Movie Review: ‘The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz’ on Amazon Prime Video

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, a site that came to symbolize the city's Cold War division between East and West

By Jonathan Spira on 9 September 2020
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The 1960s hit television comedy “Hogan’s Heroes” used the tagline, “If you liked World War II, you’ll love ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’”  To paraphrase that thought, originally a quip by comedian Stan Freberg, I would say, “If you liked ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ you’ll love ‘The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz.’” 

“Paula Schultz” is the story of a fictitious East German Olympic star (played brilliantly by Elke Sommer) and a bumbling group of Americans and Germans played by none other than the actors who portray Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane), Colonel Wilhelm Klink (Werner Klemperer), Sergeant Hans Schultz (John Banner), and General Albert Burkhalter (Leon Askin) in “Hogan’s Heroes.”

For the uninitiated, “Hogan’s Heroes” is a comedy improbably set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War.  Crane’s rather crafty Colonel Hogan was the senior prisoner of war and the bane of  Colonel Klink’s existence.  Banner’s Sergeant Schultz was the somewhat cuddly sergeant of the guard in charge of the prisoners, and Askin’s General Burkhalter was Colonel Klink’s superior who was purportedly close to the Führer. 

The show ran for six seasons starting in 1965 and remains the most popular television program that was set in the war years. 

The movie takes on the mannerisms and affectations as well as some catch phrases, and places Sommer’s Schultz (not to be confused with Sergeant Schultz) in the middle of the Cold War as she tries to escape from the lecherous East German propaganda minister, Klaus (Klemperer), by (improbably) pole-vaulting over the Berlin Wall.  She meets an American black-market operator, Bill Mason (Bob Crane), who at one point tries to sell her first to the Stasi and then to the CIA.

Although one might come away with the impression that the main goal of the Cold War was to get everyone undressed, there is shockingly little actual nudity here (the only exception being when a particularly heavy East German medal being pinned on her shirt ends up pulling it down).  To compensate, there is excellent 1960s footage of street scenes of West Berlin.

“Hogan’s Heroes” fans will grin when Banner, not as Schultz but as Weber, says “Jawohl, Herr Kommissar” (eerily close to his oft-repeated “Jawohl, Herr Kommandant” catch phrase in the TV series), while Klemperer, not as Klink but as Klaus, gets to say “DISmissed” several times just as his character in the series would have said it.  What’s more, Banner – just as on TV – ineptly attempts to use several code phrases, in one case quoting a line from a song in “My Fair Lady”: “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain” he attempts to say in a rather serious manner to his contact in a Berlin park.

Another familiar face, albeit not from “Hogan’s Heroes,” is that of the versatile character actor Fritz Feld, (who began his film career in 1917 in the movie “Der Golem und die Tänzerin”, or “The Golem and the Dancer”), as Oberminister Kessel, who threatens Klaus with a firing squad if he doesn’t bring Paula Schultz back to East Germany.  Feld, who across over 100 movies and television shows was perhaps best known for the unique “pop” sound that signaled his superiority and annoyance, made by slapping his mouth with the palm of his hand, something he employs in his role as the Oberminister as well.

Meanwhile, there’s lively athleticism, cross-dressing (without revealing a spoiler, this may be your only chance to see Klink and Burkhalter in drag), and a rather unusual strip tease involving a swing.

The film was shot while “Hogan’s Heroes” was on hiatus in the summer of 1967 to allow members of the cast to perform in the film.  Sommer, who was born Elke Baronin von Schletz, is the only star in the cast who still lives, and the baroness resides in Los Angeles, although she hasn’t appeared on television or in a movie since the 1980s.  Sadly, Banner died in 1973, Crane was murdered in 1978, and Klemperer and Askin died in 2000 and 2005 respectively.

THE DETAILS

The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz
Available on Amazon Prime Video
Running time: 1 hr. and 53 min.

Photo caption: The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, a site that came to symbolize the city’s Cold War division between East and West

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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