The Sunday Intertitle: “Eeeeeeeee–oooo”

Eeeeeeeeeee–oooooooo! ‘Tis the cry of the abominable arcti Paul Wegener in THE STRANGE CASE OF CAPTAIN RAMPER (RAMPER – DER TIERMENSCH aka RAMPER – THE BEASTMAN), and where has this movie been all my life? Daredevil pilot Ramper (Wegener) kisses his dear mother goodbye and promptly crashes his plane in the arctic wastes. Lost in the snows for years, he informs his expiring co-pilot of his intention to KILL HIS BRAIN to prevent himself suffering from loneliness. He becomes a beast — a shaggy, yodeling yeti. Finally captured by the crew of an ice-bound ship (who include Max Schreck among their number, violating the nautical rule about it being unlucky to sail on a ship that has Max fucking Schreck on it), he is brought back to civilisation as a sideshow exhibit, billed as “Teddy, the man-ape”. It could happen to you!

The version of the film I saw is in ragged shape, apparently telecined handheld, with jaunty English-language intertitles and scenes missing. But director Max Reichmann, who was new to me, does wonders with suspense and atmosphere, and Wegener is pretty effective as the hirsute hero. “Teddy” hasn’t actually transmogrified, apart from growing lots of facial hair, and nobody thinks to take off his fur coat, so the world is convinced he’s a “missing link,” or “found link” I suppose we would have to call him.

Another odd thing: between performances, Teddy is kept in a crate, lying prone, vampire-fashion, his fur and whiskers expanding to fill the whole box like styrofoam packing. It’s an odd manner of storage for a sideshow exhibit, although I guess Cesar the somnambulist never complained, but he wouldn’t, would he? There’s no particular historical justification for keeping apes in crates, but interestingly yetis sometimes are: one thinks of that episode of CREEPSHOW…

But can even a world-famous specialist in mental diseases cure a very hairy Paul Wegener who has deliberately KILLED HIS OWN BRAIN? Can you perform artificial resuscitation on a brain? Or maybe you can defibrillate it? Isn’t that what ECT is? Yes, I’m almost positive that’s right. In fact, we meet Professor Barbarzin, clad in all-over rubber insulated gimp gear, pulling the world’s biggest knife switch – Henry Frankenstein would plotz – and performing some strange electromagnetic healing ritual on a slabbed loon.

 

Teddy’s keeper is reluctant to allow treatment: if Teddy is cured, he goes from being a highly profitable beastman to some worthless schlub in a fur coat, a spectacle unlikely to pull a crowd, whatever Flanagan and Allen can prove to the contrary. Still, like all Central European empresarios trafficking in human misery, he has a heart of gold really, and consents readily after being threatened with a slavery charge.

Electrogalvanic brain therapy follows, and reason is restored, but maybe only halfway? Soon, Teddy/Ramper is breaking free from the Barbarzin Institute with the aid of a table leg and standing outside his mother’s door, pleading for admission, unable to understand that fifteen years have passed since he flew off into oblivion and I guess the old lady’s dead. Pretty strong pathos from Paul: he’s not just a golem, he can play other kinds of lumbering halfwits too. I fear I’m not conveying how moving this scene is.

Shown around town by a couple of drunken swells, the more Ramper sees of modern life, the more nostalgia he feels for his desolate glacier. Tragically, the copy in my possession cuts out in advance of the conclusion described in Mordaunt Hall’s contemporary review: somebody seems to have felt that truncating the movie so that it ends with Ramper being discovered in the drunk tank the next morning would serve as a sufficiently happy ending. Which says something about that anonymous somebody.

I would heartily recommend this film to lovers of polar ice, man-beasts, circuses, big Germans, mad science and yetis. Which ought to cover everybody.

Mordaunt Hall, something of a glacial imbecile himself, wrote: “Mr. Wagener’s acting is probably good, but much of the time one can only see his eyes. Mary Johnson supplies the childish beauty, but that’s about all. This picture was directed by Max Reichmann from a story by Curt J. Braun. The stage features include the Sixteen Roxyettes, dancers, and “Peer Gynt Suite.” The Movietone gives part of President Coolidge’s Gettysburg address.”

 

 

 

5 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: “Eeeeeeeee–oooo””

  1. I have yeti to see this.

  2. Recommended, especially the actual spooky snowman action.

  3. Based on that lobby card, I’m guessing this was the secret inspiration for THE GRADUATE. “I just want to say one word to you, Benjamin. Just one word. Yetis”

  4. “Mr. Wegener, you’re trying to seduce me.”

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