Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Judgment In Berlin (1988)

by  |  April 4th, 2011  |  Drama

For more then a Millennium there has been countries all over the planet that sought out the repression of their people in their own nation or the nations that they have conquered… From Ancient Rome and their use of slavery to the fascist regimes of Nazi Germany and Italy in the 1930s and 40s and their desires to eradicate whole segments of their own populace, to the repressive Soviet state, that sought to subjugate or destroy whole segments of their own or their conquered peoples! And many others!

Despite all of this freedom, justice and the rights and decency of mankind has always prevailed.  Rather it be the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths centuries ago, or the non-fascist states fighting a war on fascism and the last remnants of  aggressive Imperialism as is the case in World War 2, or just simply out maneuvering the Soviet Union as was the case in the Cold War.

With that said, you might be wondering why I am mentioning this brief little history lesson on the down fall of brutal and sadistically repressive regimes? Well I was getting to that…

In regards to the Cold War, Hollywood had a strong interest in romanticizing the West as being the better side of the coin, as being free, where anyone who wants it can get a job, buy a house, or what ever they desire, and putting on display the evils of the Soviet Union and the damage they caused way back when.  Which is one of the many things that I really liked about these types of movies…

One such example of these movies is Judgment In Berlin, a movie that is based on a book written about the true life events in the movie…

Written By: Joshua Sinclair (Shaka Zulu) and also Written and Directed By: Leo Penn (Ben Casey). Starring Martin Sheen (The West Wing) Heinz Hoenig (Das Boot), Jutta Speidel (Aber Jetzt Erst Recht), Carl Lumbly (Men Of Honor), Sam Wannamaker (Raw Deal) and Sean Penn (Crackers).

Judgment In Berlin tells the stories of Helmut Thiele (Hoenig), Sigrid Radke (Speidel) and her daughter, and their desperate struggle to get to the west!

Helmut Thiele (Heinz Hoenig), Sigrid Radke (Jutta Spiedel) her daughter, and a flight attendant after the land at Templehoff Military Base.

The movie starts off with Helmut writing a secret letter to his children who live with his ex-wife in the west, about what he is about to attempt to do (of course this has to be in code.) After this and the next day both Helmut and Sigrid meet with a friend of Sigrid’s that lives in the West, that is also planning on supplying them with fake identity papers so that the two can make it over to West Germany.  He goes by the name of Hans Schuster (Played by: Max Volkert Martens).

The three hatch a plan in which Schuster, Helmut and Sigrid are supposed to meet in Poland, and head for West Germany together… The only problem is that Schuster never actually ends up making it to Poland, because he is arrested by the Soviet Secret Police while enroute to the rendezvous with Helmut and Sigrid.

When Helmut and Sigrid arrive at the train station in Poland and discover that Schuster isn’t going to be meeting with them, they quickly leave, fearing that the secret police found out about them.  Later on though, they device a scheme to hijack a plane with a toy gun, and have it diverted to West Germany. Preposterous? Yes, but hey… It works!

Helmut using his hostage to get the pilots to re-direct the plane for West Germany.

This is where things begin to get interesting you see… Everything seems to go off with out a hitch. They get on to the Airplane just fine, Helmut even manages to get the plane to divert to West Berlin! The only problem you see is that everyone except for Helmut, Sigrid and her daughter are allowed to get off and sign up for refugee status! Helmut is sent to a prison cell, and Sigrid and her daughter are both allowed to stay at an American Airbase.

Now things are starting to get sticky for the United States who had recently signed a treaty with the Soviet Union regarding what to do in the event of a high jacking. Eventually it is decided that Helmut and Sigrid are going to be held for trial and that the West German government will pay for it.

Once just about everything is ready to go, Bruno Ristau (Played by: Harris Yulin) heads back to the states to enlist a federal judge by the name of Herbert J. Stern (Sheen).

Martin Sheen as Judge Herbert J. Stern

Now with everything set up and ready to go. Helmut and Sigrid are in unfamiliar land and the people running the trial don’t speak the language. But what they lack in knowledge of the language and locale, they more then make up in a superb legal team that is being run by the name of Bernard Hellring (Wannamaker) that ultimately ends up representing them both! I mean this guy was so good, that within a few days he was able to get an innocent verdict out of Judge Stern for Sigrid!

Sigrid and Helmut discussing matters with their legal team.

Now with a kick ass legal team on their side, a Judge, who despite intense opposition from the people he is supposed to be working with, and a jury of his peers.  Helmut has a fight on his hands before he is sent back to the Soviet East!

What I like about this movie and what I thought made this a completely Awesome B Movie is a couple of things:

1. Martin Sheen, I mean this guy is a power house in everything that he ever does! Rather it is playing Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Apocalypse Now (1979), or as President Jed Bartlett in The West Wing. And Judgment In Berlin is no different.  Martin Sheen just commands the courtroom as Judge Stern brilliantly!

2. I also wanted to say that because of the time that this movie came out, that it was an interesting contrast to see Sean Penn go from the screw up pot head in Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) to playing a responsible young East German Family man in this movie, and he did a phenomenal job at it!

3. I also wanted to say that this movie which is based on a book that was written by the same Judge Stern that heard the case, I have never actually read it but now I am really looking forward to it!

4. Lastly I wanted to say that this movie is a great example of Justice, fair play honor, and whats right really wins the day over the evil and the corrupt! I was really impressed with that.

Anyway if your looking for a fun gripping drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time, then I highly recommend checking this out, I think you might find that you really like it!

Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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