The Opium Smoker

Holger-Madsen, 1914,

MOST WANTED | The Opium Smoker was the first Danish film to be completely banned by the Danish film censors. As a result, it has never been shown in Danish cinemas. However, it was very successful abroad. Was the subject matter – opium abuse – in itself too much for the Danish censors to stomach, or did they object to specific scenes in the film?


WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Hugo von Kaufmann is deeply jealous of his brother Ernst and the latter’s impending marriage to Henny, with whom Hugo is also in love. Seeking solace in opium, Hugo devises a vengeful plan. He hires an assassin to kill Ernst. However, his dastardly plan is discovered and turned against him: Ernst pretends to take the poison and plays dead. Believing the mission is complete, Hugo is surprised by his ‘dead’ brother clad in funeral shrouds. He flees in terror and is badly injured during the escape. Henny and Ernst tend to him until he recovers, sending him away with the message that he is forgiven if he promises never to return.


WHAT ELSE DO WE KNOW?
Robert Schyberg, who played the irate opium-abusing brother in the film, states in his memoirs that the film was enthusiastically received in the USA but completely banned in Denmark by the new censor, Christian Zangenberg, who found it too brutal. He also mentions that the film came with two different endings, one for the Russian market, which wanted sad or brutal endings, and one for the other markets.

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