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Walter Ulbrich

Walter Ulbrich German film producer

German film producer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German film producer
Was Screenwriter Film producer
From Germany
Type Film, Television, Stage and Radio
Gender male
Birth 1910, Metz, France
Death 1991, Germering, Germany (aged 81 years)
The details
Biography

Walter Ulbrich (15 June 1910 – 13 November 1991) was a German film producer primarily known for writing and/or producing 10 of 16 four-part adventure mini-series made for West German TV in the 1960s and 1970s. Mostly based on classics of world literature such as Robinson Crusoe or The Sea Wolf, these West German/French co-productions traditionally premiered on West German public-service television in December and are therefore also known as Weihnachtsvierteiler (Christmas four-parters). The series have been dubbed into a variety of languages and also became popular outside Germany, especially in France, the UK, and Canada.

His work and influence on European TV productions

As a writer, Ulbrich saw scriptwriting as an important process and tried to make sure his productions were true to the books, yet at the same time exciting. The latter sometimes necessitated including plots or characters from other novels or inventing them outright, which has garnered his adaptations some criticism. Because a script had to be arrived at that satisfied both German and French production partners, the scriptwriting stage could be lengthy, and so in the case of Two Years' Vacation it took four years from first draft to airing, because of script development as well as financial problems (on the French side).

Differences between e.g. the English, German, and French versions of a series often comprised more than just a different dub and titles: e.g. Two Years' Vacation has different scores (German score by Hans Posegga, French score by Alain Le Meur) and the German cut adds an extended introduction set in Peru that shows the—purely MacGuffin—gold treasure being stolen, but misses a few scenes at the end where the youths are reunited with their families. Also, the German version has narration by the character Dick Sand as an adult, which brings out some of the elements of the story which Ulbrich perceived as class warfare. The French cut lacks that added social comment. Generally, the German versions tend to focus more on action scenes (because they were also intended for prime-time adult audiences) and have more experimental/contemporary-sounding scores than their French counterparts.

On 27 April 1970 Ulbrich founded his own production company, Tele München Gruppe (TMG), which is still active today. In 1980, Concorde Filmverleih was founded as a distributor.

Ulbrich's productions were all done in cooperation with the ZDF public-service television channel and other international partners, especially from France and Romania. Their success prompted the other German public-service channel ARD to emulate the formula, leading to adventure series such as Huckleberry Finn and His Friends (1979/80) and Captain James Cook (1987). Ulbrich may not have invented international TV co-productions, but his series demonstrated the feasibility of high-quality TV productions using an eclectic mix of nationalities in front and behind the camera.

Selected filmography

  • 5 June (1942)
  • Under the Bridges (1945)
  • Where the Trains Go (1949)
  • Seven Years in Tibet (1956)
  • Rose Bernd (1957)
  • The Goose of Sedan (1959)

Four-parters with Ulbrich as writer and/or producer

# Role Title Year Film gauge Director Notes
1 W The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe 1964 35 mm Jean Sacha Black-and-white
2 P Don Quixote [de] 1965 35 mm Carlo Rim, Jacques Bourdon, Louis Grospierre Starring Josef Meinrad as Don Quixote. Black-and-white
3 WP Treasure Island 1966 35 mm Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Jacques Bourdon Filmed in color, but premiered on German TV in black-and-white
4 WP The Adventures of Tom Sawyer [de] 1968 35 mm Wolfgang Liebeneiner
5 W Leatherstocking Tales 1969 35 mm Jean Dréville, Pierre Gaspard-Huit, Sergiu Nicolaescu
6 WP The Sea Wolf [de] 1971 35 mm Wolfgang Staudte, Sergiu Nicolaescu Starring Raimund Harmstorf as Wolf Larsen
Combination of The Sea Wolf, The Road, The Cruise of the Dazzler, and several other works by Jack London
7 W Two Years' Vacation [fr] 1974 35 mm Gilles Grangier, Sergiu Nicolaescu Combination of three Jules Verne novels with added elements (such as the treasure hunt) by Ulbrich
8 WP Burning Daylight [de] 1975 16 mm Wolfgang Staudte Based on several works by Jack London about the Klondike gold rush
9 WP Michel Strogoff 1976 16 mm Jean-Pierre Decourt Again starring Raimund Harmstorf
10 W Kidnapped [de] 1978 16 mm Jean-Pierre Decourt Starring David McCallum. Combination of the novels Kidnapped and Catriona.
Also known for its Gaelic-inspired main title theme (David's Theme) by Vladimir Cosma which has been covered by folk music artists such as the Kelly family (1979) and Declan Galbraith (2006) as David’s Song (Who’ll Come With Me).
11 P Mathias Sandorf [de] 1979 Jean-Pierre Decourt
12 P Caleb Williams [de] 1980 Herbert Wise Starring Mick Ford and Stephen Rea
13 P La Nouvelle Malle des Indes [fr] 1981 Christian-Jaque Biographical TV miniseries about Thomas Waghorn
14 P Der Mann von Suez [de] 1983 Christian-Jaque Biographical TV miniseries about Ferdinand de Lesseps

W: as writer, P: as producer

Ulbrich also re-edited the French-produced Joseph Balsamo [fr] (1973, 16 mm, starring Jean Marais) for German TV, renaming it to Cagliostro, reducing its running time from 360 minutes to 255 minutes, and changing the plot substantially.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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Reference sources
References
http://www.tmg.de/tmg/data/media/_shared/media/Firmenbroschuere/TMG_Image_E.pdf
http://www.jack-london.org/01film-seewolf1971.htm
https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0880381/
http://www.tmg.de/tmg/index.php?websiteLang=en
https://d-nb.info/gnd/137331703
http://isni.org/isni/0000000077820091
https://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/no2008047878
https://aleph.nkp.cz/F/?func=find-c&local_base=aut&ccl_term=ica=pna2010572326&CON_LNG=ENG
https://snaccooperative.org/ark:/99166/w6f78mn8
https://viaf.org/viaf/73660514
https://www.worldcat.org/identities/containsVIAFID/73660514
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