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Klaus Kinski (1926 - 1991)

Klaus Kinski

Mein liebster Feind (1999) - Werner Herzog
image sourced here.

Jack the Ripper / Der Dirnenmörder von London (1976) - Jess Franco
image sourced here.

More pictures of Kinski here.


Klaus Kinski (October 18, 1926–November 23, 1991) was an international film actor who was regarded as one of the best German actors of the second half of the 20th century.

Kinski was born Nikolaus Karl Günther Nakszynski to an ethnic Polish father, the pharmacist Bruno Nakszynski, and a Danzig (Gdansk) pastor's daughter named Susanne Lutze, in Zoppot (now Sopot, Poland), which was then located within the territory of the Free City of Danzig. In 1930/31, the family moved to Berlin and Klaus attended the Prinz-Heinrich-Gymnasium in Schöneberg.

As World War II engulfed Europe, Kinski was drafted into the German Army and served in the Netherlands. Kinski supposedly spent his short term in the military flagging down American planes and begging them to shoot him. Kinski went AWOL and surrendered himself to the British forces. He spent most of his time during the war as a POW under British control. When he was in a POW camp, he realized his acting talent as he performed for his fellow prisoners. After the war, he chose to return to West Germany rather than Poland because of the spread of communism. He began acting and changed his name to Klaus Kinski. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaus_Kinski[Apr 2005]

[...]He started on stage in Germany, became a legend as a monologist (presenting the prose and verse of William Shakespeare and Francois Villon, among others), and soon moved, pragmatically, to film, where the money was better.

His film roles include A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958), The Counterfeit Traitor (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), For a Few Dollars More (1966), Grand Slam (movie) (1968). His international reputation was built on his collaborations with director Werner Herzog in such films as Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Woyzeck (a deep and tender portrayal of the Woyzeck character, possibly the best performance Kinski ever produced on screen) (1978), Fitzcarraldo (1982) and Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). With his fluency in English, his unique appearance, and his ability to project on-screen intensity, Kinski was always able to get roles, although the quality of the productions varied wildly, most of them considered "junk" (Schrott) by Kinski himself.

In real life, Kinski often appeared as a drunken, sex-crazed maniac, chronicling his exploits in an (largely fictitious) autobiography that rivals Wilt Chamberlain's in terms of sexuality. He alienated all his family with claims of incest, and when he died, only his son Nikolai attended the burial (his ashes were sunk in the Pacific Ocean).

Due to him playing a lot of crazy, murderous villains in his films (for example in the Edgar Wallace series) and his determined, often obsessive behavior, he often was referred to as a crazy genius. Herzog's retrospective on his work with Kinski was released in the United States as My Best Fiend.

He was married four times and had three children, two daughters (Nastassja Kinski and Pola Kinski, both being actresses) and a son (Nikolai Kinski). His brother Arme lives in Berlin, still bitter about the way Klaus portrayed him in his "autobiography".

He died of a heart attack in Lagunitas, California, United States.

Recently he was honoured by his city of birth, Sopot. However, this proved to be highly controversial. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaus_Kinski[2004]

Kinski Plays De Sade in Justine

Translating or understanding de Sade's philosophies couldn't be further from Franco's intentions. He merely uses de Sade as a marketing tool, and so the director makes sure the Marquis is all over the film, which is narrated through the writings of the imprisoned libertine (Klaus Kinski -- perfectly cast for being simultaneously repellent and hypnotic). The continual crosscutting back to de Sade's prison/narration cell reveals nothing about the artist or thinker, but merely takes advantage of modern morbid fascination with de Sade. --John Demetry for popmatters.com


  1. Kinski: My Best Fiend (1999) - Werner Herzog [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Most people associate the director Werner Herzog with the actor Klaus Kinski--but few know how twisted and enmeshed their relationship was. Though Kinski has made dozens of movies, he probably remains best known for the five he made with Herzog: Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Woyzeck, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Cobra Verde, and Fitzcarraldo. In this documentary/cinematic memoir, Herzog uses clips from these remarkable films, on-the-set footage, and personal recollections to create a portrait of Kinski as both a deeply passionate actor and a raving lunatic; it's hard to say whether he's defaming Kinski or being generous to this mercurial, erratic actor. There's no question that their relationship is fascinating; after their first movie (Aguirre, probably the best of their collaborations) they both described moments of wanting to kill each other--in fact, both agree that Herzog threatened to shoot Kinski at one point, though they differ on the details. Yet they went on to make four more movies, almost all of them under circumstances that would be difficult for the most serene personalities. My Best Fiend was inspired by Kinski's death, and probably the movie's weakest aspect is that we don't get Kinski's side of their friendship. But even though it's one-sided, it's still a remarkable portrait of two artists who were willing to go to extremes to capture their visions. Any fan of either will find this unique documentary indispensable. --Bret Fetzer, amazon.com

