Der Hauptmann von Köpenick (1956) AKA The Captain from Köpenick


A young shoemaker is arrested for stealing a small amount of money, and is released after being jailed for 15 years. He wants to have a pass to get a job and start anew, but without a job he doesn’t get a pass; and without a pass, he doesn’t get a job. He gets into the net of Prussian bureaucracy, and can’t see a solution. Until he enters a small Second-Hand Shop, and sees a Prussian Uniform that fits him like a second skin…

Director: Helmut Käutner. AKA The Captain from Köpenick
Writers: Carl Zuckmayer (play), Helmut Käutner (screenplay) Carl Zuckmayer (screenplay).
Stars: Heinz Rühmann, Martin Held, Hannelore Schroth, Willy A. Kleinau, Leonard Steckel, Friedrich Domin, Erich Schellow, Walter Giller, Wolfgang Neuss, Bum Krüger, Joseph Offenbach, Ilse Fürstenberg, Maria Sebaldt, Edith Hancke, Ethel Reschke. 

1956 Venice Film Festival – Nominated for the Golden Lion.
1957 Academy Awards – Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.


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  1. JW
    March 22, 2019

    Great film! I salute you, Jon!

  2. Steve Burstein
    March 22, 2019

    Ruhmann and Kautner had collaborated on a similarly themed film in 1940, CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN, with a final shot similar to the one used here.

  3. James558
    March 23, 2019

    Excellent selection, Jon! As always, many thanks.

  4. Bob Verini
    March 24, 2019

    A released felon can’t get work without papers, and he can’t get papers without work, so he dons an officer’s uniform to exploit his countrymen’s undue respect for authority. The interesting thing about this synopsis is that it implies a Government Inspector-style extended impersonation, when in fact Wilhelm Vogt and his martial duds only meet at the 2/3 point of the movie. Prior to that, the play intercuts between the various military types who in turn commission, wear, and dispose of the outfit, and Wilhelm’s efforts to get someone to take pity on his situation. All of which leads to the story’s real satirical point: not, as in Gogol, people’s credulity, but rather their eagerness to bow and scrape before anyone who looks the part—“clothes make the man” taken to a hilarious extreme. Coming barely a decade after the war’s end, the film has to be read as a veiled stab at the very mindset that helped bring National Socialism to power. Anyway, it’s a colorful treat. Although most of the acting is that broad oompah-bratwurst style that always seems a little too much, Heinz Ruehmann—whom I’d previously only known from Ship of Fools—is understated and winning. You can tell why he was such an audience favorite for so long.

  5. Michael
    July 1, 2019

    Thank you Jon for this excellent film. One of my favourites

  6. Jeff B
    January 17, 2021

    Great to have the site back and running. Can you get the streaming working for this film? Thanks a ton.

    • Jon W.
      January 19, 2021

      Thanks Jeff!
      Please refresh, I just added a new link 🙂

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