Devil Strikes at Night, The (1957): Robert (“The Killers”) Siodmak’s German Oscar Nominee

From the Archives:

In the second year of the best foreign-language Oscar category, the five nominees were: Fellini’s “The Nights of Cabiria” from Italy, which won, “The Devil Came at Night” from the Federal Republic of Germany, “Gates of Paris” from France, “Mother India” from India, and “Nine Lives” from Norway.

“The Devil Came at Night” was directed by the German-born director Robert Siodmak, best-known for his American noirs in the 1940s, such as “The Spiral Staircase” and “The Killers,” starring Burt Lancaster in a stunning debut.

Based on a real-life case, set in WWII, “The Devil Came at Night” is a suspenseful drama about an investigator of a series of murders, who discovers that the killer is a member of the Gestapo, but the Gestapo covers up the evidence, and instead blames an innocent man.

The film, made by Siodmak upon return from Hollywood to Germany, was released under different titles, including “The Devil Strikes at Night,” Nazi Terror at Night,” and Nights When the Devil Came,” which is the closest to the German title, “Nachts Wenn der Teufel Kamm.”

Robert Siodmak directed The Devil Strikes at Night (German: Nachts, wenn der Teufel kam), a film noir with a social message, based on the true story of Bruno Lüdke.

The Devil Strikes at Night
Devilcameatnight.jpg

Original German poster

A serial killer murders women during the last years of World War II. In one of the crimes an innocent man is arrested.

An investigator is frustrated by Nazi authorities who feel that revealing the truth will undermine the people’s faith in their  infallible system.

The detective case gradually becomes a story about the evils of political propaganda and corruption.

The film’s sets were designed by the art directors Gottfried Will and Rolf Zehetbauer, with location shooting in Berlin and Munich.

Oscar Context:

It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but did not win; the winner was Fellini’s La Strada.

Credits:

Produced, directed by Robert Siodmak
Written by Will Berthold (book), Werner Jörg Lüddecke
Produced by Robert Siodmak
Cinematography Georg Krause
Edited by Walter Boos
Music by Siegfried Franz
Production company: Divina-Film
Distributed by Gloria Film

Release date: 1957
Running time 97 minutes
West Germany