Abdul the Damned

Format: DVD


An early British film made by Austrian émigré Karl Grune, Abdul the Damned is a cosmopolitan creation - both in style and content. The combination of Grune's vision and cinematographer Otto Kanturek's splendid use of light and shadow creates a stylishly stylised film - with some scenes undoubtedly bordering on the Impressionistic. Fritz Kortner, a lauded German actor who had fled the country one step ahead of the Nazi pogroms, gives effective performances as both the shifty, lecherous Abdul (a man who paints himself into a corner with the blood of his subjects) and his hapless and unlucky body double. Use of clever set design and split-screen shots give many opportunities for him to appear onscreen as both characters, with one remarkable shot using multiple mirrors showing six of him onscreen at the same time.

Nils Asther ("the male Greta Garbo") turns in a sinister performance as the charmingly murderous head of the Secret Police while Adrienne Ames (as a press-ganged concubine) and Esme Percy (as the creepiest eunuch in the world) enliven each scene in which they appear. Shot on a huge £50,000 budget, Abdul the Damned was only affordable at the time by splitting the costs 50/50 between British International Pictures and producer Max Schach - a rare case of co-production in an era when most British films were made on a shoestring budget. This largesse provided not only for the exceptionally impressive sets built at Elstree studios but also large crowd scenes and even a dancing number - rare sights in homegrown films at this time, which ensured Abdul the Damned's box office success.

Steve Rogers

Abdul the Damned


Set amid the turbulence of the Young Turk movement within the dying Ottoman Empire, Abdul the Damned was among the first films directed in Britain by Karl Grune, acclaimed director of 1923’s Die Strasse (The Street), who had fled Nazi Germany in 1933; the film also features starring roles for fellow German émigré and Pandora’s Box star Fritz Kortner, Scottish screen idol John Stuart, and Swedish silent-era heart-throb Nils Asther.

Turkey, 1908: Sultan Abdul Hamid II becomes infatuated with Therese, a young Viennese opera singer and she is forced to give in to him to protect her fiancé, Young Turk Talak Pasha. Will the fervour of Talak’s popular opposition to the Sultan’s rule eventually lead to the monarch's downfall?

[] Image gallery

Abdul the Damned

Number of Discs
1.33:1 / Black and White
Mono / English
2 / PAL
105 mins approx