Nedbrudte Nerver (1923) A Silent Film Review

A crime reporter burns out on the job after covering one murder too many and takes a much-needed vacation but all that goes out the window when he witnesses another murder. Can he solve the case or are his nerves playing tricks with him?

Home Media Availability: Watch online courtesy of the Danish Film Institute.

You have your nerve!

Scandinavian crime films aka Nordic noir books, films and shows are all the rage these days and it’s easy to see why. Cold-blooded murder in equally cold weather will always provide a moody bit of entertainment.

Nordic crime meets beachy waves

Nedbrudte Nerver is Danish through and through but it’s set in summer at a seaside resort and much of its marketing material emphasizes the stylish and revealing bathing costumes. Further, there’s a lot of humor mixed into the mystery with leading man Gorm Schmidt playing a jumpy hero teetering on the edge of either true love or a nervous breakdown. Or both.

The picture opens in a newspaper office. There has been a murder and top reporter Erik Brandt (Schmidt) has promised to deliver the story. A juicy murder will mean thousands in additional newspaper sales but it’s down to the wire. Erik bursts into the newspaper office with his story after staying up for thirty-six hours straight. The murder makes it to press and Erik collapses. There’s no doubt about it, our intrepid reporter needs a vacation.

A very tired reporter.

The next day, Erik awakens in his flat and prepares to enjoy the day when he looks out the window and sees a woman in mourning clothes strike and kill an elderly gentleman. He may be having a nervous breakdown but that won’t stop him from a chasing a scoop! But when Erik arrives at the scene of the crime, the body is gone.

Worse, the previous day’s story about the murder praised Erik and condemned the police for not doing their jobs properly, so they are in no mood to help this pesky reporter. With no real way forward, Erik decides to take up the generous offer of his detective friend, Heger (Egill Rostrup): join him at the beach and take in sun and sand.

Does one arrange a date before or after finding out one’s girlfriend is a murderer?

It looks like Erik will be able to relax at last when Heger introduces him to the prettiest woman at the resort, Grethe Sparre (Olga Belajeff). Erik is more than happy to meet a beautiful woman but to his horror, he sees that she is the murderess he spotted from his apartment. Grethe finds him to be hilarious and denies everything but Erik knows he is right.

Vacation goes out the window and he begins to follow Grethe everywhere. Her conversations are suspicious, he spots her wearing the very mourning outfit she donned to kill her last victim and… he’s falling in love with her! Woe is Erik! His mournful attempts to both solve the mystery and deal with his own lovesickness takes up the remainder of the film. Is Erik right? Is his true love a killer? Or is it all a case of overwrought nerves? See Nedbrudte Nerver to find out!

Erik catching a murderer.

There’s something to be said for entertainment that does exactly what it pledges to do. We were promised 75 minutes of mystery and humor and that is just what we get. It’s not really a whodunnit or a howcatchem, we spend the picture wondering if any crime happened at all and if it did, was it really what it seemed? There’s nothing too terribly intense, just the eccentric adventures of a reporter who is definitely not getting a vacation. Light, fun and refreshing, like a lemon ice on a hot day.

Schmidt as Erik has a similar style to Vladimir Fogel: an anxious young fellow under a massive head of hair. There’s a particularly funny scene in which Erik mournfully asks Grethe to sandbag him and get it over with. This combination of go-getter energy and morose fatalism provide most of the picture’s humor.

Erik ready to give up.

Olga Belajeff (billed as Olga d’Org here) is probably most familiar to modern audiences for her role as the various iterations of the love interest in Waxworks. She obviously was enjoying herself in the “is you is or is you ain’t a killer” role and brings a bit of welcome ambiguity to the mystery.

The supporting cast is also enjoyable. I particularly liked the short scene in the local police department with a half-dressed and half-mad Erik trying to convince the officers to investigate while his article heckling them for their incompetence is sitting on the chief’s desk. Oops.

Not a sympathetic audience.

As for the mystery… is there much of one? Well, viewers who have seen a few of these pictures will probably be able to guess the ending but getting there is all the fun and the added twist of the hero barely managing to hold his nerves together creates additional interest. In short, it’s not just about the plot here. Director A.W. Sandberg made several Danish adaptations of Charles Dickens novels and after seeing the way he handles his performers in this film, I am quite eager to see them. I have a feeling they will be worth my time.

Oh, and those famous swimsuits that were central to Nedbrudte Nerver‘s advertising campaign! Everyone who watches older movies knows that the décor and fashion are a big part of the appeal and the much-vaunted swimwear does not disappoint. Very sporty, very twenties. Even if this movie wasn’t a fun little bon-bon, it would still be worth seeing for the swimsuits.

Pausing for a dip.

Incidentally, the English title cards seemed to be derived from the film’s UK silent release under the title The Hill Park Mystery. Erik is renamed Jimmie and many of Nedbrudte Nerver’s plot details are anglicized. This is an interesting chance to see how imported films were rebranded in the silent era. The British program does retain the bathing suits, however.

Nedbrudte Nerver is a cute little confection with a dusting of poison. It’s very enjoyable for fans of classic mysteries and easily holds its own against its Hollywood counterparts. A good time will be had by all if you watch it.

Where can I see it?

Available for free viewing courtesy of the Danish Film Institute. The online edition includes a very good piano score by Ronen Thalmay. The film has also been released on DVD, if you prefer physical media.

☙❦❧

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