Wednesday 3 September 2014

Goodbye Erich Stinnes ....

The late Gottfried John
Sad news from the world of acting that German actor Gottfried John has died at the age of 72. Most, if not all of the references have as far as I can see referred to his role as the archetypal Bond 'villain' General Ourumov in Goldeneye. And very good he was in that too, his slavic features fitting the character very well even though John himself was born in Berlin.

Few of the references I've seen online - including, for example, his Wikipedia entry - reflect the fact that he was one of the main characters in the TV adaptation of Game, Set and Match. This, of course, is a consequence largely of the fact that after one showing on UK TV in 1988 (and presumably, similarly so in international markets), the series was never repeated or released on DVD, due largely to Len's dissatisfaction with some of the casting.

I can see little to be dissatisfied with in Gottfried John's performance. His identifiable German/Slavic features - redolent of a German from the eastern provinces, perhaps - served the actor well in his portrayal of Nikolai Sadoff - KGB General - who when stationed in East Berlin chose to adopt the German pseudonym Erich Stinnes. In the 1988 ITV adaptation of Len Deighton's Game, Set and Match, John portrayed I thought extremely well the calm power of this KGB veteran in whom Bernard Samson saw something of himself, the passed-over field specialist at the mercy of the desk officers.

John was perfectly believable as the KGB colonel and, having watched the DVD series again last month, I was struck by how he fitted the role like a glove and was a great foil to Ian Holm's Bernard Samson, particularly in the scene on the motor boat in the ocean off Mexico, where Samson has to convince himself that Stinnes' defection is the real deal.

An established German actor, I enjoyed John's performance as Franz Bieberkopf's pimp friend in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz, long regarded as a milestone in German TV film-making.

Readers interested in seeing his portrayal of Erich Stinnes can frequently find episodes of the 1988 Game, Set and Match adaptation on YouTube. What do you think of his portrayal - is he the Stinnes of the books, do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Another German actor who had link with Deighton film albeit as a minor character was Gunter Meisner
    Gunter Meisner was archetypal in portraying unsavoury minor characters-be it a fanatic Nazi - General Greifer, vocally exhorting the “one leader and one nation” and “thousand year Reich” nonsense of his beloved Fuhrer in the film Odessa File, and who was quite shy of the camera , as Kreutzman, the Berlin gangster, who was entrusted with the escape of Colonel Stok from East Berlin in the film, Funeral in Berlin, and finally as Mr Slugworth, who was Wonka’s rival who had less than honest curiosity to know of recipes of Wonka in the film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He died in Berlin 1994.
    Meisner with his serious face and glasses was known for his portrayal of Adolf Hitler,but much more convincingly as a Nazi officer.
    In the Golden Eye film, which was not one of my favourite Bond films, General Ourumov was the only character I liked in this very unconvincing film. I never liked Pierce Brosnan as the Bond. I was prejudiced of course, given that for me the Bond on the screen has always been Sean Connery, having seen him on the screen in 1962, the very first day of the release of Dr NO.

    By the way, it is possible that Gottfried John had a Slavic ancestry. I know a few German friends, born in Germany, who have Slavic ancestry. Germany born polish friends are more predominant. After all Germany borders with Poland and former Czechoslovakia .