Karl May film adaptations

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Karl May film adaptations are films based on stories and characters by German author Karl May (1842–1912). The characters Old Shatterhand, Winnetou, and Kara Ben Nemsi are very famous in Central Europe.

In most of the film versions the novels were reworked to a great extent, some movies using only the names of characters invented by Karl May. For example, in the book Der Schatz im Silbersee (The Treasure of Silver Lake) the main character was called "Old Firehand" – in the movie he was renamed "Old Shatterhand" (played by American actor Lex Barker) after the more famous character. The movies Old Shatterhand (Apaches' Last Battle) and Winnetou and Old Firehand (Thunder at the Border) are not based on any of May's works, but were completely invented by the screenwriters. Several TV productions, such as Das Buschgespenst and Kara Ben Nemsi Effendi, were much closer to the novels.

In foreign distribution, most of the movie titles were not translated directly into the target language, but new movie titles were made up. For American distribution the makers of the movie posters also invented some new color formats such as Flaming Arrow Color for the movie Der Schatz im Silbersee [1] and Apache Color [2] for Winnetou 1. Teil (called Apache Gold in America).

The silent movies of the 1920s are now probably lost.

For 10 movies in the 1960s, German composer Martin Böttcher wrote landmark film scores, whose success also helped the movies' international success and influenced the Italian movie industry to make Western movies of their own and create a whole new genre, the Spaghetti Western (whose most successful composer Ennio Morricone came to fame just after Martin Böttcher).

Michael Herbig's 2001 film Der Schuh des Manitu satirized the Karl May films of the 1960s to great commercial success in Germany.

Theatrical films[edit]



  • "Wilder Westen – Heißer Orient" – Karl-May-Filmmusik 1936–1968
Bear Family Records BCD 16413 HL – 8 CDs with 192-page movie-book
  • "Winnetou Melodie – Martin Böttcher dirigiert seine großen Karl-May-Erfolge" (1971/1991)
Convoy (East West Records, Time Warner, distributed by Karussel Musik and Video GmbH, 849 824-2)


  • Michael Petzel: Karl May Filmbuch, Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg, ISBN 3-7802-0153-4


External links[edit]

  • Mondo-Esoterica.net – reviews (in English) of the 1960s Karl May films and their DVD releases
  • Rialto Film The website of Rialto Film, who produced many of the Karl May films