Fun Stuff > Places
There are numerous coffee-table books about movie locations. Also the city of Vienna in the heart of Europe is prominently presented in quite a few motion pictures. Although none of them is called:
The Sound of the Third Bond
Too Young. Have you ever had the unpleasant feeling that you have missed something? Definitely I had that feeling going to the movies at young age, just in time for sequels without having been old enough to see the original in the first place. This was true for the Empire already striking back to continue the War in the Stars, as well Star Treck with the Enterprise crew searching for Mr Spock's pointed ears in space, the final frontier, and Superman for the second time making believe a man can fly. With Indiana Jones raiding the Temple of Doom it wasn't any different. Sometimes when eating what we call "Rindsaugensuppe" (cattle eye soup, actually referring to the grease rings in the beef broth) I still remember the banquet scene with the delicious multi-course meal including a genuine dish like snake surprise, something simple like boiling eye soup and chilled monkey brains for desert.
Indy Copycats. Not to mention all the treasure hunter adventure movies that followed in the mid-eighties, such as Michael Douglas going after a green diamond while Romancing the Stone besides heartache-novelist Kathleen Turner, whom he comes to know closer in the mud. In the even more sketchy sequel they search for a Jewel of the Nile that is no jewelry at all to the frustration of Danny DeVito. Or a Quartermain-remake with Richard Chamberlain raiding King Solomon's Mines, side-by-side with and a young Sharon Stone and an Indy-like musical score in the campy sequel. Up to the millennium edition, a trigger happy video game reincarnation called Tomb Raider. Lara Croft very successfully brought to life and screen by Angelina Jolie. Her unique motivation is to bring back a moment with her late dad, played by her father in real life Jon Voight, who would also give Nicolas Cage's screen dad in National Treasure. And then, some 20 years later with Harrison Ford at retirement age, Indy would really come back to search for the Crystal Skull. (Immediately followed by the revival of the Disney-parody "Indiana Goof," who already as a kid would discover the most impossible artifacts while just playing hide and seek.) In a way those were our superheroes, heroes far beyond reach, no matter whether they wore long johns and capes or hats and whips. And - just to have mentioned it - there are more important things in life than having missed a movie! What do you think you have missed in life, really?
Travel Destinations. These days I heard on the radio that two Austrian cities were ranking among the most popular travel destinations for Americans. Following three Italian cities, Vienna and Salzburg were on 4th and 6th position in the ranking. And these towns definitely have got a scent, a myth, can tell stories on their own, while having played major roles in books and films, some of which are described below.
Home Videos. For me it all started with renting a video after acquiring my first own VCR, in days when film quality still had its limitation. I never went to video rental stores a lot, neither to libraries. Probably for mostly consuming carefully selecting books and movies, which would keep afterwards to possibly revisit later, instead of randomly zapping through TV channels or aimlessly picking up tons of newspapers.
Bond Movie Location. However, during one of these rare occasions of going to a video store in the 17th district of Vienna, near the Post sport field at the final stop of the streetcar number 42, the clerk made me aware that the same street corner was visible in a James Bond movie! Nearby, a public transport service garage (a streetcar depot, locally referred to as "Remise"), that scene with the video store in the background - just like another one at the common theater (Volkstheater) - was supposed to play in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, then still behind the iron curtain and probably not granting permission to film there.
Sean, Roger and Out. Trying hard to fill the footprints of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, "The Living Daylights (German title: Der Hauch des Todes - The Whiff of Death)" was Timothy Dalton's debut film as the third perceptible Bond. Counting George Lazenby's one shot, more or less a miss bringing the original - Sean Connery - back, who should have never said never anyway, Dalton was the fourth Bond actor really, quitting his career in Her Majesty's Secret Film Service again after two movies only. But then he was for the first time saying: "My name is Bond, James Bond" and that even in Austria!
