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Chingachgook, the Great Snake

Richard Groschopp
Chingachgook, die große Schlange
GDR 1967 / 92’
Eastern Bloc Hits

The East German Chingachgook is the second successful and unforgettable GDR Red Western, where former Serbian athlete Gojko Mitić plays a Native American and the Yugoslav mountains stand in for the American Wild West. This is the film that firmly typecast Mitić in his heroic Western image.

This ‘Sauerkraut’ Western is an adaptation of the ‘politically acceptable’ novel The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper and set during the conquest of the Wild West. Shot on location in Yugoslavia, it stars the Serbian athlete Gojko Mitić as the Native American Chingachgook. It depicts Native Americans struggling against transcontinental conquerors. In that sense, the local white people are not such bad guys, and the natives are still lofty: pristine people in a pristine land. They are innocent but not naive and suffer at the hands of the English and the French, but also from inter-tribal strife. Director Richard Groschopp dramatically points out that survival against an overbearing enemy requires unity. Actually, Chingachgook, the Great Snake can be read as the Eastern Bloc’s manifesto on the need to form and maintain a bloc.

Miroljub Vučković / Rotterdam IFF

Richard Groschopp

Born in 1906, died in 1996, in Germany. He started his career as a baker and made films in his spare time, though he ultimately switched to cinema as a full-time occupation. During WWII, he made instruction films for marines. After the war, he was one of the first film makers at the GDR state studio, DEFA. In 1967, he broke through with Chingachgook, the Great Snake.

Selected filmography

1932 Die wundersamen Abenteuer des kleinen Mutz (short)

1944 Lerne Kriegsschiffe kennen (short)

1946 Dresden (doc.)

1950 Familie Benthin

1963 Die Glatzkopfbande / The Baldheaded Gang

1967 Wielki Wąż Chingachgook / Chingachgook, die große Schlange / Chingachgook, the Great Snake

Cast & Crew

director Richard Groschopp
screenplay Wolfgang Ebeling, Richard Groschopp, based on a novel by J.F. Cooper
cinematography Otto Hanisch
editing Helga Krause
music Wilhelm Neef
cast Gojko Mitić, Rolf Römer, Lilo Grahn, Helmut Schreiber, Jürgen Frohriep
production DEFA
sales DEFA
language German
colouration colour