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Beefed Up Scary Audio For the "Video Nasties" in 70's/80's Germany

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Posted 2nd May 2009 at 10:16 AM by Peter Neal
Updated 2nd May 2009 at 10:28 AM by Peter Neal

Okay, I have no clue whether this newest entry to my blog will be of any interest to UK genre fans, but as a long term German collector of horror titles from the 70's and 80's I felt an urge to add a bit of info on what makes some of the German language versions of our beloved "Video Nasties" so unique compared to any other editions around the globe.

Very much unlike today (apart from cuts to escape the wrath of the German censors), distributors toyed a lot around with the low budget genre flicks they'd picked up for a German release in the 70's and early 80's.

One of the most common alterations was to rename (?!?) a lot of the characters to make them sound "cooler", "sexier" etc to German ears..
For instance, David Hess' rapist in "House on the Edge of the Park" is called "Jack" in the German dub for no apparent reason. That movie's sexist comments were redubbed with far sleazier (?!?!) dialogue- another very popular German trade of the time, which particularly changed the impact of many Asian titles, such as "Beautiful Girl Hunter" for instance. If you thought "House on the Edge of the park" couldn't get any more mysogynist- try the German dub!
Countless 70's/80's dubs radically altered the plots of entire movies, the "mutants" in the original "The Hills Have Eyes" became ALIENS and their "background story"- delivered by the beardy gas station attendant- is a classic highlight in the shamelessly trashy marketing history of exploitation fare in Germany.

Another popular move by German distributors was to shorten the movies of many supposedly "boring" bits, which- sacrelige or not- DID indeed increase the tensions of some flicks, "Anthropophagus" for instance...and since that still wasn't enough for them, they'd even throw in some ADDITIONAL (!) scary/exciting music or additional dialogue unheard in any (!) other release worldwide!
The most famous instance of the latter can be heard in "Anthro", in which George Eastman's cannibal is only allowed to have a monologue (!) in the German language version:
As Arnold begs Eastman to spare the life of his pregant wife, the cannibal muses to himself: "A child! I also had a child, until my ship went down....".

Probably my most favourite changes by German distributors to our cherished "nasties" are the added spooky sound effects, which make the German language tracks the way to go for me with the following cult flicks:

"The Beyond":

-FAR SPOOKIER sounds in the cellar before "Joe, the Plumber" gets his eye squeezed out.
- A scary bit of music as Lisa muses over Emily leaving the hotel without her steps being heard.
-Far spookier sounds during the hospital scenes with Warbeck and the zombies.

"Cannibal Holocaust"

When we see the cannibals during their "ritual" at the beginning in the jungle, additional tasteless sounds were added to the sight of them taking their "meal".
That movie's characters' names got also changed around quite a bit, the same goes for "Ferox".

"City of the living Dead"

Every time the priest-zombie appears on the screen, the added sound of a church bell (!) can be heard, as the movie's classy German title was "Ein Zombie hing am Glockenseil" ("A Zombie Was Hanging From the Church Bell Rope"!!!).
Fulci's "The Smuggler" got additional Goblinesque "action music" for the bit, in which the police are chasing the smugglers' boats....

I could go on and on, so I'll better end with another effective soundtrack alteration:

"Class of 1984":

Instead of the somewhat ironic scoring by Lalo Schifrin during the final scenes of vigilante action, the German language audio offers a simplistic, yet effective pulsing synth score devoid of any irony, which hightens the movie's grim tone very nicely.

I hope this text didn't bore the living hell out of you, it might shed some light on why I'm feverishly hunting down German genre DVDs with 70's/80's fare, as not only the movies have changed drastically since then, the German dubbing has become a lot less exciting and "creative" in the process too.
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  1. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    On the contrary Peter,

    I think we'll all be fascinated by this, as cult movie love to talk about differing versions.

    I brings to mind The Bloody Judge and all the different elements Franco shot, allowing him to release bespoke versions for each market.

    Extra torture scenes for the Japanese and you twisted Germans, more exposition for the thrill starved Brits and more flesh for the French and Italians.

    It's really interesting to watch the composite version of the movie, as Christopher Lee as the Judge suddenly starts speaking German (the only elements available for particular moments) and the viewer knows that the gore is about to start.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 2nd May 2009 at 12:42 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Peter Neal's Avatar
    "The Bloody Judge" has been hanging around on my shopping list for a good while now, I really should be doing something about that, as the German DVD seems to be quite cheap at he moment....

    BTW: If you want to get a glimpse at the heights of the German dubbing madness, try the German trailer for "The Hills Have Eyes" on the ABUK disc! You might not understand a word- except for "ALIENS"- but you'll get an impression of the kind of powerhouse narration genre-flick trailers got during the best of times in Germany.
    I just wish they'd still do trailers like that- plus the titles were hysterical: "Hügel der blutigen Augen" (as in "Hills of the bloody Eyes") sounds imho so much cooler than "The Hills Have Eyes"....
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 2nd May 2009 at 05:27 PM by Peter Neal Peter Neal is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Peter, great stuff.
    I have a pirate vhs of FEROX from Germany and it also has more lewed language during Morgan and the blonde girl coke scene.

    I always new I wasn't hearing things.

    Did the censorship change when East Germany re united with West Germany .?
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 4th May 2009 at 11:31 AM by vipco vipco is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Peter Neal's Avatar
    Not quite, sadly.
    Things looked somewhat more promising and relaxed when the conservatives took a break from government during the late 90's, early 00's, but for the last couple of years, German censorship has been on a straight way back to the 80's witchhunting tactics, only now they're even more after computer games than movies.
    The only thing which could save German genre fans from those overly eager scissors would be a binding European rating for films and games....but somehow I can't see that happening any time soon.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 4th May 2009 at 12:51 PM by Peter Neal Peter Neal is offline
  5. Old Comment
    iluvdvds@Cult Labs's Avatar
    VERY interesting! I'd luv to see these versions - especially that Hills Have Eyes one! Sounds great!
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 9th May 2009 at 02:04 PM by iluvdvds@Cult Labs iluvdvds@Cult Labs is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Peter Neal's Avatar
    In that case you'd have to pick up one of the earlier DVD releases (which I intend to do on my next visit to Germany, my old German VHS won't live forever) as the latest version (in one of those fancy steelbooks) has an all new German dub, which - imho SADLY!- puts the old German "The hills people are aliens" version to rest, replacing it with a faithful translation....
    Luckily, there should be still some of those older releases floating around....
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 9th May 2009 at 05:45 PM by Peter Neal Peter Neal is offline
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