Calling a Taxi. Having seen the previous two Bond movies in the cinema, Connery's ultimate return in "Never Say Never Again (1983)" with Austrian actor Klaus-Maria Brandauer as opponent, and Moore's last time - hunting down Grace Jones in "A View to a Kill (1985)," I must admit that I missed Dalton's local debut and was only lured back into the Bond movies by Tina Turner's title song of "Goldeneye (1995)" with Pierce Brosnan. Released in 1987, "The Living Daylights" started up on the Rock of Gibraltar, ended in the desert of Morocco posing for Afghanistan, and in between visited the historic center of Vienna - what a combination! The secret agent calls for a taxi to enter a Fiaker horse carriage at Schoenbrunn (Pretty Fountain) Palace and the Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) in the Prater amusement park.
Those were the days: View over Vienna, as seen from the Giant Ferris Wheel in the Prater amusement park. And posing with Orson Welles in his unforgotten role as "The Third Man" at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in post-war Vienna, just a stone's throw away from where he rode the same Ferris Wheel in the movie classic.
Third Man in the Sewer. Which on the other hand is well known from the British post war movie "The Third Man (Der Dritte Mann)" from 1949. It stars Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles in the middle of the bombed city, then occupied by the allied forces, represented by "the four in the jeep," a military police quartet from the UK, the US, Russia and France. I would always recommend watching the movie in original sound, not its German synchronization, for then being able to hear the typical accent in the English pronunciation of the participating local Austrian actors. Such as Paul Hörbiger, who was among the elite of Austrian post war movie productions, playing a janitor, who was an all-knowing institution watching over an apartment building. And so as a long-term consequence of the movie classic, the 14th district Wien-Huetteldorf, home of the green-white soccer club Rapid, still offers so called "Third Man"-tours through the Viennese sewers, on the trail of the movie's climax, the underground chase till death. "In Vienna a dead man is not necessarily a dead man. Remember The Third Man?" is a quotation from the sinister Austrian crime movie "The Uppercrust (Den Tüchtigen gehört die Welt, 1982)," a Zenker/Patzak production with their popular TV-Inspector Kottan investigating in a tangle of corruption. Scenes from "The Third Man" would be cut into the music video clip "Have you seen Vienna by night yet - have you already experienced that? (Haben Sie Wien schon bei Nacht gesehen - haben Sie das schon erlebt, 1985)" by Austropop-singer Rainhard Fendrich. While the movie classic is still playing in late night performances at the Burg Cinema on the Viennese Ring street.
8 Million Musketeers with an Oscar
Richelieu and the Vienna City Hall. Although one of numerous film adaptations of the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas, in the early 1990's the filming of the Disney production "The Three Musketeers (Die drei Musketiere, 1993)" in and around Vienna gained a lot of local publicity. Starring Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Chris O'Donnell as the good guys, the Hofburg Court Castle, winter residence of the Austrian monarchs, proudly presented the stand-in for King Louis' palace. Unforgettable the scene with Cardinal Richelieu, played by Tim "Rocky Horror Picture Show" Curry, standing on the balcony with the towers of the Vienna City Hall in the background (at that time of year without the typical Christmas market in front). Whenever you visit the Hinterbruehl grotto outside Vienna, a tourist attraction that had been among others serving as a airplane factory during World War II, you can still see the underground niches that were used as dungeons in the movie as well as the (plastic-) dragon boat, the Musketeers were supposedly riding through the Paris sewers.
LEFT: Three Musketeers featured a Cardinal in front of the Vienna City Hall, seen from Hofburg Castle, and a dragon boat in the Hinterbruehl underground lake. In the Living Daylights, agent Bond rode streetcar no.42 to its final stop Antonigasse ("Anthony Alley") between the Post Sports Field and Streetcar Depot Waehring.
Sound of Salzburg. But from the Musketeers to something more melodic... On top of the list of all-time classics, there is a movie that is not that well known in Austria, while of world fame everywhere else. "The Sound of Music," a 1965 Hollywood adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, starring Julie "Mary Poppins" Andrews, helped to establish Mozart's birthplace Salzburg as one of the most beloved tourist attractions in Europe.
