I can never get to much of a good Klaus Kinski story.
His films with Werner Herzog are the stuff of legends. The stories whether fabricated as Herzog has suggested or not are still both hilarious and mesmerizing. When on screen Klaus is captivating and it’s hard to take your eyes off him. Even when he is surfacing for minor roles as he did opposite William Holden making the ultimate sacrifice in The Counterfeit Traitor.
As a youngster trying to learn more about film history the remake of Nosferatu was released. I couldn’t help but wonder who was the actor under the Max Schreck makeup? With the press covering this film extensively the other Herzog films came onto my radar and the first film of theirs I actually did see was Aguirre at a revival theater. Then came the amazing Fitzcarraldo and the other titles. Later on I hurried out to snag a copy of My Best Fiend. The wonderful documentary that Herzog put together about their historic collaborations.
I couldn’t help but point out to all my friends every Kinski appearance after making my initial discovery of this actor with the carved in stone face. Buddy, Buddy from Billy Wilder with Lemmon and Matthau. Not a great flick but I loved the casting of Klaus as a comically perverted sex therapist. Countless VHS tapes from Europe were turning up from The Creature With The Blue Hand to the many spaghetti titles he appeared in.
He seemed a natural to play Renfield in the low budget Jess Franco directed Count Dracula which gave us Christopher Lee in a non hammer version of the Stoker classic. Code Name Wild Geese turned up in a limited release where Klaus appeared with both Ernest Borgnine and Lee Van Cleef. Low budget sci-fi flicks like Android and Creature. Basically whatever titles I could get my hands on I rented for the weekend. This included the momentous on screen pairing of Klaus opposite Oliver Reed in Venom.
Klaus starring in a weekly made for TV feature was a must see in 1987. With William Devane along for the fun, Timestalkers wasn’t all that bad.
The biggest disappointment came when the majority of the Euro titles being dubbed did not feature his actual voice in English despite his knowing the language. The films lose that little extra something without his unique, whiny, pleading voice. So for many titles the image would have to do.
I once had the opportunity to ask Martine Beswick what it was like working with Klaus. “Mad as a hatter.” she laughed in reference to him. She then went on to say she loved the whole experience acting with him on A Bullet For the General.
On youtube there are countless Kinski tirades and explosions of anger. Sadly since I cannot speak German I have no idea what subject he is unleashing his wrath upon. Once again the imagery will have to do. Sub titles would be much appreciated.
On the negative side of the Kinski story, it drives me crazy that according to Hollywood legend he turned down a role in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Had he appeared in this film I probably wouldn’t have to explain to the average film goer just who Kinski is. I’d just point to the Indiana Jones adventure and practically everyone would say. “Yeah! Love that guy.”
One thing that I did recently come across is a tongue in cheek short from David Schmoeller. David directed the 1986 feature Crawlspace which Kinksi starred in as a demented landlord with Nazi leanings. It’s a lot of fun so give it a look.