  2. Justine (1969) - Jesus Franco [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Young, nubile, and virginal Justine (Romina Power, Tyrone Power's 18-year-old daughter) is cast out of a French orphanage and thrust into a depraved world of prostitution, predatory lesbians, a fugitive murderess (Mercedes McCambridge), bondage, branding, and one supremely sadistic monk (an outrageous performance by Jack Palance). It's a twisted tale of strange desires, perverse pleasures, and the ultimate corruption of innocence as told by the Marquis de Sade. One of the most lavish and bizarre erotic shockers ever made by the notorious Jess Franco, "Justine" is bursting with wanton nudity, sexual perversion, and an all-star cast including Akim Tamiroff (Touch of Evil), Maria Rohm (Venus in Furs), and Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu) as the Marquis de Sade. Originally released with over 30 minutes cut, this infamous film is presented here fully restored and completely uncensored for the first time! --amazon.com

  3. Fruits of Passion - The Story of "O" Continued (1981) - Shuji Terayama [Amazon US]
    A delighful exercise in visual poetry "Les Fruits" uses the "Story of O" merely as a pretext for an uplifting tale of submission and deliverance, inventing what should be called the first porno-kabuki movie. It must be seen more than a few times to engage a full appreciation. To my mind i compares only with Greenway's "8+1/2 Women" and Matton's "Spermula" in the category of films that capture the true pathos of sex in narrative. But this one goes one step further in trying to bridge the gap between western and eastern erotics like no other film I've seen. Kinski is at his best/worst throughout, as an entirely repulsive Sir Stephen. The chinese revolutionary setting is another engaging sidelight which gives the whole possession/liberation dialectics a depth which O never had. A rare jewel of a painting... --Jules Verme, amazon.com

  4. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1973) - Werner Herzog [1DVD, Amazon US]
    Quite simply a great movie, one whose implacable portrait of ruthless greed and insane ambition becomes more pertinent every year. The astonishing Klaus Kinski plays Don Lope de Aguirre, a brutal conquistador who leads his soldiers into the Amazon jungle in an obsessive quest for gold. The story is of the expedition's relentless degeneration into brutality and despair, but the movie is much more than its plot. Director Werner Herzog strove, whenever possible, to replicate the historical circumstances of the conquistadors, and the sheer human effort of traveling through the dense mountains and valleys of Brazil in armor creates a palpable sense of struggle and derangement. This sense of reality, combined with Kinski's intensely furious performance, makes Aguirre, the Wrath of God a riveting film. Its unique emotional power is matched only by other Herzog-Kinski collaborations like Fitzcarraldo and Woyzek. --Bret Fetzer for Amazon.com

  5. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) - Klaus Kinski [1 DVD, Amazon US]
    Werner Herzog's remake of F.W. Murnau's original vampire classic is at once a generous tribute to the great German director and a distinctly unique vision by one of cinema's most idiosyncratic filmmakers. Though Murnau's Nosferatu was actually an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Herzog based his film largely on Murnau's conceptions--at times directly quoting Murnau's images--but manages to slip in a few references to Tod Browning's famous version (at one point the vampire comments on the howling wolves: "Listen, the children of the night make their music."). Longtime Herzog star Klaus Kinski is both hideous and melancholy as Nosferatu (renamed Count Dracula in the English language version). As in Murnau's film, he's a veritable gargoyle with his bald pate and sunken eyes, and his talon-like fingernails and two snaggly fangs give him a distinctly feral quality. But Kinski's haunting eyes also communicate a gloomy loneliness--the curse of his undead immortality--and his yearning for Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) becomes a melancholy desire for love. Bruno Ganz's sincere but foolish Jonathan is doomed to the vampire's will and his wife, Lucy, a holy innocent whose deathly pallor and nocturnal visions link her with the ghoulish Nosferatu, becomes the only hope against the monster's plague-like curse. Herzog's dreamy, delicate images and languid pacing create a stunningly beautiful film of otherworldly mood, a faithful reinterpretation that by the conclusion has been shaped into a quintessentially Herzog vision. --Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com [features Roland Topor]

