Manitou's Shoe Review
Manitou's Shoe (Der Schuh des Manitu)
From 1997 to 2002, Michael Herbig, Rick Kavanian and Christian Tramitz hosted the late night comedy show Bullyparade on German TV-channel Pro Sieben. The show gained a strong cult following, and was sometimes compared to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Herbig and his colleagues often appeared in drag (like the Pythons) and offered spoofs of popular cultural outings, such as Star Trek, the Sissy trilogy, James Bond, The Terminator and - last but not least - the Winnetou movies. In 2001 the spoofy Winnetou sketches became the base for a full-length feature. With twelve million tickets sold in Germany alone, it became one of the most popular German movies since World War II. Winnetou will never die.
Initially the movie was released with a running time of 85 minutes, a special extended (‘Extra Large’) version, runs 92 minutes (88 in PAL). It has an added-on prologue in which two twin brothers are born, Abahachi and Winnetouch. Their father is a famous Apache Chief, who was known to be fluent in French (a nice reference to Pierre Brice, the French actor who played Winnetou). One of the brothers, Winnetouch, is homosexual, the other, Abahachi, is straight. As a young man Abahachi has an affair with Uschi, a voluptuous squaw with spectacles and dental braces. Grown up, he becomes blood brothers with a young adventurer called Ranger, who has saved him from being overrun by a train. They become famous for maintaining peace and justice in the Wild West, but also become entrepreneurs. When they want to build a saloon, they need to obtain credit from the bankable Shoshone tribe, but they’re double-crossed by evil businessman Santa Maria, who also kills the son of the Shoshone Chief and puts the blame on the two friends. With the help of Winnetouch, Uschi (who falls for Ranger) and a mysterious Greek called Dmitri, the two friends manage to clear their name and to gather a fortune.
Germans are not known for their refined sense of humor, and Manitou’s Shoe isn’t always refined, but it’s quite funny. Even if there are some similarities to the Monty Python type of humor, most jokes are closer to Mel Brooks (both Blazing Saddles and his Robin Hood parody spring to mind) or ZAZ, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, the trio of filmmakers who created the idiocy of Airplane and The Naked Gun chronicles. Being rather sketchy, it’s a hit and miss affair, some of the more elaborate jokes fall flat, but Herbig and friends score with some smaller, hilarious jokes and impersonations, and the musical interludes are particularly good. Herbig is terrific as the two brothers and you notice that he and Tramitz have a long history of acting together, the chemistry between the two is almost perfect. Both actresses who play Uschi are beauties (even the younger one, in spite of her spectacles and braces) and Sky Du Mont is a delight as the evil Santa Maria. Most of the dialogue is in Bavarian, and some of the effects are hilarious. A Bavarian mumbling homosexual Apache is definitely something out of the ordinary. You’re handicapped if you don’t understand German or are unfamiliar with the Bavarian dialect.
The story is a combination of elements from the Karl May adaptations, with some spaghetti western ingredients added (it was partly shot in Almeria). The murder of the Chief’s son, is taken from Winnetou III, while the treasure hunt (the Indian girl Uschi has a treasure map on her back) is of course the key element of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The villain Santa Maria is a true Karl May villain, a dirty businessman who tries to provoke a war in order to lay his hands on the riches that can be found on Indian land (in this case a treasure hidden in a rock in the form of Manitou’s Shoe). The name Ushi refers to Uschi Glass, the actress who played Apanaschi in Winnetou und das Halbblut Apanatschi. The name of the straight brother is of course also a reference to this film’s title. The name Santa Maria might be a corruption of Santer, the name of the black-clad villain who killed Winnetou (also in Winnetou III). In this movie Winnetouch is shot, but he’s saved in a way that will remind viewers of One Silver Dollar. The joke with the saloon which consists of no more than a façade, is taken from Blazing Saddles.