Sunday, January 5, 2020



Passenger is Andrzej Munk's uncompleted film that begins with a lady on a passenger ship named Lisa who sees a another woman board. Lisa becomes distraught because of recognizing the other woman from a life that she thought she had put behind. This life was when Lisa was an SS officer and the other woman (named Marta) was a Jewish inmate of the camp.

The issue with Passenger as a viewing experience is that it was never completed. Munk died in a car accident during the filming and what we are left with is what was put together by filmmaker Witold Lesiewicz. I will say what we have is often compelling. We see mostly flashback sequences with Lisa as a harsh camp guard and are left with her rather undefined relationship with Marta. Lisa actually saves Marta from death on several occasions. The audience is left to wonder whether the reason for this  is just the latent humanity of Lisa or a possibly even a latent attraction? We don't really know the answer because the film was never completed. Many of the scenes from the ship are still pictures with voice-over narration. It's a shame the film was never finished, but the slightly under an hour remainder is worth a watch, if you don't mind being left with more questions than answers.


Claude Lanzman's documentary of the Holocaust called Shoah. on the other hand, took over a decade to complete and is over ten hours in length. The first thing that is striking about Shoah is that there is no archival footage used. What we have are interviews that take up the entirety of the film. It reminded me a little of the Marcel Ophlus films like The Sorrow and the Pity, though Ophlus's films had some archival footage to back his story up.

There are many interviews with survivors of the camps. We have the reminiscences of people from neighboring villages to where the camps were. There is a memorable interview with a barber who cut the hair of those about to be killed. We have a couple of academic scholars to attempt to add some clarity to what went on and why. Perhaps most frighteningly we have interviews with some of the villains from this tragedy, those that worked in the camp, ran the trains going to the camp and coordinated the liquidation as if they were running a business on a strict deadline.

The film was shot from the mid 70's until the release of the film in 1985 and is an invaluable historical record of those that were there.

The Pawnbroker

Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker (1964) is a story based on the novel by Edward Lewis Wallant, about a man named Sol Nazerman (Rod Steiger) who lost his entire family to the holocaust and years later runs a pawn shop in New York City. Nazerman has an assistant named Jesus Ortiz who he is teaching the business. But there is no happiness in Sol's life. As he points out to Jesus, the only thing he respects now is money. It isn't out of greed he does this, but simply because there is nothing left of value to him to hold on to.

This is a pretty powerful film and one I'm surprised I haven't seen before now. There is much to see in the film as far as symbolism (The ultimate sacrifice of a character named Jesus, Sol's attempt to run his hand down on a spike as if being crucified himself etc.). It is also a worthy addition to the impressive career output of director Lumet and may also be Steiger's best performance.

I love the look of dramas from the sixties that were still filmed in black and white. The cinematographer of The Pawnbroker was Boris Kaufman, who also filmed On the Waterfront, as well as several other films for Lumet.
 Deaths-Head Revisited 1961

These movies made me think of The Twilight Zone episode Death's Head Revisited...which I myself revisited. It features a former SS guard named Lutze (played by Oscar Beregi) who goes back to visit the concentration camp where he brutally tortured and murdered people during the war only to now be haunted by the ghosts of prisoners past (led by Joseph Schildkraut). One of my favorite Twilight Zones and featuring one of the easily most despicable heavies from the series.

Tribunal 1999

I thought there was an episode of the classic Outer Limits episode about a concentration camp, but could only find an episode from the reboot of the Outler Limits from 1999 titled Tribunal. This episode has a modern day reporter finding a surviving war criminal from one of the camps. The reporter is aided by a time traveler which leads to some interesting plot twists and leads to the war criminal being executed by a younger version of himself!...



  1. If you haven't had enough Holocaust, look up God on Trial, where a group of Holocaust prisoners, well, put God on Trial.

    That said, I think if you watch Shoah and Night and Fog, you probably know more about that point in history than most. There are other great movies and stories about it, but I don't know how much more needs to be said.