Flying Flag. Needless to say that "Original Sound of Music Tours" are still offered almost half a century later, including Nonnberg Abbey (scene with Maria late for Mass), Mirabell Castle (the family singing and dancing "Do-Re-Mi"), the Mondsee Cathedral (wedding ceremony) and Lake Fuschl (opening and end scenes). "I suppose you've noticed the obvious display of the Austrian flag in the hall way," is one of the film's favourite quotes even in Britain... But then again, this is Hollywood, a kitschy remake of a German movie based on the real adventures of Maria Trapp and her family.
Christmas Carol. Idealizing the story of the real Trapp family, which fled Austria after its annexation by Germany in 1938, the Hollywood remake, locally titled "Meine Lieder, Meine Träume - My Songs, My Dreams," had only been second to the earlier German movie "The Trapp Family (Die Trapp-Familie)" in 1956 starring Ruth Leuwerik as the resolute singing nun. Which had also presented the singing family performing the original church chorals rather than "My Favorite Things," "Do Re Mi," or "Edelweiss" about the unreachable flower growing on the very top of the alpine mountains. Still, with every rerun on TV around Christmas time "the hills are alive with the sound of music..."
Connection at Sunrise. Finally, there are two newer movies about unforgettable moments between Vienna and Paris, of two people who almost lost each other after just having found themselves. "Before Sunrise (1995)" is one of those fantasies, about meeting a soul mate from another country, another continent. Actually one of those talking movies, an American guy and a French girl walking through Vienna with beautiful scenes at the Ferris wheel and in front of the Opera house. Not exchanging any contact details, they just leave behind a promise to meet up again six months later at the same place, the Western Railway station of Vienna (Wiener Westbahnhof). "Before Sunset (2004)" is a disillusioned sequel of the same people by coincidence meeting again in Paris nine years later, as part of a presentation of the book "This Time" about their magical moments in Vienna. Riding a boat on the River Seine, again they discuss their dreams, just chat about this and that and catch up with their lives, which definitely didn't stop back then. And they sum it all up in the following key statement: "I guess when you are young you just believe there'll be many people with whom you connect with. Later in life you realize, it only happens a few times." And so you wish someone would say to you: "Last night I did dream of you again. You did hold me in your arms tightly. Then I woke up, found that I hold my pillows, was sad for a while." Which reminds me of that old Garfield cartoon, where he dreamt of eating the whole night and in the morning couldn't find his blanket any more.
Austrian Oscar. On my last weekend before another US assignment I watched "Die Faelscher - The Counterfeiters." An Austrian movie, which got more attention and viewers after in February 2008 winning the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. And so local newspapers would proudly title "We are Oscar," as if all 8 million Austrians had won it altogether.
Survival Instinct. Starring Karl Markovics, it is based on the true story about falsification of especially British and later also American money in German Concentration Camps, a secret activity called Operation Bernhard, meant to destabilize the British economy. Imprisoned Jews were given the chance to improve their conditions and simply survive, by producing forged foreign money, which on the other hand could help the Germans to prolong the war. Following some delay through sabotage, the operation had to be stopped due to the near end of World War II and the printing plates as well as large amounts of the produced foreign currencies were sunk in the Austrian Lake Toplitz, where they would be rediscovered and recovered in 1959. A story of dispute and bad conscience for helping the oppressors in order to save the own lives.
Cave of the Winds tour at Niagara Falls: A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control!
Inglourious Hollywood Directors. A good movie with a very sad tone for mostly playing in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen near Berlin, where by the way also the last Austrian chancellor before German occupation was imprisoned, whose book "Requiem in red-white-red" (after the colours of the Austrian flag) I would read around the same time. Commemorating legendary Hollywood directors of early postwar films such as "Some Like it Hot," "High Noon" and "Anatomy of a Murder," at the Oscar ceremony the director Stefan Ruzowitzky wrapped up: "There have been some great Austrian film makers working here, thinking of Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Otto Preminger. Most of them had to leave my country because of the Nazis. So it sort of makes sense that the first Austrian movie to win an Oscar is about the Nazis' crimes." And it is only fair that these unmatched crimes against humanity will occupy our minds for decades to come to ensure deterrence. As long as heroic resistance from those days is honored as well and not every following generation is expected to apologize anew. Two years later, at the 2010 Oscar ceremony the Austrian actor Christoph Waltz would be nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, for playing a Nazi officer with a talent for seeking out people in hiding in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds." Eloquent, multi-lingual and charming while cunningly sinister, he entirely outshone a star cast lead by Brad Pitt as his cool counterpart, who reveals himself by posing as an Italian with a Southern American slur. Would the dark period of history ever stop overshadowing the Austrians? Presenting the Oscar for the best supporting actor on stage, Co-host Steve Martin combined the announcement with a joke at the expense of Waltz: "In 'Inglouious Basterds' Christoph Waltz played a Nazi obsessed with finding Jews." Spreading his arms over the auditorium, the comedian gestured an invitation: "Well, Christoph... the motherload!" Good luck no Austrian, loaded with a nation's history, had made the same biting comment. Receiving his trophy from presenter Penelope Cruz, Waltz began his acceptance speech with the line: "Oscar and Penelope. That's an uber bingo!"
