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U47 - Kapitänleutnant Prien

U-47 Lt.Commander Prien

West Germany 1958
produced by
Alfred Bittins for Arca Filmproduktion
directed by Harald Reinl
starring Dieter Eppler, Joachim Fuchsberger, Dieter Borsche, Sabine Sesselmann, Harald Juhnke, Uta Hallant, Olga Tschechowa, Richard Häussler, Raidar Müller-Elmau, Ernst Reinhold, Matthias Fuchs, Horst Naumann, Rolf Möbius, Joachim Mock, Rolf Weih, Peter Carsten, Michael Cramer, Heinz Engelmann
screenplay by J.Joachim Bartsch, based on a story by Udo Wolter, music by Norbert Schultze, cinematography by Ernst W. Kalinke

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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1939, the Germans have just declared war on Britain, but soon they find out they lack force to really compete with the Brits on sea - so they come up with a devillish plan: If they can send one submarine into Scapa Flow, the British Navy's harbour, and do maximum damage, they might have at least scared the pants off Britain - at least for a while, long enough to build a sufficient fleet of submarines.

Captain Prien (Dieter Eppler) commandeers the sub that's heading for BRitain, and against all odds, the campaign is not only a success, Prien's sub even manages to make a clean getaway.

At home, Prien has become a celebrated hero. Only Kille, Prien's friend from school who has in the meantime become a priest, can't join into the party, because he knows the other side of (Nazi) Germany, where people are sent to concentration camps and or killed just because they are Jews or troublemakers. Kille even hides 11 Jews himself, and he asks Prien to help him, help those people. Prien refuses, because he claims to be a soldier first, politics don't interest him.

Back at sea, among the boats Prien and his crew sink is a ship full of refugees. Prien's crew saves a couple of them, but when they learn they are on a German ship, they jump back into the water, as even death is better than back to the concentration camp. After this, Prien and his whole crew begin thinking ...

Back on land, Prien's wife (Sabine Sesselmann) urges him to give up his dangerous job, urges him to stay with her for good, and he is even asked by the Navy to give up his command and train new submrine captains ... but still, Prien is a soldier first, and he decides to stay with his crew.

Then he learns that Kille has been imprisoned and is about to be executed. Now he uses his position, his fame within the Reich, to at least have the execution postponed, but behind the courtains, the SS already starts a file on him ...

Back at sea, Prien's sub is torpedoed but good, and only he and the ship cook (Harald Juhnke) survived the ordeal and are saved by the British sub that has sunk them ... then though another German sub - ironically commandeered by Birkeneck (Joachim Fuchsberger), Prien's former first mate and best friend - shows up and torpedoes the British sub, effectively sinking it. But when Birkeneck finds Prien's captain hat (all that's left of him) among the debris of the British vessel, tears start filling up his eyes, and he is detracted long enough to let British bomber planed bomb his submarine, too, to kingdom come.


Not without its lengths or without clichés, this is actually a very interesting and self-reflexive World War II-movie that doesn't automatically go only for cheap answers but has second thoughts about its characters - mostly German soldiers, but soldiers first, Germans only second or third - and the moral dilemmas they are in, up to the point where the lead character purposely turns the other way when his friend, the priest, asks for his help. And director Harald Reinl manages to turn this very downbeat concept into an exciting (anti-)war movie nevertheless, easily overcoming the budgetary contraints as if he had never filmed anything else but war movies - even though this one and Die Grünen Teufel von Monte Cassino where his first two entries into that genre after filming Heimat films (very cheesy conservative rural ddramas) for years.

Granted, U47 Kapitänleutnant Prien might not be the best anti war movie ever, but it's definitely worth a look.


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
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD