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Kino on Video presents
Storm Over Mont Blanc (Stürme über Mont Blanc) (1930)

Hannes: Where did you come from?
Hella: I fell out of the sky.

- Sepp Rist, Leni Riefenstahl

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: November 07, 2005

Stars: Leni Riefenstahl, Sepp Rist, Ernst Udet
Other Stars: Mathias Wieman, Friedrich Kayssler
Director: Arnold Fanck

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 01:33:45
Release Date: November 08, 2005
UPC: 738329042325
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-C-C C-

DVD Review

The bergfilm, or mountain film, was a primarily German genre with its heyday in the 1920s and '30s. It found its first major expression in The Holy Mountain, directed by Arnold Fanck, a geologist and avid photographer who became infatuated with motion pictures after his first exposure to them. This infatuation led to his career in movies, which saw him become the leading proponent of the genre. Kino on Video, having released The Holy Mountain previously, now present three more films in this unique niche, all starring the genre's most famous leading lady, Leni Riefenstahl, prior to her becoming a director herself. Fanck's Storm Over Mont Blanc (Stürme über Mont Blanc), made in 1930, provided audiences with yet more mountain vistas and cold weather heroics.

Set among the surroundings of the famed mountain in France, our tale concerns Hannes (Sepp Rist), a meteorologist stationed at the ice-covered peak. He lives a nomastic existence, his pilot friend (Ernst Udet) and his radio the only real connection to the outside world. Hannes other relaxation comes from sending messages via Morse code to Hella Armstrong (Riefenstahl), an astronomer who works with her father at a local observatory. When a big storm hits the mountain, Hannes loses his gloves, which, given the climate, is a potentially deadly mishap. He must message for help and hope someone can make it up the mountain to rescue him before the mountain and the weather claim him.

Being made at the cusp of the changeover to sound, much of Storm functions as a silent film, its only sonic accompaniment Paul Dessau's score. Dialogue is fairly sparse and sometimes clumsy, as are the rudimentary sound effects. Still, the images captivate, as Fanck's evident understanding and mastery of mountain photography shines through. Plus, the actors go the extra mile to make great shots possible, such as standing on sheer peaks minus any safety equipment. Much of the early going is spent in putting the viewer in an almost hypnotic state with shot after shot of swirling vapors, wide expanses of snow, the mountains themselves, and Hannes' day to day, barren existence. To liven things up, Fanck includes another favorite of his, the ski race. The race included here allows Hella to show off her impulsive, tomboyish side as she runs out of her lodge to switch places with the chasee (who is participating in a sort of paper chase on skis, from what I could tell).

The story is little more than a weak love triangle, with Hannes' friend Walter (Mathias Wieman) shoehorned in midway through to provide conflict, though he isn't more than a cypher, character-wise. Further, Hannes' eventual crisis is punctuated with so many instances of bad luck and outright stupidity on his part that it becomes more amusing than dramatic. The film never stops looking good, but it could easily have been trimmed down to a more reasonable running time. The final rescue sequence, puncutated with lightning strikes and repeated shots of snow crumbling and Udet's plane circling, goes on interminably. Performances are, per the changeover to sound, hit and miss; Rist rarely cracks anything more than a light smile (understandable, given the stiff, leathery look of his face, which would appear to be fine material for a good belt), and Riefenstahl is pretty solid, though she doesn't come off so well when trying to be cute and perky.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I don't know what the status is of Storm's elements, but judging by the picture here, it isn't good. Rife with speckling, vertical lines, and a general lack of detail, the transfer does at least appear to be generally free of defects aside from those inherent in the print itself. Still, the beauty of many of the images remains there to behold. The English subtitles are optional.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono soundtrack includes a fair amount of hiss, but music and dialogue are not obscured to any harmful degree.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Flexbox
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Cloud Phenomena of Maloja (00h:09m:59s), short film by Arnold Fanck
  2. Stills gallery
Extras Review: Fanck's 1924 short film Cloud Phenomena of Maloja makes for a nice inclusion. It is a ten-minute photographic study of, well, cloud formations, with English intertitles explaining what we're looking at. It's interesting as an early example of Fanck's work in photographing nature. A photo gallery is included, which also features some advertising materials for the film in addition to the stills. What really would have been nice was some kind of brief write-up on the mountain film, as it's a genre that, needless to say, doesn't get a whole lot of play outside of rarified journals and German language publications. Something placing this film in the context of the German films of the time would have been much appreciated.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

The Holy Mountain is probably the best place to start exploring the mountain film genre, but if you've already watched it or are allergic to silent films, then Storm Over Mont Blanc provides another solid exercise in the genre. The DVD presents the battered-looking film about as well as it can, with a rare short film by Fanck included as a thoughtful extra.


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