Hollywood Movies in Germany – “Krieg der Sterne” becomes “Star Wars” and “Moana” turns into “Vaiana”

These days, many Hollywood movies screened in Germany keep their original English title. But it was not always that way. In the past, especially from the 1940s to the 1980s, there was almost always a special German title created for German audiences. Often the German title simply reflected the film’s story, as with The Caine Mutiny (1954), which starred Humphrey Bogart (voiced in German by O.E. Hasse) as Lt. Commander Philip F. Queeg. The title that Germans saw on their movie screens was Die Caine war ihr Schicksal (The Caine was their fate).

Moana and Maui

Disney’s Moana (left) became Vaiana in Germany, while Maui got to keep his name. Why? See more below. (Also see the Vaiana movie trailer below.)
PHOTO: Walt Disney Animation Studio

North by Northwest

Cary Grant was a victim of “the invisible third man” in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). This is the cover of the German DVD version.

In Germany, the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest (1959), starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, is called Der unsichtbare Dritte (The invisible third man), which is only a little less vague than North by Northwest. The classic Bell, Book and Candle (1958), with Kim Novak, James Stewart, and Jack Lemmon, bore the rather prosaic title of Meine Braut ist übersinnlich (My bride is paranormal). But Vertigo, another Hitchcock film released that same year, also pairing Novak and Stewart, kept the “Vertigo” while adding the German tag line: Vertigo – Aus dem Reich der Toten (Vertigo – From the realm of the dead).

But it’s another, earlier Hitchcock picture that has one of my favorite German titles. Rope (1948), Hitch’s first color film, is about a murder committed in the New York City apartment of two college students trying to commit the perfect crime by strangling a fellow student with a rope. To create an alibi, they throw a dinner party in their apartment – with the dead body of their victim hidden literally under the guests’ noses inside a wooden chest. The German title: Cocktail für eine Leiche (Cocktail for a corpse). Continue reading