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The Austrian/German production company Lisa Film might be known
to different people for a variety of different reasons: For producing
incredibly cheesy romantic comedies in the late 1960's/early 1970's, for
producing typical & charming German erotica in the 1970's, for
co-producing some of Jess Franco's wilder (but not necessarily better)
films in the early 1980's, for producing an endless string of bad German
comedies throughout the 1980's, and for being one of the top TV producers for the
German-language market today.
But first things first:
Karl Spiehs, born in Vienna 1931, took over Lisa Film in 1965,
when the then new company, founded by popular Austrian actor Paul
Löwinger, was still in production of its first feature, Das Mädel aus dem Böhmerwald, a so-called
(Heimatfilms are very cheesy rural melodramas & comedies, mostly in
front of mountainous backdrops, a genre typical for Austria &
Spiehs was no stranger to the filmbusiness back then, he has worked as
a production manager for Franz Antel's Stadthalle Film since 1960, working mainly on
Schlagerfilms (a Schlager is a German language popsong exclusively from
the very cheesy end of the genre). The first film he worked on was
consequently a Schlagerfilm, Und du mein Schatz bleibst hier, with then fresh Schlager-singer Udo
Jürgens in a supporting role - he will return to the story much later. Occasionally
something more unusual like one of the very few Austrian Westerns (Der Letzte Ritt nach Santa Cruz/The
Last Ride to Santa Cruz starring Klaus Kinski & Mario Adorf)
would slip in as well. It can safely be said, Karl
Spiehs had learned his trade.
From Das Mädel aus dem Böhmerwald on, Lisa Film would put out
Heimatfilms, Schlagerfilms & romantic comedies (more often than not, 2
or all of these genres combined) in rapid succession (e.g. Immer Ärger
mit den Paukern, Unser Doktor ist der Beste, Wenn
mein Schätzchen auf die Pauke haut, Hilfe, ich
liebe Zwillinge, Tante Trude aus Buxtehude, Das
haut den stärksten Zwilling um). Often, these movies would use
the Carinthian lake Wörhtersee as a pittoresque backdrop - more on the
But by the late 1960's/early 1970's, thanks mainly to the competition
of TV that gave the audience cheesy films for free, Lisa Film's
prime market did run dry, so in order to survive the company had to like most other
European companies, try its luck on that new & promising market - the
sex- & exploitation-film.
(Actually, already Lisa Film's second film, Das Rasthaus der
Devil's Girls would be an early German
venture into exploitation, while another early production [co-production
actually, to be more precise], Mille
Dollari sul Nero/Sartana,
saw the company make a rare excursion into the spaghetti Western market).
One of the most successful of the Lisa Film-produced sexfilms probably was
1970's Josefine Mutzenbacher, the story of a Viennese
on a novel that was allegedly written by Felix Salten of Bambi-fame,
which quickly developed into a series of softsex-films (not to be confused
with the hardcore films producer/director Hans Bilian built around the same
Other sexfilms quite openly tried to profit from the success of the Schulmädchen-Report-/Schoolgirl
Report-films, produced by competition (& sometimes
Film, which is often reflected even in the titles (Liebesspiele
junger Mädchen a.k.a. After
School Girls, Was Schulmädchen verschweigen starring
Swedish sex-film-import Christina Lindberg [Christina
Lindberg bio - click
Schulmädchen vom Treffpunkt Zoo starring young Katja Bienert in her
first film [Katja Bienert
interview - click here], & even 1984's Schulmädchen
'84). Another ingenious stroke was to hire young Syilvia Kristel for
an erotic film (Der
Liebesschüler a.k.a. Julia)
right after her success with Emmanuelle.
During the late 1970's, too, Lisa Film also helped to launch the
career of Olivia Pascal with sexfilms like Griechische Feigen/The
Fruit is Ripe, Vanessa and Insel der Tausend Freuden/Island
of 1000 Delights, who over the years would have quite a successful
career in German cinema and television.
In the early 1980's though, when
hardcore had established itself as a seperate genre, even the sex-business had run
dry ... & hardcore porn was a genre Lisa Film
like so many other companies was never interested in. Lisa Film tried,
with some Jess Franco-films it co-produced with other companies, to branch
out into other genres like the cannibal movie (Il Cacciatore de Uomini/The
the sleazy end of the women in prison-genre (Sadomania,
nackten Superhexen vom Rio Amore/Linda
- Naked Superwitches of Rio Amore) and the slasher film (Die
Säge des Todes/Bloody
Moon), & while these movies are cult faves today, they were
not the hoped successes upon release, so these lines of film (& the
collaboration with Jess Franco) were soon abandoned.