From Niagara to Abbey Road (and back)
Candlemas at Groundhog Day. Another form of deja vu or "I have seen that already some place" is visiting locations famous from movies and other media. Definitely one of them had been the Music Box Steps in Los Angeles that featured the unforgettable Laurel & Hardy comedy from the early days of the moving pictures in 1932, or should we better say early days of moving pianos upstairs? And there have been quite a few other places of particular interest. Punxsutawney, a hopefully correctly spelled village in northern Pennsylvania, is referred to as "Weather Capital of the World," for being the home of Phil, the weather forecasting groundhog. If Phil sees his shadow, we can expect six more weeks of winter. The event happens every year on February 2 and mirrors the old saying from the same day's catholic festival: "Wenn's zu Mariae Lichtmess stuermt und schneit, ist der Sommer nicht mehr weit!" Which translates as following: "If it is storming and snowing on Candlemas, summer is not far anymore, I guess."
Looping Time. In a classic deja vu situation, stuck in a time loop, Bill Murray would relive the "Groundhog Day" in the 1993 film. Which is why the German version was titled "Und täglich grüsst das Murmeltier - Daily greetings from the Groundhog!" Speaking of wanna-be weather prophecy, among all these country sayings or "farmers rules (in German: Bauernregeln)", the following one has always been my favourite: "When the rooster crows on the manure pile, the weather will change or stay the same for a while! (Kräht der Hahn am Mist, ändert sich das Wetter oder es bleibt wie es ist!)"
Melting Lead. Otherwise, looking into the future is very popular at New Year's Eve, Sylvester, as we call the last day of the year after a 4th Century Pope, who had died on that very day. One of the methods is melting lead (that wouldn't easily melt) in a spoon over a candle, then pouring it into cold water and guessing the future from the resulting shape. And although Phil has got many admirers, dedicating him a life size bronze sculpture even, I am not among them. As Bob Dylan had once put it: "It ain't me, babe!" (Which in W.Ambros' translation into Austrian dialect sounds like: "Na-na-na, I bin's ned!") In the meantime the movie title has become a synonym for a time warp.
Deja Vu Collages: Crossing Brooklyn Bridge on the Abbey Road to Niagara Falls!
Daily Grind. Austrian pop shooting star Chrsitina Stuermer uses it in her song "(Einen) Augenblick am Tag - (One) Moment a day." She describes the dull routine of daily life, which is only briefly interrupted by old melodies, bringing us back to better times: "Das ganze Leben laeuft nach Plan, jeden Tag das gleiche Spiel... und täglich gruesst das Murmeltier," which translates as following: "The whole life goes according to plan, every day the same game... and daily greetings from the groundhog!"
