Victor Pahlen Features

In 2012, FATW entered into agreements with Kyra Pahlen, daughter of the late Victor Pahlen, to distribute four of her father's features, GUNMAN IN THE STREETS, PIRATES OF CAPRI, CUBAN STORY, and the long-lost Hedy Lamarr movie LOVES OF THREE QUEENS.  All four will be released on our Mr. FATW-Video label, and FATW has acted as a licensing agent for GUNMAN IN THE STREETS to Turner Classic Movies.

Victor Pahlen was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but the exact date is uncertain -- although it is reported online that it was  February 18, 1907, his daughter Kyra Pahlen says that he was actually born in November of our calendar/December of the Russian calendar, and that he lied about his age, making himself older so that he could be admitted to casinos so that he could gamble.  He made his way to Paris, France, and became a screenwriter and movie producer.   As related by Kyra for an online interview by Paul Malcolm for LA in connection with the release of his last movie,  CUBAN STORY,  with his friend Erroll Flynn, "...Pahlen was a Dostokyevskian figure with a weaknes for roulette and a sharp mind for the quick deals he needed to sustain a cavalier lifestyle.  He was also a natural as a film partner, having produced and co-written, in 1950, director Frank Tuttle's riveting crime thriller GUNMAN IN THE STREETS.  Despite his business acumen, however, Pahlen was inclined to drift.  'He never owned property, because he figured, 'What's the point when the Communists could come along and take it all anyway?' says Kyra Pahlen.  'His solution was 'Let's just hang around in grand hotels and have a good time.' "

"Flynn first came to Cuba on a 1936 yachting trip in the Caribbean after four weather forced him to take shelter. ... It was around 1956, when Flynn was shooting the forgettable forgery thriller THE BIG BOODLE in Havana, that the actor met Victor Pahlen.  The two exiles became partners in a local Havana movie theater, but business, according to Pahlen's daughter Kyra, wasn't what originally drew them together. ''They became good friends,' she says, 'because they were attracted to the same things, story-telling and gambling.'"  Flynn and Pahlen were there when Castro and Che Guevara were fighting Batista, and the pair decided to make a movie about the revolution.  "Why would a rapidly fading Hollwood icon and committed roue join a jet-setting gambler and raconteur, who had fled Bolshevik Russia with his family [want to] make a documentary in praise of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution?  In keeping with the hard-and-loose lifestyle of Errol Flynn and risk-taker-buddy-turned-writer-director Pahlen, coherent answers are few and far between.  One can only guess at the sozzled and plainly hurried state of the film's production..." The result was THE CUBAN STORY, by all accounts the most authentic visual record of the key figures in the revolution.

Victor Pahlen also produced an Italian film, LOVES OF THREE QUEENS (1954), a/k/a L’AMANTE DI PARIDE (original Italian title; Italian 1-sheet shown above), a/k/a ETERNAL FEMINAS, a/k/a FRAUEN, a/k/a LA MANZANA DE LA DISCORDIA, a/k/a THE FACE THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND SHIPS, which was co-directed by Edgar G. Ulmer (see our mini-catalog for Ulmer on this site), which starred Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders, and Louis Hayward; Kyra relates that Lamarr's husband at the time bought the negative materials, and while the copyright ownership may have resided with its producer, coyright ownership without film materials doesn't equal an exploitable movie.  In 2013 FATW obtained a copy of LOVES OF THREE QUEENS, and after video restoration and GATT registration of the copyright in Kyra Pahlen's name, it will be distributed on the Mr. FAT-W Video label.

Kyra relates that in addition to his relationship with Flynn, he had a joint venture with Miguelito Aleman Jr., the son of Mexican President Miguel Aleman, to produce an international horse show in Mexico City; he produced several Mexican features in Mexico , but alas, these have also disappeared from view. 

