Film Review: Der Todesking (1990)

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Due to the absurd amount of money I have spent on my movie collection over the past six months, I will no longer be reviewing the newest Blu-ray release of Der Todesking. I basically had to ground myself from Amazon and certain Facebook groups (Gory Dreams and Bloody Screams horror DVD and VHS Collectors) for a while. So, in order to complete my trilogy of reviews on the Corpse Fucking Art trilogy, I am going to have to review the film in all of its standard definition glory.

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My reviews of Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2 weren’t Blu-ray reviews either. So I guess I may as well keep it consistent. There is a certain amount of grittiness in Buttgereit’s films that I feel is more impactful in a lower definition anyway. In fact, his films are examples of films that I am always looking to find on VHS. At this point in time, however, they are probably even more expensive on VHS than they are on Blu-ray.

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Moving on to the review, the viewer needs to know that this film has an interesting and intriguing structure. Der Todesking is made up of brief scenes involving the death of certain characters. The final moments in the lives of these characters are separated by a brief glimpse of the day mentioned at the bottom of the screen. As the film progresses through the days of the week, a seemingly unrelated decomposing corpse marks the passage of time. Shown in various stages of rot, this corpse decomposes while the living characters’ lives are decomposing right before your very eyes.

Each separate death in the film marks the end of each character’s journey through their unhappiness with the world in which they live. It reminds us that  instances of suicide and murder occur every day, all over the world. It is the film’s awareness for such things that gives me such high regard for this film. It simplistically speaks to human nature. It not only looks at our dark sides; but, it also reminds us that much of this death occurs because of our inability to handle the evil that surrounds us in a sick and twisted world. I think the reason this film disturbs me more than the Nekromantik films is the fact that it just seems so real. This film’s purpose wasn’t to shock and appall critics, like the Nekromantik films. Buttgereit created it to remind every different type of viewer that we live in a sick and twisted world. It reminds us that our inability to cope with the evils in this world could bring us face to face with the king of death.

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Although this film has some graphic imagery, it is nowhere near as disgusting as Nekromantik 1 or 2. It has a pretty brutal dick removal scene; but aside from that, it has pretty standard death scenes. This is because this is Buttgereit’s true art film about death. The deaths are not meant to disturb. Instead, they are meant to remind us all how close we are to The Death King. It is the metaphoric scenes with the decomposing body that remind us that this film is really a warning about the place in which we do not want to end up.

In regards to the music, this film has a fairly famous soundtrack among cult cinema. There is good reason for this. The music that accompanies the decomposing body is some of the most haunting stuff I’ve heard in a film. It isn’t overly-complex. It isn’t super-synthesized. It just fits the dark ambiance of the scene so well, that you will wonder if you could even have one without the other.

My favorite musical moment just happens to occur with my favorite scene. It is the transition in the final scene. It begins with a child who draws the death king, and ends with a picture of him and a baby. This final still scene gives me chills every single time I see it. As the child tells you that he is the one who makes people want to die, the chilling music carries you into your final moment with the death king. It is here, where he holds the skull of an adult above a baby. This juxtaposition of metaphors, representing the cycle of birth and death, is absolutely amazingly intense. 

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So while many people rave about the other two films in the Corpse Fucking Art trilogy, this viewer is here to tell you that this is the best film by far. This, for me is the must-own film in the series. It has horror, gore, great music, and an art house feel. It is philosophical, metaphoric, and in-your-face all at the same time. Although I rated the other films on my old rating system, this is how they would stack up now. Nekromantik 2 gets a 3/5, Nekromantik gets a 4/5, and this classic gets a 5/5!

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Author: Steven Paul

Born and raised in Michigan, slowly dying in Florida. I'm here to keep you informed about everything in the world of indie horror. I also specialize in all genres of exploitation, cult, and extreme cinema. As part owner and Editor of Film and Television for Beneath the Underground, it is my responsibility to provide vast amounts of information for the horror fan and an outlet for the filmmaker.

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