By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on February 22, 2014)
So Stalin and Hitler walk into a bar. Actually, it’s a hotel bar, and in reality, it’s a pair of German vaudevillians who have developed a musical comedy act based on their impersonations. Onstage, Hans (Michael Herbig) plays Stalin, and his partner Siegfried (Jurgen Vogel) portrays Hitler. Since this is Berlin in 1938, their act is becoming a bit risqué . Siegfried, a dedicated Communist, is the first to see the writing on the wall and decides to get out of Dodge, informing his partner that he’s going underground, dragging their mutual love interest Frida (Thekla Reuten) with him. Hans, who is apolitical, wants to keep his eye on the prize (he dreams of making it in Hollywood). He flees Berlin some time later via a forged Russian passport. Through a series of mix-ups, Hans ends up at the Hotel Lux (where the real Stalin and his inner circle are ensconced) mistaken for Hitler’s personal astrologer, with whom Stalin is eager to consult. At first, Hans ingratiates himself with Stalin, who likes the positive card readings. But Uncle Joe is mercurial, so Hans doesn’t know how long his charade will protect him from arbitrary execution. Much political intrigue (and hilarity) ensues. Sort of a cross between The Last Metro and The Court Jester, Leander Haussmann’s film is uneven at times, but carried by the winning performances.