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Der Todesking - Media Target Distribution - Special European Edition DVD Print E-mail
User Rating: / 5
Written by Jay Creepy   
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Severed Cinema review of Der Todesking on DVD from Media Target Distribution


AKA: The Death King, O Rei da Morte, El Ray de la muerte, Le roi des morts, Der Todesking: The Death King.

Directed by: Jörg Buttgereit
Written by: Jörg Buttgeriet, Franz Rodenkirchen
Produced by: Manfred O Jelinski
Cinematography by: Manfred O Jelinski
Editing by: Jorg Buttgereit, Manfred O Jelinski, Franz Rodenkirchen
Special Effects by: Jorg Buttereit, Sammy Balkas, John Dreyer, Franz Rodenkirchen, Stefanie Ollenburg.
Music by: Hermann Kopp, Daktari, John Boy Walton
Cast: Hermann Kopp, Heinrich Ebber, Angelika Hoch, Michael Krause, Suzanne Betz, Mark Reeder, Jörg Buttgereit, Simone Sporl.
Year: 1990
Country: Germany
Language: German (English Subtitles)
Color: Color/ B&W
Runtime: 1h 15min

Distribution: Media Target Distribution

I think I made it clear in my review for Jörg Buttgereit's, Hot Love (see review here) how much his celluloid creations mean to me. I will always be slightly biased when reviewing anything by Jörg. Nekromantik is a staple in my Top 10 films of all time. Yet, Der Todesking slides very close to that list simply because it looks and sounds absolutely beautiful.

The word beautiful is something not many people may wish to place as a description for his films. However, Jörg's films are filled with the swimming beauty of loss and sadness. Nekromantik is a tragic love story, Nekromantik 2 shows the effects on a person who discards their true love for one expected by society, Schramm is a tale of a lonely man (who loves to kill) and his non-ability to approach the girl he likes. It's the visuals, the sweeping camera angles, and especially, the music which turns these films into concepts of tragedy.

Ahh, the music. When I first saw Nekromantik in 1991, the soundtrack turned me gradually onto minimal piano pieces. Der Todesking, like Nekromantik, is filled with luscious instrumentals and each note glides through the scenes with ease.

Der Todesking (translated as the King of Death, or The Death King) is an anthology which explores death. Suicide and murder features very heavily as you can imagine (It's a Jorg Buttgereit movie, could you visualise a world where he didn't push those two realities into your face???!!)

The film opens with a middle aged nude man, laid on his side. He turns and simply dies akin to a foetal position of birth and straight to the end. As the title music plays we hear moans and screams. Meanwhile, a little girl is sat sketching out a skeleton fella on a sheet of paper. Then it's into the introducing tale. A man (played by composer, Hermann Kopp) sends out poison pen letters after he walks past and savours the grandeur of a cemetery. He rings his work, announcing he will not be returning, as his fish blows a few bubbles. Then the camera pans around his small apartment, round and round forever. Each time, he is in the gestures of doing something else in his daily routine. He eats, cleans up, and shaves, all normal and timed to his perfection. However, this evening ends rather differently for him.

Each segment is split into days, every person we meet ends up with a copy of his poison pen letter. We meet a long haired lanky dude entering a seedy video shop called Videodrom which sports a few Jorg Buttgereit product placement objects around and about. Myself and my Horror Soulmate reminisced a time when our city had no less than five video shops when we met in the year 2000. I remember in the ‘80s and early ‘90s calling in regularly to eight stores. Oh, those carefree horror days. (There's none in our city now, of course). He and the owner discuss the letter. “He's a nut.” the owner dismisses everything within. The tape fan contemplates renting My Dinner with Andre, then wisely chooses a Nazi torture one instead that has ripped off Ilsa's image on the cover! Good lad. Back home, he gleefully sips a can and watches the castration by sheers on a hapless victim played by Jorg himself. (One of the Nazi's is played by a gent who would feature heavily in the epic, Nekromantik 2). His wife strolls in and starts having a go at him. How dare she interrupt pure Nasty Nazi moments? He thinks the same. Casually, he raises a gun, blows her head off and frames the splatter on the wall. Aha, but there's a cool twist I won't spoil here.

Most of the film plays almost silently aside from one story. Wednesday finds a heartbroken shattered girl walking in the park. It's pouring with rain. She sits beside a man who spends long deep minutes telling her his story. It's an awful one which ends in blood on his hands. A gun she carries for herself, is passed to him. He needs it more.

Returning to the corpse whom cameoed at the beginning. Stop motion and sped-up film begins the process of decay in great detail. Superb. Following such a piece of art wasn't easy. Thus the film’s most upsetting chapter is that of a simple bridge with no music. Traffic clatters overhead. The camera wanders around and the names plus occupations of so many real life suicides play on the screen. Students, pensioners, professionals, all ages. No one is spared the bridge once their mind is made up.

Hello again, Mr. Corpse, who is approaching the end of his new function, that of giving life to endless masses of bugs and maggots. The days and the stories continue as the letters find their people. A spinster who jealously watches a young couple and their romance; next a young woman mounts a film camera on a contraption made to be carried around (the days before small camcorders!!!) as she kills innocent bystanders (or sitters) at a rock concert. This has no sound or music, just the whirring of her camera. All the while, our decomposing buddy is keeping us company at relevant times.

Bloody hell! Head into Sunday with a warning. You will not be ready! A young man wakes from his bed in fear, in hatred and in blind screaming rage. He repeatedly slams his head into the wall, leaving blood, and an echo in your own head of the noise. No explanation, no beginning nor end. It just exists! I was reminded of a film I saw years ago, the title escapes me. Short but flawless in its message, it simply showed the effects of a rape as the victim fights herself afterwards. She tore at herself, she cried, she yelled on and on. This part of Der Todesking is similar, except the wonder of 'why' floats above him. In the book, Sex Murder Art, Jörg states they underplayed the blood on purpose in this chapter.

There's a crazy and wild moment back when the man speaks in the rainy park, the movie slows and speeds, breaking down before your very eyes. Style, my Horror Buddies; that is style and a slight sense of humour. So much of these ingredients can be found sprinkled in Jörg's creations. The Buttgereit arsenal have never been massive worldwide hits. Each movie is treasured by those who understand what is beyond the dead bodies, and the violence. There are worlds and stories of lost souls who don't seem to find, nor do they seek, happy endings. Everyone acts their roles as perhaps they would in real life. Average, existing minute to minute. This makes the people so very real. It's the silences, the facial expressions that say far more than a script.

Over the years, various companies re-release his artworks for new and excited audiences. The release I'm reviewing came with a limited edition set of dog tags with Der Todesking skeleton dude on them. Awesome! Media Target Distribution have done a show stopping job levelling the sound and the visuals without sharpening them too much.

The Special European Edition has a 35-minute making of, audio commentaries and interviews, trailers for other Jörg flicks, a booklet, stills and so much more. If you have never seen and felt a Jörg Buttereit film, this wouldn't be a good starting point. Once you understand his works via Nekromantik 1 and 2, then Schramm, perhaps stop off here.

Incidentally, Der Todesking has also been gifted Blu-Ray releases via Cult Epics and Film Art.






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 Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
 Region: PAL R0
 Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo

 – Audio Commentaries by Jorg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen (English & German)
 – The Making of
 – Trailers
 – Interview with Jorg Buttgereit
 – Music Clip
 – Early Movie
 – Still Gallery
 – Jorg Buttgereit Biography
 –16 Page Booklet


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