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Fährmann Maria
Death and the Maiden / Ferryman Maria

Germany 1936
produced by
Pallas Film, Terra-Filmkunst
directed by Frank Wisbar
starring Sybille Schmitz, Aribert Mog, Carl de Vogt, Peter Voss, Gerhard Bienert, Eduard Wenck, Karl Platen, Ernst Stimmel
story by Frank Wisbar, screenplay by Frank Wisbar, Hans Jürgen Nierentz, music by Herbert Windt

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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An island in the middle of a swampy lake, connected to the mainland only by a small ferry that actually has to be pulled by hand: The old ferryman (Karl Platen) has just died, and now none of the locals is willing to take his job, because of many a creepy rumour surrounding the man's death. But there's Maria (Sybille Schmitz), a young woman with no papers and nowhere to go, and who is not familiar with the local superstitions, and she is tricked into accepting the job - and somehow she likes it, too. One day, she picks up a young wounded man (Aribert Mog) on the mainland who's on the run from some soldiers. She takes him to the island, attentd to his wounds, and before she knows it, she has fallen in love with him.

Eventually, a man in black (Peter Voss) comes to the island who might be a gouvernment official but might also be death himself, and he has come looking for the young man. He frightens the heebiegeebies out of her, but she doesn't give away but provides him with one false lead after the next, which ultimately leads to a creepy dance sequence on the village square, and eventually she leads him through the moors, where he takes one false step and sinks to his death.

Freed from the menace of the man in black, Maria returns to her young man, they take the ferry to the mainland and walk into a bright future, to never again return.


An impressively shot and extremely atmospheric dark fairy tale that succeeds in creating its other-worldly world based on only a few locations and a very moody directorial effort. However, while the film is big on atmosphere, it is somewhat heavy-handed and pretentious on a narrative level, where it several times almost loses its simplistic story in its dead-serious approach. In fact, when Frank Wisbar a decade later semi-remade this film in the USA as a straight horror film, Strangler of the Swamp, for low budget production house PRC, that turned out to be the better film.

Still, worth a look at least!


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
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produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
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out now on DVD