Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

A true Dieselpunk movie built around an idea that promised a lot - at least, so it seemed at the time.

F.P.1 (Flying Platform Number One) was the name of a 1931 novel written by noted science fiction and fantasy writer/director Curt Siodmak, best known as the creator of the The Wolf Man.
The novel was turned into three films over 1932 to 1933, directed by Karl Hartl — one each in English, French, and German. Filming multiple versions in different languages (and with different cast) was common in the early sound film period. The German version was the last German film that either Siodmak or Peter Lorre, who played a secondary character (Photo-Jonny), would make in Germany before the war. It premiered on 22 December 1932, just 39 days before Hitler took power.

Written after Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, the plot concerned a permanent air station in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean - enormous platform serving as an airfield, with refueling and repair facilities.

The idea probably sounds naive today, but in the early 1930s it was taken seriously. Plans of Albert Berthold Henniger, a German engineer who intended to build a real platform, were used for the movie.

Lieutenant Droste (played by Paul Hartman in the German version) wants to build an oceanic airstation. With the help of an experienced aviator Major Ellissen (Hans Albers), he manages to win the support of the Lennartz-Werke for the project.

Ellissen, who has taken up with the owner's sister Claire Lennartz (Sybille Schmitz), shies away from marriage and seeks new adventure.

After two years, the platform has become a city on the ocean, with runways, hangars, hotels, and shopping centers. But during a storm, the connection to the platform is severed.

It appears that rival industrialists had planted spies who wrecked the power plant and drained off its fuel, destroyed the escape planes and overcome the crew with gas. The sea valves are opened by chief engineer Damsky (Hermann Speelmanns), a planted saboteur, to sink the F.P. 1. An open radio relay transmits Droste's battle with Damsky to the Lennarts headquarters.

Gunshots and screams are followed by tramsmitted silence. "F.P. 1 doesn't respond!", states the wireless operator, and Claire immediately makes a midnight dash to Ellissen.

In a lovesick depression, he is convinced by Claire (who promises to give herself to him) to fly her to the platform. Their plane crashes on landing.

As Claire and Ellissen step from the wreckage, Damsky flees in a motor boat. Claire finds the badly injured Droste and takes care of him as Ellison smashes windows in the causeway to let the fallen crew receive fresh air to revive them. Ellissen becomes arrogant -- the F.P. 1 will sink in 12 hours, as with the diesel fuel for turbines scuttled, there is no power to close the sea valves and halt the flooding. Claire confesses that she still loves Droste, and in a love sick frenzy Ellissen rants that they can all die together.

Discovering that there are still operable motor launches, the crew rebells and seizes the boats in escape, leaving Claire, Ellissen, Droste and the photographer (variously called "Sunshine" and "Jonny" in different versios)and a few loyal crewmen to their fate. Droste, wounded with a broken shoulder, is determined to cannibalize one working plane and escape to seek help.

Sunhine/Johnny (Lorre) shames Ellissen that he would allow his former friend, in his damaged state, to further risk his life while Ellissen nihilistically waits death. After soul searching, Ellissen pulls himself together and steals the plane. Spotting a ship, he parachutes from the plane and is rescued. Aboard the ship, he races to the wireless room to radio for help, and a rscue ship bearing dieel fuel is dispatched to F.P.1. Ellissen learns from the captain that the ship is heading to South America in search on condors, and resigned to his solitary life of loveless adventure, determines to string along with the expedition.

French and English versions had completely different cast, in the latter Conrad Veidt replacing Albers as Ellissen, Leslie Fenton as Droste, Jill Esmond as Claire and Donald Carthrop as Photo-Jonny/Sunshine. In the French version Charles Boyer played Ellissen, Jean Murat appeared as Droste, Daniele Parola as Claire and Pierre Pierade as Le Photographe (Jonny).

No episodes on YouTube, sorry, but here's a clip with an instrumental theme and the Pilot's Song (performed by Hans Albers).

Text: Wiki ++

Read more (something rejected by Wiki. Sounds familiar?)

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Comment by Marcus Rauchfuss on October 13, 2010 at 3:48pm
Very interesting lord_k, thanks for this one! I was not even aware this movie existed, now I shall go and hunt for it.
Comment by lord_k on October 13, 2010 at 1:36am
To Tome:
English version alive! Well, it will be interesting to compare Albers with Veidt.
Comment by Larry on October 12, 2010 at 9:34pm
Good job Tome!
Comment by Tome Wilson on October 12, 2010 at 8:50pm
Comment by Larry on October 12, 2010 at 10:52am
Seems like with the storyline is solid. With the right mix of writers, directors and actors this could be remade into a good contemporary movie.
Comment by lord_k on October 12, 2010 at 10:23am
It's rather typical international adventure drama of the time, with some great shots and some rather pathetic dialogues. Above the average, anyway. Albers is charismatic even when he's chewing the scenery, I must admit.
Seen it a long time ago and intend to order the German version on DVD.
Comment by Larry on October 12, 2010 at 10:10am
Sounds like this really could have been a great movie. What's your critique of the merits of the movie itself?

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