Cave of the Monroe. Visiting one of the natural wonders of the world, the Niagara Falls, I would remembered the Marilyn Monroe movie of same name. After walking from the American Falls to the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, we wore the same yellow raincoats visiting the Cave of the Winds and saw the Maid of the Mist boat on the preferred honey moon location for visitors from all over the world. Only the chapel we couldn't find, with its bells playing the song "Kiss - kiss me, say you miss, miss me..." Later someone suggested to me, it might be located in Hollywood. Anyway, back in 1953 a hilarious movie poster exaggerated: "Marilyn Monroe and Niagara, a raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control!" One day a promotional picture showed Marilyn wearing a potatoe bag (luckily not a smelly onion sack), to prove that she'd look good in everything. And just that "everything" she would usually wear one size to small. "Niagara" featured her in a serious role, not as the typical shortsighted blonde with diamonds as best friend, which some gentlemen are said to prefer. "Hollywood created a superstar and pain was the price you paid," as Elton John put it in his 1973 dedication to Norma Jean, climaxing in the line: "And it seems to me that you lived your life like a Candle in the Wind!" Dying too young at age of 36, like James Dean she became part of the myth of everlasting youth.
Brooklyn Bridge Disaster. Speaking of losses reminds me of a particular location we had visited in New York City shortly after. Among others, we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, spanning over the East River to connect the borough of Brooklyn with Downtown Manhatten. Construction began as early as 1870, and at the time it was opened to public in 1883 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Only about a hundred years later, as a teenager I had seen a drawing of this friendly neighborhood, the bridge with its unmistakable brick towers, significant arches and strong steel cables. I knew it from one of the saddest moments in comic book history, the death of Gwen Stacy. Falling off the bridge after a villain attack, she should have been saved by the hero. For these stories always have to have a good end, don't they? But this time it climaxed in a devastating moment of tragic, the loss of the hero's love of life. The shock came along with a terrible moment of irony, when the attempt of saving a situation only makes things worse. Sometimes even worse by far. So there I was, crossing that bridge with all these thoughts crossing my mind. Despite all fond memory, director Sam Raimi decided to use the more vivid character of Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker's later wife, as female counterpart for his first blockbuster movie. In an interview he explained that looking in the early books "it seemed like the most dramatic element of Gwen Stacy was her death." However, on film the ol' webhead faced a similar rescue scene with MJ at the Queensboro Bridge.
Crossing Abbey Road. One day we went to that street I always wanted to cross. A weekend trip to London, England, provided us the possibility to visit the City Of Westminster. There it was, a simple pedestrian walk, the very "Beatles Crossing" in front of the Abbey Road Studios, famous from the unforgettable album cover. A lot has been interpreted into the scene depicted on the cover photo. Most popular is the Funeral Procession theory as proof for a cover up of Paul McCartney's recent death and replacement with a look-alike.
Album Cover Interpretation. A friend and Beatles fan had mentioned the story to me, which I then found in further detail in a book about famous hoaxes, collected by a former TV news moderator (Horst Friedrich Mayer, Die Entenmacher - Wenn Medien in die Falle tappen / The hoax makers - When media walk into a trap). Anyway, the conspiracy theory said that John Lennon wears a white suit to symbolize the clergyman, Ringo Starr in black is the undertaker ("Pompfinewra" as they would say in Vienna), Paul the barefoot corpse ("schene Leich") with his eyes closed and smoking a cigarette, colloquially called coffin nail, and George Harrison's blue jeans could be working clothes of a gravedigger.
Local Cover Versions. Finally, the "28 IF" on the Volkswagen license plate in the background indicates that Paul would have been 28, if he had lived. Coming out in September 1969, "Abbey Road" featured the Beatles' final recordings before the group split up (as the album "Let It Be" was recorded earlier and only released later). So it was really the Beatles as a group that was borne to the grave with this record. Among others, it included the everlasting classic "Here comes the sun - and I say it's all right!" In 1980 the song had been re-recorded by the Austrian Trio STS in local dialect as "Da kummt die Sunn - i g'frei mi, des is klass!" Unforgotten is also that evening at a typical Viennese Heuriger-Wine Tavern, when a British colleague sang "Yesterday - all my troubles seemed so far away." Which sounded almost as well as Paul McCartney's memorable live performance on his "Tripping the Live Fantastic"-triple-album in 1990. Later, in response to the old "Paul is dead"-theory, McCartney would use the same street crossing for the cover of his 1993 Live-CD, ironically titled "Paul is Live." The VW-license plate reads "51 IS" this time. Probably some kind of hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounded the "Abbey Road"-cover.
Go to the next page for a place we'd like to call: The (only) Temple.