Winnetou - 1. Teil (1963)

a.k.a Apache Gold, Winnetou the Warrior
Lex Barker and Mario Adorf star in the exciting second Karl May Western, directed by Harald Reinl. UFA German R0 boxset disc.

The Film

The pioneering old West where Indians (Native Americans) roamed the plains and the white men were relentlessly pushing on deep into their millenia old territory. The Great Western Railway company is building a railroad, carefully laid out to avoid native settlements - however an unscrupulous construction owner, Santer (Mario Adorf), has decided to save money by cutting straight across the Apache's land. An engineer from the East coast arrives with instructions to stop the re-routing, after getting into a fist-fight he becomes known as Old Shatterhand (Lex Barker). He tries to talk peace with the Apache tribe, and their young chief Winnetou (Pierre Brice), but Santer kills the old chief and captures Winnetou. Shatterhand sets out to free Winnetou and stop Santer who seems to be trying to provoke an all out war with the Apache tribe...

Despite the title, Winnetou 1 was the second film based on the Old West novels of Karl May. Mirroring the development of the original novels, Shatterhand and Winnetou were introduced in Der Schatz im Silbersee (1962), and given the sucess of this production, were given their own series of films. Like the original Karl May novel, the story plays out like an Old West fairy-tale with good and evil, tragedy and victory - this is certainly not a place to look for gritty, realistic depictions of the Old West. Santer is simply a bad man, concerned only for his money and regardless of loss of life and limb - while Shatterhand and Winnetou are heros, not the anti-heros that would come to dominate Westerns. The plot remains relatively faithful to the theme of the novel, telling the original story of how Shatterhand and Winnetou became friends, despite almost killing each other in confusion. The pacing is good, with frequent and exciting action and adventure scenes - from an Indian attack on a supply convoy, to a massive shootout in a town, and a thrilling shootout climax high-atop a mountain. The film does have some problems, however, in the form of unnecessary comic relief - the slapstick antics of a British photographer trying to take photos of the Indians is quite tiresome, and was removed from the American prints of the film.

Director Harald Reinl was a big fan of classic literature and he does a very good job bringing this film to life. The Jugoslavian scenery looks amazing and he comfortably shifts between the small dialogue, and massive action sequences. The action scenes are a particular highlight, and some of the most impressive sequences seen in any of the European Westerns, rivalling even the best of the American Westerns - from large scale Indian horseback attacks, to a saloon gunfight that ends only when Shatterhand drives a train through the building - most impressively, this was done for real and is clearly not a model! Boasting an impressive budget, the film makes full use of every penny. The soundtrack, orchestral with some modern hints, suits the film very well and was a big hit in Germany.

American actor Lex Barker moved to Europe in the late 1950s after finding his tall stature kept him from supporting film work; after starring in a duo of Dr. Mabuse films, he was cast as Old Shatterhand in Der Schatz im Silbersee (1962) and the film's sucess saw him cast in the same role in the Winnteou series. His tall stature and chisled looks suit the role perfectly and add a layer of authenticity to the action scenes. French actor Pierre Brice looks quite authentic as Winnetou and plays the role well. Mario Adorf is very slimy as the villian and looks great, never hamming it up into over-acting. The rest of the cast are solid with several familiar faces who would appear in later films.

Winnetou 1 is a big, colourful adventure film with none of the cynicism of the later Revisionist and Spaghetti Western eras. The biggest, and among the best of the Karl May Westerns, fans of adventure films should enjoy this exciting production and it would make an ideal starting place for newcomers.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Lex Barker - an American actor who made his name in Europe in adventure and horror pictures.
Mario Adorf - Swiss actor who also starred in the Peckinpah American Western Major Dundee (1965).
Directed by anyone interesting? Harald Reinl - An Austrian director who shot a variety of films based on classic literature.
Any violence? Quite a lot of gun, fist and knife fights, some blood.
Any sex? None
Good soundtrack?A very fitting orchestral soundtrack that proved highly popular in Germany at the time.
Who is it for?
An exciting adventure film from a less cynical era, for adventure and Western fans. A good starting place.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 2.35:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Colour.
The image is very good - some minor damage and heavy grain in some scenes, but great colours and detail. Some scenes are occasionally in a slightly lower quality, but mostly unnoticably.
Audio German 5.1 and mono. Strong audio. The remix is quite good with use made of the surround channels.
English mono. Sounds good, but frequent short scenes are in German only or are just silent and it is quite distracting.
Subtitles German HOH
English (this track translates the English soundtrack, so there are some discrepancies when watching the German as the translations are different).
English subtitles also available when watching English audio for the scenes in German.
RuntimeMain feature runtime:  1hr 37m 26s
Extras The disc includes:
  • Bonus Trailer reel.
Packing Only available in the Karl May Collection 3 boxset.
Region Region 0 (worldwide) - PAL
Other regions? Other German releases from Kinowelt - no English options.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut. The scenes previously removed for the American print and cut for German video release have been restored. Titles and credits are in German.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 27th July. 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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