There is remarkably little information available about Victor Pahlen on the Internet; ironically, there is far more information about his second wife, actress Erica Vaal (a/k/a Ricky Denver), mother of Kyra, who gained success as an actress, photographer, writer, and radio and televison personality in her native Austria.  She divorced him to marry actor Robert Roberts, aka Paul Roberts, with whom she lived in Vienna and Staatz, Austria; there is an extensive article about her in Wikipedia.  Kyra is enroute to building her own career as a writer and producer (THE WARRIOR PRINCE, a/k/a BOUDDHA LE ROMAN DE SA VIE, a/k/a BOUDDHA EIN GOTTLICHES LEBEN, SIDDHARTHA EL PRINCIPE GUERRERO).    

Victor Pahlen lived in Rome, Paris, London (where he was best friends with James Bond-director Terence Young, who became Kyra's Godfather), Mexico and Madrid.  In the 1960s, he sold the Chaplin films to Russia, allowing Russians to see Chaplin at his best for the first time. One thing is beyond dispute:  Victor Pahlen led a life that was not boring; daughter Kyra relates that he survived three major disasters and two plane crashes, deciding not to board at the last minute.  He died in West Holywood, California, in 1981; although his age at death is reported online as being 74, Kyra says that in reality it was 63, with the discrepancy being, as noted above,  due to his misreporting of his age so that he could gain entrance to casinos to gamble.

Kyra Pahlen's restoration, copyright registration,  and release of his films have rescued him from obscurity, and FATW is proud to have been selected by Kyra to represent four of them.

1959; B&W; 50 mins.

Directors:     Errol Flynn, Victor Pahlen
Writer:         Victor Pahlen
Producer:    Victor Pahlen
Presenter:   Victor Paheln
Cast:            Errol Flynn, Beverly Aadland, Florence Aadland, Fulgencio
                    Batista, Fidel Castro  Synopsis:

“ Cuban Story takes an astonishing look at the Cuban Revolution--from the inside. This documentary owes quite a bit to fate. Writer-producer Victor Pahlen and film star Errol Flynn owned a business in Cuba when the revolution broke out. Realizing they had an amazing opportunity on their hands, they stayed, hung out with the revolutionary troops, and filmed right through Castro's ascent. The film is fascinating as an insider's look at the revolution, but also as a record of the times in many unintended ways: the narration refers to Castro's "girl soldiers," and we get a rare glimpse of a clean-shaven Castro. The filmmakers were in Cuba to witness and film the cruelties of Batista's reign, and thus take a decidedly pro-Castro stance. Viewers should be warned that the film also adopts what will come off to today's audiences as an oddly pro-terrorism point of view--is a sabotaged airport a brave blow for freedom or a senseless waste of life? Pahlen and Flynn follow the revolution beyond the end of the fighting as Castro reopens the university and tries to right some of Batista's wrongs. American viewers are rarely able to see such a pro-Castro piece and may find it alternately infuriating and thought-provoking.....This truly revolutionary motion picture is certainly the only film in history to star both Errol Flynn and Fidel Castro! Back in the 1950s, Errol Flynn and producer Victor Pahlen owned a movie theater in Havana. They happened to be there when Castro's revolution broke out around them, so they took to the streets with their cameras to document history as it happened, at ground zero. The result was a unique documentary of Castro's uprising, hosted by Flynn, featuring unrivaled footage of the conflict and Castro himself. Circumstances outside their control shelved the film for nearly fifty years; "Cuban Story" has never been screened, never seen, never released--until now. [The original U.S. video distributor, All Day Entertainment]  is proud to have worked with the Pahlen family to restore this landmark documentary from the only surviving negative materials, stored in England for nearly a half century. Includes an introduction by producer Victor Pahlen's daughter, Kyra Pahlen.”