  6. Venus in Furs (1969) - Jesus Franco [Amazon US]
    Jesus Franco is probably one of the worst directors of film history, but I was surprised by his updating of the famous S&M novel. He has changed the story into a nightmarish thriller where the sado masochistic stuff is coincidental. A woman's dead body washes on the shore of the Black Sea. She was murdered by a bunch of rich perverts. Later a dead ringer for the murdered girl turns up and enacts revenge. Manfred Mann did the music. My only complaint is that Klaus Kinski's voice is dubbed.--via amazon.com

Venus in Furs (1969) - Jess Franco

Venus in Furs (1969) - Jess Franco [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

  • http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064789/ 7.0/10 [Jan 2005]

    The San Francisco Examiner
    "TRIPPY AS HELL! It’s Like A Marvel Team-Up Between Fassbinder And Russ Meyer Set Loose In Hammer Studios!"

    The Psychotronic Encyclopedia Of Film
    "WOW! An Incredible Fusion Of Sex And Sadism!"


    Of the all the twisted hits from cult director Jess Franco (SADOMANIA, 99 WOMEN), this is the one that fans and critics alike call his masterpiece! James Darren (THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, DEEP SPACE NINE) stars as a traumatized trumpeter sucked into a whirlpool of psycho-sexual horror along with his sultry girlfriend (singer Barbara McNair), a kinky lesbian (Margaret Lee of THE BLOODY JUDGE), a depraved playboy (the legendary Klaus Kinski) and the mysterious, insatiable beauty (luscious Maria Rohm of JUSTINE) who may lead them all straight to Hell.

    Dennis Price (VAMPYROS LESBOS) co-stars in this infamous erotic shocker that also features an outstanding jazz score by British rockers Manfred Mann. VENUS IN FURS has been remastered from original vault elements and is now presented totally uncut, uncensored and loaded with exclusive Extras, including all-new interviews with Jess Franco and the elusive Maria Rohm. --via Amazon.com

    All I Need Is Love (1988) - Klaus Kinski

    All I Need Is Love (1988) - Klaus Kinski [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    From Publishers Weekly
    This impressionistic autobiography by an actor probably best known in the U.S. as the father of movie actress Nastassja Kinski provides an in-depth look into the psyche of a performing artist. Born into grinding poverty in Poland, Kinski was forced into the WW II German army at 16 and taken a prisoner ofwar. Later, he more or less drifted into acting. But at this point in the tale the emphasis changes to the author's search for love, which more cynical readers may see as a search for sex. Kinski evidently never met a woman he didn't want to take to bed and it seems that no woman ever had any objections. His quest for love was twice rewarded, but in both cases his loves ended sadly. This is a memorable, powerful memoir. --Amazon.com

    Englische Übersetzung von Kinskis Autobiographie "Ich bin so wild nach deinem Erdbeermund", wobei 150 Seiten der deutschen Originalversion gestrichen wurden und das Buch ohne seine Zustimmung in den Druck ging.

    Kinski Uncut: The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1997) Klaus Kinski [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    From Publishers Weekly
    Few celebrity memoirs are remotely as raw, pornographic and confessional as this notorious self-portrait by German actor Kinski (1926-1991), today best known for his brooding, expressionistic performances in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre: The Wrath of God. When Random House, fearing legal problems, withdrew publication in 1989 of an earlier version of this book, All I Need Is Love, Kinski's memoir became an underground classic. This new and, according to Viking, unabridged translation shows little patience for documentary minutiae. So manic, hallucinatory and self-obsessed is Kinski's account of his rise from a dire childhood in the slums of Berlin to international stardom that it yields a far clearer picture of his seething inner life and incorrigible womanizing than of his film career. In an angry, raving, sometimes barely coherent present-tense narrative, Kinski describes being drafted into the Nazi army at 16; suffering in an English POW camp; gaining prominence in the fringe theater of a war-ravaged Germany. He goes on to cover his star turns in a slew of second-tier genre pictures shot in Italy and France as he contemptuously turned down directors like Fellini and Kurosawa, who wouldn't pay his escalating salary. He then discusses his roles in the Herzog films, plagued by production problems in the depths of the Amazon jungle. Kinski's take on Herzog drips bile and exudes dementia ("he doesn't have the foggiest inkling of how to make movies. Every scene, every angle, every shot is determined by me"). Throughout the memoir, however, acting is mere background to a lifelong sexual odyssey, including dozens of encounters explicitly rendered here?with young actresses, hookers, chambermaids and, in two memorable scenes, Alberto Moravia's wife and Idi Amin's daughter. In this raging memoir, the devil isn't just in the details: he's everywhere. --via Amazon.com

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