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aka - Schöner Gigolo, Armer Gigolo
Germany 1978
Directed by
David Hemmings
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Just A Gigolo

David Hemmings’ film would make a good companion piece for Woody Allen’s 1975 historical spoof comedy, Love and Death although in this case one is more inclined to laugh at the director‘s work rather than with it. 

Just A Gigolo partakes of the 1970s fondness for Germany’s Wiemar/Nazi period seen in films such as Cabaret and The Night Porter. From the opening titles with David Bowie’s German lieutenant unflappably striding through a snow-covered battlefield with extras being shot on cue around him, the film has tone that seems to be intended as coolly ironic but comes across more as simply farcically clumsy.  Exactly what Hemmings was trying to achieve is hard to say however.

Bowie had just made The Man Who Fell To Earth with Nicolas Roeg. In the hands of a skilled director with a suitable script his lack of acting ability could be turned into a virtue. Here it is a constant source of ridicule.  Apparently he took the role as a favour to Hemmings but for the sake of his mystique he should have declined. He is outstandingly bad here, even worse than his turn as a British P.O.W. in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. Not that anyone comes out of this looking good, something which no doubt didn’t bother Hemmings, an actor who made more than his fair share of B grade shockers in his day and who here plays Captain Hermann Kraft, a Nazi on the rise.

The question here is that as clearly considerable money was spent on the production including, allegedly, $250,000 on coaxing the 77-year-old Marlene Dietrich out of retirement for two days’ work and hiring Hollywood siren Kim Novak, why he would relentlessly ham it up (yes, a pig does feature in the film) particularly to such farcical proportions? The question remains unanswered but the results are truly awful. Although the original German version ran 147 minutes and that no doubt explains some of the clunky editing in the shorter English language version, it is hard to believe that a director’s cut would be any less ridiculous. If you like to laugh at other people's expense, this is a film for you

FYI: The title refers to an English language version of a 1928 Austrian song “Schöner gigolo, armer gigolo” which is sung by Dietrich in the latter part of the film The scene with Bowie and Dietrich is an editing illusion. Dietrich was filmed in Paris, Bowie in Berlin and the two never met, apparently a big disappointment for the latter as he was a big fan of The Blue Angel.




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