IMDb Review:

     “This offers crude but nonetheless fascinating glimpses of Cuba in 1959, and from an unlikely source. There is no footage of Errol Flynn with Fidel Castro - just one still. The footage was evidently shot without sound, and the occasional canned applause seems ludicrous and unnecessary. The music on the soundtrack, on the other hand, is perfectly apt, notwithstanding the indifferent sound quality. Flynn's commentary is highly interesting as a contemporary view of Fidel and the rebels from a non-communist source. Much of the actual footage is priceless, notwithstanding the fact that it has been cobbled together rather clumsily. I would commend it to anyone with an interest in the Cuban Revolution.” Review:

     “I would give it four stars. It is an odd, but fascinating look at the Cuban revolution, and, I think, accurately reflects the attitudes of the time in regards to Castro, before he aligned himself with the Soviet Union. It was made at about the same time as Flynn's notoriously bad "Cuban Rebel Girls, and I would say that it is kind of a sister film to that picture. It is a fairly serious documentary about the revolution, whereas "Rebel Girls" is a silly sort of docudrama (with an emphasis on "silly"). When I finished watching "Cuban Story," I watched "Cuban Rebel Girls" again, for comparison. They have some things in common. I have a feeling they may have shared documentary footage for both films, and some of the music is the same- particularly a rebel marching song that is played extensively in both films. Flynn has more to do in "Rebel Girls"- in "Cuban Story," he merely introduces the film, and then appears again in the middle (following two still photos of him with Castro), and then at the end, when he makes the comments the former reviewer alluded to. He can also be seen in footage near the beginning, when he arrives at George Raft's nightclub in Havana. He pulls up in a late '50s White Cadillac- one of the bathtub jobs with the tail fins, and then enters the club, along with Beverly Aadland, his teenage flame, and some others. He is quite frisky in these scenes, and seemingly charms a couple of young women he meets in the club. They play roulette and blackjack, and watch a show. Interestingly, Flynn appears sans mustache in these nightclub scenes (though not in the intro), and looks somewhat younger than usual for this period. For Flynn fans, these scenes are well worth seeing. They are kind of depressing, though, as he mostly looks like hell, and seems to have trouble focusing on the subject at hand, appearing to lose his train of thought at times. The office set used in the intro is pretty cheesy, and it looks like his scenes were filmed in an hour or two.

     “I would say that for students of history, and for Flynn fans, the film is well worth seeing. It has its quirks, but contains footage of Cuba, Castro and the revolution that are unique. The narration is apparently by Victor Pahlen, but is occasionally written to imply that it is Flynn who is speaking, as when he refers to "my colleague George Raft." It is a better film than "Cuban Rebel Girls," and makes an interesting comparison with it. My only gripe is with the liner notes. I would give them 0 stars. Whoever wrote them obviously used Charles Higham's terrible book about Flynn as source material, and repeats Higham's untrue, and illogical, assertions about Flynn. That he was a lifelong fascist; that at one point he was part of a plot to assassinate Castro; that the film crew had to flee Cuba in fear for their lives; that Flynn abandoned his girlfriend, Beverly, and that she had to ask Raft for help to get out. These are outrageous fabrications, and detract from what is otherwise an interesting film. But forget the notes, and buy the DVD. It is an amazing thing to find after all these years.”

GUNMAN IN THE STREETS (a/k/a TRACQUE [original French title])

1950, France [English language], B&W, 86 Mins.

Director:             Frank Tuttle
Writers:               Jacques Companéez, Maximilien Ilyin, Henry Kane, Victor
                            Pahlen, André Tabet, Jack Palmer White
Producers:         Sacha Gordine, Victor Pahlen, René Schwab
Music:                Joe Hajos
Cinematog.:       Claude Renoir, Eugen Schüfftan
Editor:                Steve Previn         
Cast:                   Dane Clark, Simone Signoret, Fernand Gravey, Robert
                            Duke, Michel André, Fernand Rauzéna, Pierre Gay,
                            Edmond Ardisson, Albert Dinan, Albert Augier,
                            Frédéric Bart, Teddy Bilis, Jackie Blanchot, Cadex, Yvonne
                            Dany, Manuel Gary, Philippe Janvier, François Joux,
                            Jean-Jacques Lescot, Dominique Marcas, Rodolphe
                            Marcilly, Frank Maurice, Jean-Paul Moulinot, Jean-Marie
                            Robain, Maurice Régamey, Michel Seldow

Wikipedia Synopses:   

     “Gunman in the Streets is a 1950 black-and-white film shot in film noir style. The low-budget B-movie was shot on location in Paris, France. The film was directed by Frank Tuttle, who directed the film noir classic This Gun for Hire. The film was released in France under the title Le Traque ("The Hunt") and later was released in England under "Gunman in the Streets" and in Canada as "Gangster at Bay". It was also titled "Time Running Out" for the US television syndication of the film beginning in 1963. The French/US produced film was never released in theaters in the US.” 

