Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Kessler (1981)

Fourteen episodes were filmed for season 3 of Secret Army, but the final episode was never aired in the UK, and is not included the DVD box set of that series.  There were apparently concerns about the degree of anti-communist rhetoric in the script, and a feeling that the thirteenth episode made a better conclusion to the series in any case.

The 'missing' episode was set 25 years after the war, and featured a group of Nazi hunters attempting to expose a German businessman as being SS officer Kessler, who was the principal villain of the show.

And thus we get to this series, which takes up the same idea, but stretches the search out into a six-part serial.  Kessler has adopted the role of an industrialist in West Germany, and uses his business to help finance the Kamaradenwerk: a secret organisation of Nazis who work to keep war criminals (i.e. themselves) from retribution and who at least nominally also seek to establish a Fourth Reich.

Kessler has a grown daughter, whom he has raised to be an ardent national socialist like himself.  She and the other young adherents of the cause have little confidence in the "senile old men" of the Kamaradenwerk and want Kessler to divert the funds to them, instead.

But Kessler has a bigger problem, in that accusations about his past are about to be plastered all over Belgian TV, as part of a documentary series that draws the attention of an honest, anti-Nazi German official named Richard Bauer, and a feisty young Israeli woman named Mical Rak.  These two will become quite the thorn in his side.

Overall, the premise of this show; the chase of Kessler and the rising tensions among the Nazis; is a sound one.  Alas, the execution leaves much to be desired.  The pacing is often languid, and even by the standards of TV Nazis - rarely a terribly effective group - the bad guys here are colossally incompetent.  They make three separate attempts to kill Mical in the first two episodes of the show, with the following results:

1. they kill the wrong woman
2. Mical kills the guy they sent
3. they beat Mical and dump her in a river without actually checking she's dead.  She's not.

They avoid looking quite so incompetent for the next few episodes, mostly by not trying to kill her any more, but when they finally make their 4th and 5th attempts, they contrive to make the first three efforts look good.

Poorly-paced and far-fetched.  A considerable disappointment after Secret Army.

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