Starring-Chris Doerk, Frank Schobel
Scott’s Review #1,173
Reviewed August 27, 2021
One of the strangest films I’ve ever watched Hot Summer (1968) deserves enormous accolades for even being filmed, produced, and in existence. You see, it’s the only film (that I know of) to come out of East Germany before the wall came down in 1989 and unity garnered. This is astounding in itself despite some warts the film contains.
The starkness and seriousness that envelope the German stereotype is shattered by the bubblegum musical nature of the film. This is an oddity in itself.
It’s clearly patterned after the trite, summery United States beach movies of the 1950s and 1960s when teenage characters flocked to the sandy beaches looking for romance with their contemporaries. In this film, they do so within song and dance numbers led by two East German pop idols of the time, Chris Doerk and Frank Schobel.
The genre of the film pretty much sucks and is not at all my favorite style of film but Hot Summer contains a liberal helping of sun, perfect smiles, and beach bodies to keep viewers at least interested.
The acting is not great nor is it expected to be.
As goofy as possible the musical comedy follows a group of teenage girls heading to the Baltic coast together for their summer vacation. Naturally, they wind up meeting a similar group of amorous teenage guys, giving way to quarrels and flirtatious competitions that are played out in lively song-and-dance numbers as the individuals hook up with each other.
Despite that the film was made during the Cold War period there are no political or like messages to be found which surprised me. If there were any subliminal intentions related to this, like the groups sticking together, they didn’t register with me. I think this is a positive. Hot Summer is pure summer fun- nothing more and nothing less.
The songs are a major win and rather hummable especially the title track. It stuck in my head for some time after the film had ended. One character performs a lovely ballad amid a campfire that is quite beautiful and incredibly atmospheric.
The numbers are professional largely because real-life pop stars Doerk and Schobel do the bulk of them.
Still, Hot Summer has a couple of negatives to mention. Why the decision was made to pattern a film, especially one as groundbreaking as being the sole East German film during the Cold War, by using a subject matter as hokey as the summer beach theme is beyond me? Certainly, better genres exist to borrow from.
My hunch is that Joachim Hasler, who directed the film, desired a release from the bleakness of his own culture and saw America as the land of freedom and fun.
The choreography is a bit stiff, if not downright amateurish which adds to the bizarre nature of the overall product. Certainly nothing like the exceptional choreography of say Oklahoma (1955) or West Side Story (1961) instead we get rigid dance numbers.
Kudos to the film for being made at all Hot Summer (1968) is hardly a great film but it does hold the viewer’s interest. It contains enough fun and frolics and good-looking young people to avoid being a snore.