        “American army deserter turned criminal on the run, Eddy Roback, is being chased through the streets of Paris. The fugitive finds his old girlfriend, Denise Vernon (Signoret) and tries to get money from her in an attempt to get across the border to Belgium. The girlfriend's friend, an American crime reporter (Duke), as well as a country-wide man hunt become obstacles Roback must get past in order to escape. While trying to raise him money, Denise finds him a hiding place in the studio of a lecherous photographer Max Salva, who may have turned Roback in.”

IMDb Review:

        “As had been the case with STRANGE ILLUSION (1945), I kept postponing my purchase of this film's All Day Entertainment DVD ever since its 2002 release; then, it surprisingly turned up not too long ago on late-night Italian TV (in English with forced Italian subtitles) which I decided to tape and have now taken this opportunity – i.e. my unfortunately erratic month-long "Film Noir" marathon – to finally check out GUNMAN IN THE STREETS.

        “Being uniquely a French production shot in English (though, supposedly, there's a simultaneously-made French-language version directed by one Boris Lewin!) and involving talent of mixed nationality on both sides of the camera, this overlooked gem is justly celebrated by connoisseurs now as a 'lost' genre classic. Gritty and uncompromising, it's bookended – like THE WILD BUNCH (1969)! – by a couple of exciting and elaborately staged shootouts of startling violence to which, I'd say, contemporary American cinema had no equivalent: the opener (involving gangster Dane Clark's daring daylight escape from police custody) taking place in crowded streets and the finale in the gang's warehouse hideout (which the police approach as if it were a military operation).

        “Clark is a compelling presence here (see also my review of PAID TO KILL [1954] for comparison): edgy yet bold and with a decidedly mean streak about him, he evokes memories of James Cagney in WHITE HEAT (1949) – check out his final enraged assertion that he doesn't need anyone a' la Cody Jarrett going berserk at the "top of the world"– and, like that film, this is really a 1930s gangster picture brought up to date. Of the French actors, the ones who come off best are those most at ease with the "foreign" language – both Simone Signoret and Fernand Gravet had appeared in English-speaking roles before; she excels as the quintessential gangster's moll, young but obviously seasoned and whose death scene achieves a near-poetic quality, while he brings a quiet determination (concealed under an air of old-style sophistication) to his Police Commissioner role. Clark manages to remain one step ahead of the law till the very end – though he nearly escapes getting caught in a department store and in a police raid on his former headquarters; for a long part of the duration, he holes up in the apartment of a sleazy photographer (with an amiable but ill-treated white feline as a pet) who ratted on him.

        “American director Tuttle is best-known for THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), the noir classic which made a star of Alan Ladd and with whom he would soon reteam for another gangster flick – HELL ON FRISCO BAY (1955). Eugen Shufftan's camera-work throughout is dazzling, vividly capturing the essential realism of the French locations; Joe Hajos' moody score is also notable. If there's a quibble I have with the film, it's that we never learn what kind of racket Clark is involved in – because of this, it loses some steam during the last act (where he meets up with his anonymous-looking criminal associates) but picks up the pace again with the afore-mentioned climactic bout of nihilism. By the way, some reviewers mention a 1975 film called LA TRAQUE (with Mimsy Farmer and Michel Lonsdale) as a remake of this one – but, from what I read on the IMDb, it seems to have a totally different plot line!”  Internet Movie Database

IMDb Quote:

        “Eddy Roback: Tell you what we do. I got a gun and you got a pretty
               good idea. We compromise.
         Frank Clinton: How's that?
         Eddy Roback: We do it my way. “

PIRATES OF CAPRI (a/k/a I PIRATI DI CAPRI [original Italian title])

1949, Italy, B&W, 94 Mins.

