Mostly unknown for years and years, Reinhold Schünzel’s musical comedy is a very good musical comedy that would set the template for the LGBTQ iconic movie and musical “Victor/Victoria.” Although known as “Viktor und Viktoria,” director Schünzel creates a funny, adorable, and entertaining musical that mixes cross dressing and heavy queer overtones. It otherwise salvages the pretty clumsy finale that doesn’t resolve much when all is said and done.
Young Susanne (Renate Müller), unable to find work as a music hall singer, partners with a down-and-out thespian Viktor (Hermann Thimig) to revamp her act. Pretending to be a man performing in drag, Viktoria becomes the toast of the international stage. But she soon finds that her playful bending of genders enmeshes her personal and professional life in a tangle of unexpected complications. Director Reinhold Schünzel creates a very good mixing of genres evoking the tone and edge of a Billy Wilder movie.
Often times “Victor and Victoria” felt like it had immense influence on another classic, “Some Like It Hot,” as the latter is also about struggling musicians cross dressing to overcome some hurdle. Whether accidental or intentional, “Victor and Victoria” builds a unique and engrossing narrative where in two struggling performers turn to one another to succeed in show business. Only by cross dressing and performing in drag can they thrive, and this creates some pretty interesting complications, especially for Susanne who begins getting courted by a local wealthy woman. “Victor and Victoria” garners some great musical numbers and fantastic direction.
Despite the language barriers, the music is very catchy and is used mostly as exposition for the characters and their conflicts about their career and desires. “Victor and Victoria” was appreciated by the LGBTQ community and is still influential to this day, being remade in to the 1982 Blake Edwards classic “Victor/Victoria,” and the inevitable iconic Broadway musical. It doesn’t use the whole drag concept as a source of mockery, but more a clever plot device. Renate Müller glows on screen and handles her comedy beautifully, while Hermann Thimig plays wonderfully off of her. “Victor and Victoria” is highly recommended, not just for its immensely rich direction and acting, but for the reasons in that it set the template for what would become a celebrated cultural institution.
Now playing in Virtual Cinemas across the U.S. (and the Film Forum on July 3rd) as a part of Kino Lorber’s PIONEERS OF QUEER CINEMA program for Pride Month.