Condemned of Altona, The (1961): De Sica Version of Sartre Play, Starring Oscar Winners Fredric March and Sophia Loren

Vittorio De Sica’s version of the famous play by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The Condemned of Altona, boasts an all-star cast, headed by three Oscar winners: Fredric March (“Best Years of Our Lives”), Sophia Loren (“Two Women”), and Maximilian Schell (“Judgment at Nuremberg”).

March plays Albrecht von Gerlach, the owner of one of Germany’s biggest industrial firms. Albrecht calls for his son Werner (Robert Wagner), a lawyer who is married to an actress, Johanna (Sophia Loren). The aging Albrecht wants Werner to take over the family business, but Werner is not interested, as he knows that the company helped to build the Nazi war machine, which had caused the deaths of millions of innocent people.

Werner, however, was not first in the line of succession. His older brother Franz (Maximilian Schell) ran the company for his father during the war, and as a result, he was cited for war crimes and executed. Or was he?

It turns out that Franz escaped the gallows, and he now lives in the basement of the family’s Altona estate, watched over by his sister Leni (Francoise Prevost). Franz has gone mad, and he believes Leni when she tells him that Germany had never recovered from its defeat in the war.

The screen adaptation of Abby Mann, who also wrote “Judgement at Nuremberg,” is too static and De Sica, out of respect to Sartre, honors the original too much; it still feels like a play.


Running time: 114 Minutes.
Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Written By: Abby Mann, Jean-Paul Sartre