Directors:           Edgar G. Ulmer; Giuseppe Maria Scotese (co-director)
Writers:              Giorgio Moser (story and screenplay) (as G. Moser) and
                           Golfiero Colonna (story and screenplay) (as G. Colonna),
                           Sidney Alexander
Producers:        Victor Pahlen (producer), Niccolò Theodoli (executive
                           producer), Rudolph Monter (producer)
Music:               Nino Rota
Cinematog.:      Anchise Brizzi
Editor:               Renzo Lucidi
Cast:                  Louis Hayward, Binnie Barnes, Mariella Lotti, Massimo
                          Serato, Alan Curtis,  Mikhail Rasumny, Virginia Belmont,
                          William Tubbs, Alberto Califano, Mario Auritano, Eric
                          Culton, Michel Sorel, Tony Morena, Erminio Spalla, Liana
                          Del Balzo, Eleonora Rossi Drago, Arianne Ulmer

IMDb Synopsis:    

        “A group of men calling themselves 'The Pirates of Capri", headed by Captain Sirroco, who is really Count Amalfi, are trying to restore freedom to the people of Naples in 1779. The Queen is advised of the pirate's assault of a member of her court and she seeks to escape to Palermo. But, she is advised it would be good politics for her to attend a ball Amalfi is giving for his fiancée, Mercedes, who is unaware of the dual role Amalfi is playing.”

IMDb Review:    

        “ PIRATES OF CAPRI (aka: Captain Sirocco) is an intelligently made action movie which is fun to watch, and which benefits from Louis Hayward's remarkable ability to play this kind of role to perfection. Forget Johnny Depp or Jerry Bruckheimer's nonsense; this is the real McCoy. Good movies like this were commonplace 50 or 60 years ago, but this one benefits from being filmed at authentic-looking locations in Italy -- not Capri or Napoli they say, but the shots of Napoli couldn't be anywhere else, and those in the grottoes of Capri same thing. This was an Italian movie, carefully dubbed in English....Incidentally, Louis Hayward, like today's Charleze Theron, are/were both authentic African/Americans. Each was born in the Union of South Africa.”

Amazon Reviews:

        “I saw this movie about 45 years ago, when I was a kid. Finally we are able once  again to enjoy the ultimate in swashbuckling heros and his display of the most dramatic sword fighting ever! We have here Captain Sirocco, a masked swarshbuckling swordsman who simultaneously precipitates a revolution against a tyrannical chief of police and saves the queen (played by Binnie Barnes), who happens to be the sister of Marie Antoinette. Hayward, is a foppish sisified dandy dressed in glitter and powdered wig, who is the queen's poet. He is also a bold, fierce zorro - like hero loved by the poor who is helping them to throw off the yoke of tyranny imposed by the royalty and enforced by evil chief of police who has also sheltered the queen from knowing the awful truth about the condition of the poor and their rage at their pitiful lives. He has also murdered Sirocco's brother. The beautiful Mariella Lotti, (introduced in this movie) plays Hayward's betrothed who is supposed to marry the fop but is in love with the dashing hero, both of who are the same man with a secret identity. Louis Hayward's swordsmanship is amazing. He is by far the best screen actor of his time for this kind of role. He blows away Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, et al, who can't hold a candle to his sense of timing, his flamboyance and flash. If you like the gusto with which Antonio Banderas played Zorro recently, you will love Hayward. True, the story is so so, but the sound track and the way Hayward completely commands this movie makes it a one of a kind fun movie. WHy, you might even take up fencing when you see it. Here is hoping that the rest of this great actor's work is made available to us...”

