Martin Baumann and his dad, along with Apache Indian Winnetou head off
to hunt the bear that has been terrorising their flock. On their return
the ranch is ablaze and Martin finds his mother and sister dead. There
are arrows all around and Baumann Sr. immediately blames the
Indians, but Winnetou suspects that all is not as it seems. Meanwhile,
Old Surehand(Stewart Granger) arrives on the scene with young
Annie Dillman (Elke Sommer) who is carrying a belt full of gold.
Surehand and Winnetou, along with Martin, discover that there is a
group of bandits called the Vulture Gang near-by who they think are
involved in the killings, but soon find themselves having to rescue
Annie from them, and save a group of settlers who the Vultures plan to
The fourth of Rialto Studio's Karl May Westerns, Under Vultures
is the first of three films starring Old Surehand instead of Old
Shatterhand. Although their earlier FSK-6 (similar to a PG rating)
rated films had proven popular, the studio decided to add some
diversity with this parallel series of more mature films rated FSK-12
(similar to a UK 12 or US PG-13 rating). Accordingly, Under Vultures
is more western than adventure film, and darker on tone than
its predecessors - the opening murder of Baumann's wife and young
daughter is quite shocking (although not shown onscreen) - although the
later films in the series would be darker still and there are
still some elements of the youthful adventure stories in here (at one
point Surehand is set a classic life or death challenge by the Indian
tribe). The film builds up to a suitably interesting and dramatic
climax, although there are a few unanswered questions and a few
continuity problems - an interesting sequence in "The Valley of Death"
is rushed through far too quickly, and there are a few lighter comic
scenes that distract from the tone of the film.
Direction from Alfred Vohrer, who also directed Old Surehand (1965) and the later Old Firehand
(1966), is strong - emphasising the action scenes, while keeping the
dialogue sequences interesting and keeping the plot moving with some
impressive special effects set-pieces, although there are several
scenes let down by obvious day-for-night effects and the background
music is rather unoriginal for this series.
Brice plays Winnetou again, and this time he is joined by Stewart
Granger - a relatively major Hollywood player in the early 1960s, he
was forced out by the influence of his ex-wife and came to Europe.
Although hardly the Old Surehand of the books (a big, long brown haired
man) he gives the role a good shot and comes off well - notably he
seems much more fallible and human than Lex Barker's often
larger-than-life portrayal of Old Shatterhand,
fitting, considering the more realistic tone of this film. The
attractive Elke Sommer looks very good in her role as Annie, while
series regular Götz George looks good as Martin, once more saving
his woman from kidnappers. Occasional American Western actor Walter
Barnes plays Baumann Sr. with some good authority, while future
Spaghetti Western star Terence Hill (credited as Mario Girotti) gets a
small role as a settler later on in the film.
is an interesting attempt to do something new with the Karl
May series, and it should appeal to fans of the Classic Westerns,
although it lacks most of the adventure elements that make the Winnetou series so fun, or the grit of the later entries. Still, it comes recommended, especially to fans of the series.
Anyone famous in it?
Stewart Granger - a former Hollywood star including co-lead in John Wayne Western North to Alaska (1960) Elke Sommer - a German actress, best known to cult fans for her roles in two of Mario Bava's horrors. Terence Hill - one of the big stars of the Spaghetti Western boom, including My Name is Nobody (1973)
Directed by anyone interesting?
Vohrer - a lesser known German director who shot three of the Karl
May Westerns, and some of the Edgar Wallace thrillers.
A few gun and fist fights, some blood.
A suitable orchestral soundtrack.
Who is it for?
Fans of the series should enjoy this.
Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Colour. The
image is very good - some mild grain and great colours and detail.
German 5.1 and mono. Strong audio. The remix is rather poor - with some noticable digital echo. English mono. Sounds good, some noticable hiss in a few scenes.
German HOH English - this track translates the English soundtrack, so there are some
discrepancies when watching the German as the translations are