In the interest of full disclosure, I’m predisposed to like films shot in West Germany during the early ’70s because that’s where I grew up. My father at the time was an Army Engineer and we lived on or near various U.S. bases for five years. When I watch German films shot around that time, I look at the crowd shots hoping to spy my mom dragging us around. I still haven’t spotted the earlier version of my family. But I do look for more. There’s a simple joy of seeing the cars, billboards and household items that give me a simple flashback to my younger years. Red Sun (Rote Sunne) is not quite a nostalgic journey to although it brings back memories along with its extreme premise.
Thomas (Kings of the Road‘s Marquard Bohm) gets a lift into Munich. He’s dead broke, but figures he can run into his old girlfriend that’s tending bar at a nightclub. Peggy (Detectives‘ Uschi Obermaier) takes her past date back to her apartment that she shares with Sylvie (Sylvia Kekulé), Isolde (Gaby Go) and Christine (Diana Körner) in a commune situation. The four women have various house rules beyond the usual who covers what bills and cleans the common rooms. The biggest rule is that after a guy has stayed over the apartment for five days, they have to have a complete break up. How is this done? They kill the boyfriend. Thomas has no clue about this rule although Isolde’s boyfriend vanishes after talking about marrying her. Thomas is digging the fun of staying in the apartment with the four women who appear very liberated. He hasn’t a clue that the girls are dangerous. He unwittingly helps drag out a basket containing a previous paramour. He doesn’t know they’re going out to the countryside to test their homemade explosive devices. And he hasn’t a clue that they’re keeping track of how many days he’s sleeping in Peggy’s bed.
Thome doesn’t make it easy for us. Thomas isn’t some innocent guy who gets drawn into the house of the black widows. He arrives at Peggy’s bar looking to find a victim who he can hustle for a meal, bed and cash. He’s as predatory as they come, but he’s not looking to snuff his victims just fleece them. There is a reason to debate if Thomas deserves to survive this fate. Even when a character wants to warn him that the apartment is a Roach Motel for men, he blows off the information. Maybe he deserves whatever Peggy wants.
Uschi Obermaier is so great as Peggy. She didn’t do much acting but has had an amazing life. She was a member of the Krautrock legends Amon Düül I (not to be confused with Amon Düül II). Her instrument was the maracas. For a while she was a fashion model before she became a revolutionary as part of Kommune 1. She was linked to Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Her autobiography was a major best seller in Europe. Most importantly for this film is that you can believe she plays the type of woman you’d do anything to date.
We’re given a group of dangerous women who can be extremely cold blooded. Although there’s a touch of comedy in the grim plot. Rudolf Thome and gang created the West German version of Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! except with a VW Bug instead of the sportscars. The fact that Peggy and her friends are terrorists isn’t farfetched. During my youthful years in West Germany, there were always warnings of various radical groups activities. My elementary school had to be emptied out when The Baader–Meinhof Gang called in a bomb threat. Red Sun has a serious flashback to my childhood moment in the movie when the characters are watching television and the Mainzelmännchen appear. They were little yard gnome characters that appeared in quickie cartoons during blocks of commercials on ZDF. They weren’t killing anyone like the four roommates.
World Premiere Blu-ray of Red Sun is limited to 2,000 copies. You ought to pick it up for your fifth date night.
The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the details of life in Munich. The audio is German LPCM 2.0 Mono. Things sound crisp and clear including the silencer on Peggy’s gun. The movie is subtitled in English.
Select Scene Commentary with director Rudolf Thome and Rainer Langhans, Uschi Obermaier’s boyfriend and Kommune 1 member. He was one the set during the shoot so he has tales to tell. The two speak in German, but there are subtitles over the scene. Thome mentions the only way he could get backing for the film was if Uschi Obermaier starred in the film. He had trouble getting her to agree as she kept upping her monetary demands. The boyfriend admits she was nervous about acting and was jacking up her rate hoping the director would ask someone else.
Rote Sonne between Pop Sensibility and Social Critique (20:39) is a visual essay by scholar Johannes von Moltke on Red Sun. He gets puts the film in context with what was happening in West Germany at this time.
From Oberhausen to the Fall of the Wall (49:53) is a visual essay by academic and programmer Margaret Deriaz that gives us a history of German cinema from after World War II until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The Oberhausen Manifesto was signed by a group of short filmmakers in the ’60s who wanted to go beyond the existing German cinema that wasn’t too entertaining and didn’t have much of a success outside the country. There are clips and photos so you’re receiving a proper lecture on the this era of West German filmmaking and New German Cinema.
Reversible sleeve has graphics based on original release posters.
Limited edition 52-page booklet features articles on the film by Samm Deighan, newly translated archival letters by Wim Wenders, critic Enno Patalas and the German Film Evaluation Office on the film’s official submission, newly translated archival interview with Rudolf Thome and an overview reviews.
Radiance Films presents Red Sun. Directed by Rudolf Thome. Screenplay by Max Zihlmann. Starring Uschi Obermaier, Marquard Bohm, Sylvia Kekulé, Gaby Go & Diana Körner. Running Time: 89 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Release Date: June 20, 2023.