Verboten! is a 1959 film written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller and starring James Best, Susan Cummings, Tom Pittman, and Harold Daye. It was the last film of the influential but troubled RKO Pictures studio, which co-produced it with Fuller's own Globe Enterprises. It was filmed at the RKO Forty Acres backlot.[2] Distribution was handled by Columbia Pictures.

Directed bySamuel Fuller
Produced bySamuel Fuller
Written bySamuel Fuller
StarringJames Best
Susan Cummings
Tom Pittman
Harold Daye
Music byHarry Sukman
CinematographyJoseph Biroc
Edited byPhilip Cahn
RKO Pictures
Globe Enterprises
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 13, 1959 (1959-03-13) (US)[1]
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States

Verboten! was the first of Samuel Fuller's films to be set during World War II, of which he was a veteran. He had previously drawn on his war experience to make movies about the Korean War and the French Indochina War. Raymond Harvey was the film's technical adviser; he had previously worked with Fuller on his Fixed Bayonets! (1951).


Near the end of World War II in Europe, American soldier Sergeant David Brent (James Best) loses two men and is himself wounded while hunting down and killing a sniper in a German city. He falls unconscious in front of a young German woman, Helga Schiller (Susan Cummings). When he awakes, he finds that she has tended his wound rather than killing him. She also protects him from her bitter younger brother, Franz (Harold Daye). When the SS set up an artillery observation post in Helga's building, she hides David to prove she is not a Nazi. Later, the Americans capture the city, and David is sent to a hospital.

After Germany surrenders, David returns to the city and marries Helga, despite being warned by his commanding officer. Because American soldiers are verboten (forbidden) to fraternize with German women, he resigns from the Army and goes to work in the Food Office of the Military Government.

One day, Helga spots a friend, returning German soldier Bruno Eckhart (Tom Pittman). She breaks the news to him that his parents were killed by Allied bombs and his girlfriend committed suicide because she mistakenly believed the Russians were coming. Bruno congratulates her on landing someone she herself calls her "American goldmine". She persuades David to vouch for him, which enables Bruno to get one of the scarce good jobs, as a policeman. What neither Helga nor David know is that Bruno is a member of Werwolf, a Nazi organization bent on regaining control of Germany, beginning with sabotage and sneak attacks. Bruno uses his position to infiltrate other Werwolf members into the government and becomes their leader. Franz also joins the organization.

When a food shipment is hijacked by Werwolf, the German civilians blame the Americans and demonstrate in front of the building where David works. David is fired after he foolishly attacks their spokesman and is pummeled by the mob. Bruno turns David against Helga, even though she is pregnant, by telling the American that she married him only for the food and shelter he could provide. When David confronts Helga, she admits that it was true to begin with, but that she eventually fell in love with him; he does not believe her and storms out.

Meanwhile, Franz's conscience begins troubling him after he witnesses an incident at Bruno's secret Werwolf headquarters in a railroad boxcar. After a Werwolf bitterly protests against the theft of medicine intended for the German people, Bruno stabs him to death. When Franz has a nightmare about the murder, Helga discovers that he is part of Werwolf. Determined to show him the error of his ways, she takes him to the first session of the Nuremberg Trials. Horrified by what he learns, he reveals what he knows, enabling the Americans to smash the Werwolf operation in the area. Upon learning what Helga did, David reconciles with her. Franz goes to the boxcar to retrieve an invaluable list of Werwolf members, but is caught in the act by Bruno. In the ensuing struggle, Franz manages to knock Bruno out, but is trapped inside when the boxcar catches fire. David rushes in and rescues his brother-in-law.

Critical reception

Verboten! is held in fairly high esteem by contemporary critics. In his short review for the Chicago Reader, Dave Kehr referred to the film as "sleazy masterwork," describing it as "sweaty, claustrophobic, occasionally frenzied, and often brilliant."[3] The Time Out Film Guide summarizes the movie as "the great Fuller at his punchy, unsubtle best," adding that "Fuller's methods may not be sophisticated, but they are complex; as such, his own inimitably brash brand of didactism makes for riveting and powerful cinema."[4]

Home video

Warner Archives released Verboten! on DVD in the United States on June 22, 2010.[5][6]

See also


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