This black and white Martin Luther of 1953, 105 minutes long and nearly 60 years old, is by no means to be dismissed.
Principal writers were veterans Allan Sloane and Lothar Wolff. Serving as consultants were two distinguished scholars of the highly regarded ‘Luther’s Works’ series of Fortress Press in Philadelphia: Jaroslav Pelikan (Yale) and Theodore G. Tappert (Lutheran Theological Seminary).
Niall Macginnis as Martin Luther
Leading the cast of veteran English actors was Niall MacGinnis, an actor whose film credits truly amaze. If not a star, MacGinnis was a rock-solid supporting actor who appeared in The Kremlin Letter, The Shoes of the Fisherman, Paper Chase, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The War Lord, Becket, Billy Budd, Kidnapped, The Nun's Story, Lust for Life, Alexander the Great, Knights of the Round Table, Christopher Columbus, Hamlet 1948, and Anna Karenina 1948 among a total of about 80 movies.
Locations of Martin Luther (1953) were in Germany. Studio shots were in Afifa Film Studios, Wiesbaden, Hesse. Another Hesse location was Eltville am Rhein and its Kloster Eberbach. Also used were Kloster Maulbronn in Baden-Württemberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria.
Martin Luther (1953) was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White). In addition, the Writers Guild of America nominated it for its award for Best Written American Drama. Somehow this movie, a joint effort of three countries, fell into Public Domain. From the outset, let it be said that that neglect also caused its Achilles Heel: the quality of prints that survive are not pristine. Even the DVD edition is soft; the VHS edition is poor.
As with prior reviews in this blog, merit of the movie will be evaluated for its entertainment value and for its historical accuracy. In addition, its portrayal of Frederick the Wise will be assessed.
Q. Do you believe it is a detriment to cast 'movie stars' as famous historical figures?