there haven’t been so many full beards in a film in a long time. The audience celebrated the performers.