His Name Went on the List
As Germany teeters on the precipice of an economic collapse two brown-shirted storm troopers of Hitler's SA are arrested for killing several members of a socialist club. It is following this that enthusiastic and fearless Jewish lawyer Hans Litten (Ed Stoppard) is put in charge of leading the prosecution and as such subpoenas Adolf Hitler to appear on the stand. Litten's intention is to highlight Hitler as a fraud, as a man who says one thing but does the other despite others fearing that Litten maybe signing his name on Hitler's list by humiliating him on the stand.
I've always moaned that the British education system during the 80s was a joke, especially when it came to history lessons which completely ignored teaching students about the Second World War in favour of going back to several centuries earlier to stuff which I forgot almost as quickly as I learned it. It is for that reason I had never heard of Hans Litten and this moment in history when in 1931 a Jewish lawyer ran rings around Adolf Hitler on the witness stand.
So that now brings me to "The Man who Crossed Hitler", which in the UK was broadcast as "Hitler on Trial", a made for TV movie which attempts to dramatize this episode of history. I say attempts because "The Man who Crossed Hitler" is a very wordy movie where whilst we may move location the focus is on the dialogue and that gives it a feel of a stage play which has been turned in to a movie but trying for the most to hold on to that feel of a stage production with limited sets.
But at the same time "The Man who Crossed Hitler" tries to breathe life into what for many will not be the most thrilling of movies by having snappy dialogue, confident characters and making the scenes in the courtroom sharp. Basically rather than going for realism it goes for theatrics to try and excite an audience which quite possibly have started to wane during to the wordy nature of the build up where a simple scene about money worries is made much more elaborate than needed.
What is the saving grace of "The Man who Crossed Hitler" are the performances with Ed Stoppard making Hans Litten an obsessive character who keeps on going after what he wants but with a touch of humanity which means that when the crunch comes may break which makes him interesting. Then of course there is Ian Hart who has the tough job of playing a pre-war Adolf Hitler and does so by giving him just enough arrogance so he is unlikeable but not yet the full blown tyrant. Watching how he makes Hitler rage on the stand, holding his mouth shut but knuckles white with anger is stunning.
What this all boils down to is that "The Man who Crossed Hitler" is both interesting and entertaining especially for those who were denied learning about WWII and the lead up to it during their years at school. But as a movie "The Man who Crossed Hitler" is uneven with it feeling like a stage play but one with a focus on delivering courtroom theatrics to entertain rather than inform.