        “Loosely based on late-18th -- early-19th century revolutionary events in southern Italy, Edgar Ulmer's THE PIRATES OF CAPRI is a fairly lavish costumer starring Louis Hayward as the Count di Amalfi by day, or I guess sometimes by night, too, and the masked rebel leader Captain Sirocco the rest of the time. The Count/Captain's kinda got a Scarlet Pimpernel thing going, a court fop and favorite of Queen Carolina part of the time, a sword slashing, square-jawed terror the rest of the time.... As far as I can tell Hayward does most of his own stunts - the requisite up-the-stone-staircase fencing duel with the corrupt cop Baron von Holstein (Rudolph Serato) and a couple of tumbles. Hayward is more effective as the trenchant court wit, although his sentence-ending giggles became irritating right quick. Serato comes across as a minor league Basil Rathbone to Hayward's stolid Errol Flynn. Errol Flynn minus the athleticism and joie de carnage, I hasten to add. For an action adventure THE PIRATES OF CAPRI spends an awful lot of time at court, a lot of time talking, and, disappointing for a movie with the word `pirate' in the title, only about 15-minutes at sea. This isn't a bad movie, but it sure ain't a classic, either. Most valuable to those fans of Ulmer's low-budget American classics (`Detour,' `The Black Cat') who are curious to see what he can do with an expanded budget and an international cast.”

     [original Italian title], a/k/a ETERNAL FEMINAS (Italy), FRAUEN
     (Austria), a/k/a  LA MANZANA DE LA  DISCORDIA (Spain), a/k/a

1954; France/Italy; Technicolor; video RT 93 Mins.; U.S. theatrical runtime 73 Mins.

Directors:    Marc Allégret, Edgar G. Ulmer         
Writers:       Marc Allégret, Hugh Gray (story), Æneas MacKenzie screenplay
                    and story), Vittorio Nino Novarese, Roger Vadim, Salka Viertel    
Producers:  Hedy Lamarr, Victor Pahlen
Music:         Nino Rota
Cinematog.: John Allen, Desmond Dickinson, Guglielmo Lombardi,
                     Fernando Risi
Editor:         Manuel del Campo         
Cast:            Hedy Lamarr, Massimo Serato, Alba Arnova, Elli Parvo, Cathy
                    O'Donnell, Piero Pastore, Enrico Glori, Robert Beatty, Anna
                    Amendola, Guido Celano, Serena Michelotti, Cesare Danova,
                    Terence Morgan, Richard O'Sullivan, John Fraser, Gérard
                    Oury, Milly Vitale, Luigi Pavese, Nerio Bernardi, Mimo Billi,
                    Patrizia Della Rovere, Enzo Fiermonte, Ennio Girolami,
                    Rosy Mazzacurati, Valeria Moriconi, Aldo Nicodemi, Piero
                    Palermini, Flavia Solivani, Daniela Spallotta, Luigi Tosi,
                   Marida Vanni, Stella Vitelleschi

New York Times online Synopsis:  

      “Beautiful Hedy Lamarr finds herself faced with a difficult decision when she must choose an appropriate costume for an important masquerade ball in this metaphorical fantasy that unfolds in three parts. To help her decide, she asks a trio of male friends. Their disparate suggestions that she go as either Helen of Troy, the Empress Josephine or Genieve de Brabant, and the reasons behind their choices provide the bulk of the film. Originally, the film was three hours long and purported to present the essence of being a woman.”  New York Times
IMDb Review:

     “I absolutely adore Hedy Lamarr. When I first saw her face in a black and white movie on TV, way back, in the 1950's, I was transfixed by what I saw. Since then, no female in the history of movies, has surpassed her great beauty; Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner came close. It never mattered that she was not a great actress... 'Amante di Paride, L'' was a mess of a film. Much of Hedy's money went into this film, but the film was doomed by its very premise; and certainly Hedy could never have done anything with such a horrible script, and stupid story! I felt more sad than anything, because I always thought Hedy did not end up with the right directors, or the best scripts. This movie was pleasing enough on the eyes; but otherwise an assault to the other senses. This is not the way I prefer to remember Hedy.”

The links below will take you to Amazon to buy the two Victor Pahlen features currently available from Mr. FAT-W Video. 
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