Of all the cast in Satansbraten, Ulli Lommel may be the least natural comedian. Lommel plays a sharp-witted but never very concerned policeman, in typical coat and hat, and enters the film investigating the murder (or accidental killing) that Kranz has committed. Although Lommel doesn’t go for the grande guignol route that everyone else takes here, he still pulls off the deadpan comedy rather well, although I keep having the feeling when I’m watching Satansbraten that Ulli Lommel is corpsing, constantly.
Ulli Lommel’s policeman takes part in the insanity though, as much as anybody else (‘I won’t say no to a morning footbath’) he says – pulling up a Double Seater – not unlike the item focal to Fassbinder’s other 1976 film, Fox and his Friends. Actually, I am beginning to wonder if Fassbinder used the same furniture also in several of his films. That would be too much to blog on.
Lommel is like Hanna Schygulla in Fassbinder films, in that he has real star quality. Unfortunately, star quality isn’t the quality primary to Fassbinder’s films, and in fact he seems to have had rather a frustrating time courting critical approval and financial success, and then rejecting both by making pictures that flew in the face of any such acceptance.
Lommel however is keener to please, and he has the face and the manner for it. As I say, I don’t know if he fits entirely into Satan’s Brew, but when you look at the overacting and dark and disastrous comedy of the film, you can see that he does. He is cool and he is deadpan; he is ridiculous and offers a strange menace, but very nicely; and he often stands still as the creative genius flows to excess around him. It’s the most uproarious film that Fassbinder made, and it’s also many people’s favourite Fassbinder, and as is all farce, there simply has to be a policeman. Ulli Lommel doesn’t even need to be funny; this is simply one of the craziest films of all time, and all the actors, Lommel included, are locked in its lack of logic - and there is no way out.