Instead, Lisa Film would during the 1980's concentrate on German
(slapstick-)comedies with films like Sunshine Reggea auf Ibiza, Seitenstechen,
Geld oder Leber, Banana Joe (starring Bud Spencer), & they even tried to establish a new German comedy duo with
Thomas Gottschalk & Mike Krüger - both of whom later became
successful TV-hosts -, who co-starred in 4 films (Die Supernasen, 2
Nasen tanken Super, Piratensender Powerplay & Die
Einsteiger), and hired international B-talent like David Hasselhoff -
then extremely popular especially in Germany thanks to Knight Rider
-, Deborah Shelton - who back then was famous for having a
recurring role in TV's Dallas - or Michael Winslow - of Police
Academy fame - for some of these films (all of the above did for
example star in Zärtliche Chaoten 2). Zachi Noy, star of the
Israeli/German Eis am Stiel/Lemon Popsicle-series,
was another frequent guest in Lisa films.
By the late 1980's, even this market had run dry, as the German film
industry in general had gone to hell, & the main source of income for Lisa
was from royalties of their old kitsch films that now played on
TV - which is when the story came full circle, & Lisa Film was
granted another profitable lease of life ...
Unlike in most other countries, especially the USA, there wasn't a
privately owned TV station in Germany until the mid-1980's, & by 1990, private TV
channels were still in their infancy, mainly perpetually re-running old
films & TV-series, when the channel RTL+ (later RTL)
& Lisa Film had the bold idea of producing a TV-series based on
the still popular kitsch-movies of the late 1960's/early 1970's ... &
thus the series Ein Schloss am Wörthersee was born,
re-using the popular Wörthersee-sets, starring Roy Black, a popular
Schlager-singer from the 1970's who had also played in a few Lisa films back then but since become an alcoholic, as well as a few other
faces popular from earlier Lisa films in guest roles (like Karl
Dall, Otto W.Retzer - who also wrote & directed some episodes - & Zachi Noy).
International guest stars included Telly Savalas, Larry Hagman & Linda
As you might imagine, the project was immediately ridiculed ... &
became a tremendous success.
After only 2 seasons though, Roy Black died under alcohol-related circumstances
- & Lisa Film stayed true to the series concept by hiring
another 70's kitsch-star for the lead, Uschi Glas, who had starred in a
few films with Roy Black back then ... for Lisa Film, at the
Wörthersee. Lisa Film even went so far as to use portions of these
old films to establish her character in relation to his.
To support Uschi Glas, Lisa Film also hired French actor Pierre
Brice bio - click here], who had gained immense popularity almost exclusively in the German
language countries playing the titular Indian chieftain in the Winnetou
filmseries (produced by Rialto
Film) back in the 1960's. In one of these films, Winnetou und das Halbblut Appanatschi, he even
played opposite Uschi Glas.
After 3 seasons though, Ein Schloss am Wörthersee, came
to an end, but Lisa Film didn't. From here on, the studio produced
mostly for TV, be it rural comedies (Peter und Paul starring
Hans Clarin & Helmut Fischer), medical (or veterinary) dramas (Klinik
unter Palmen with Klausjürgen Wussow & Harald Juhnke, Tierärztin
Christine with Uschi Glas), romances (Liebe, Lügen,
Leidenschaft), crime-series & -movies (Der Pfundskerl,
Agathe kann's nicht lassen, Die Rückkehr des
Tanzlehrers/The Return of the Dancing Master), with even the
occasional adventure flick slipping in (Der Blaue Diamant, partly
filmed in Thailand & starring
Pierre Brice, Ernest Borgnine, Otto W.Retzer - who also directed -,
Brent Huff & Julia Kent - who also wrote the script). Eventually even
an Ein Schloss am Wörthersee-special was produced, starring
again Uschi Glas - & Udo Jürgens from Karl Spiehs' very first movie.
The quality of these movies & series, for the objective
(re-)viewer, varies considerably, but mostly they are not made for the
objective (re-)viewer in the first place but a certain target-audience -
& no matter how bad one finds some of them, they always seem to hit a
nerve with the projected audience.
& for some reason, Lisa Film now produces exactly the kind
of movies for TV it had to abandon producing due to the overwhelming competition of
television, & the road to their present success led through sexploitation,
sleaze & bad comedy.
Information on the company can also be found on their website, www.lisafilm.at,
unfortunately only in German language.