The Condemned of Altona
by Vittorio De Sica


Italy - October 30, 1962 - I sequestrati di Altona - 112'
West Germany - September 6, 1963 - Die Eigeschlossenen - 114'
USA (New York City, Astor Theater) - October 30, 1963 - The Condemned of Altona - 114'
France - November 15, 1963 - Les séquestrés d'Altona - 99'
Spain - Los secuestrados de Altona -

Italian poster American poster Italian poster German poster


At the end of the war, Franz von Gerlach, an official of the Wehrmacht, had retreted to the attic of his father's villa in Altona, a suburb of Hamburg. His father and his sister Leni have kept Franz hidden in order to save him from being accused of war crimes and imprisonment. For years they have fed him the falsehood of a country still destroyed and buried under the rubble. When, after 50 many years of isolation, Franz meets Johanna, a stage actress and wife of his brother Werner, his Iife - which had seemed to be asleep for good - reawakens. Through a series of dramatic, impassioned encounters with Johanna, Franz learns that Leni and his father have been Iying to him, that Germany is divided into two sections, one of which has been completely rebuilt. One evening Franz abandons his hiding place and takes to roaming the city streets until, lost and terrified, he is arrested. Johanna tracks him down at a police station and manages to have him released. Not ail crimes can be annulled in the silence of a dark hiding place. It is necessary to pay, to expiate, even for those who today remain unpunished and free. Franz, falling together with his father from the scaffolding of the Gerlach ship yard, pays with his own life. (Enrico Lancia)
Story: play of the same name by Jean-Paul Sartre.


Hamburg (West Germany)
East Berlin (East Germany)

Cosmopolitan Film Studio, Terrenia (Italy)

April through August 1962


Sophia Loren (Johanna)
Maximilian Schell (Franz von Gerlach)
Fredrich March
(Albrecht von Gerlach)
Robert Wagner (Werner von Gerlach)
Françoise Prévost
(Leni von Gerlach)


Abby Mann, Cesare Zavattini
Costume design:
Pier Luigi Pizzi
Make-up for Sophia:
Giuseppe Annunziata
Hair Stylist for Sophia:
Ada Palombi
Still photographers:
Pierluigi Praturlon, Herbert List
Carlo Ponti for Titanus (Rome)


Actor Robert Wagner falls for Sophia during the shooting of the movie while rumor has it that Sophia and Schell are having an affair.

The main cast consists of three Oscar winners: Loren (La Ciociara), Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg), March (The Best Years of Our Lives)

Sophia and the rest of the cast reside in West Berlin during the shooting with the Berliner Ensemble at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in East Berlin. They cross the border every night in order to shoot, sometimes until early in the morning, the scenes after the live representations of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui play a
re over. The play was written by Bertolt Brecht, who is also the founder of the Berliner Ensemble, run by his widow wife Helene Weigel at the time the scene are filmed.

Every reference to National Socialism was cut from the West German version.

De Sicas's first full-scale production working in English.

Sophia amd her co-stars receive anonymous letters threatening them with reprisals if the picture (considered an insult to Germany) is released. Investigations conducted to find the identity of those responsible seem to point to some die-hard pro-Nazi Italians.


"Sophia Loren tries earnestly but is miscast as the actress - too melony and modern and without the bitter, slim-flame quality."
Stanley Kaufman, The New Republic

"As for Sophia her performance is one of the greatest faults of the film as a whole; forgotten dialectal cadences come back to disturb her diction. Prima donna postures surface to prejudice the validity of this Jahanna."
Guglielmo Biraghi, Il Messaggero, 10 nov 1962.

"She (Sophia) adapts with extreme uneasiness to the uncharacteristic role. But it is not the best she can do, and above all it is the worst
you could ask of her, and the most unsuitable, we think, to her nature as a woman and as an actress."
Onorato Orsini, La Notte, 2 nov 1962.

"I am pleased to have played this part because it was very complex and difficult, and because it was totally different
from those I have played previously."
Sophia Loren.

"La distribution est de premier ordre, avec en tête d'affiche Fredrich March dans le rôle du vieux Von Girsh, et surtout Sophia Loren, femme de Werner Girsh, amante de Franz Girah, qui a su donné à ses yeux toute la tristesse que son rôle demandait."
Claude Garson, Le Monde, 14 nov 1963

Copyrights for all photos belong to their respective owners.
© Excelsior Communication - 2007

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