Town Without Pity (German: Stadt ohne Mitleid) is a 1961 American, Swiss, and West German international co-production drama film directed by Gottfried Reinhardt. Produced by The Mirisch Corporation, the film stars Kirk Douglas, Christine Kaufmann, and E. G. Marshall. Coincidentally, this movie came out the same year that John A. Bennett, to this day the last man executed by the U.S. Army, was hanged for raping an 11-year-old girl.

The film was based on the 1960 novel Das Urteil (The Verdict) by German writer Gregor Dorfmeister, who wrote under the pen name Manfred Gregor. At Kirk Douglas' suggestion, the film was rewritten without credit by Dalton Trumbo.[1]


In occupied Germany fifteen years after the end of World War II, four somewhat drunk American soldiers leave a bar where "Town Without Pity" is playing on the jukebox and head to a river in the countryside. Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old local Karin Steinhof (Christine Kaufmann) has a quarrel with her 19-year-old boyfriend, Frank Borgmann, on the banks of the same river. She swims back to her starting point and strips out of her wet bikini when she is confronted by Sergeant Chuck Snyder (Frank Sutton) and gang raped by him, Corporal Birdwell Scott (Richard Jaeckel), Private Joey Haines (Mal Sondock), and Corporal Jim Larkin (Robert Blake). When Frank hears her screams for help, he swims across the river to help her, but he is knocked out by one of the rapists. After the four men are finished, the guilt-ridden Larkin lingers behind; he covers the victim with his shirt before fleeing with the other three.

The men are quickly apprehended. To appease the anger and outrage of the Germans, General Stafford orders that their court martial be held in public in the local high school gymnasium. The prosecutor, Colonel Jerome Pakenham (E. G. Marshall), seeks the death penalty. Major Steve Garrett (Kirk Douglas) is assigned to defend the accused. After interviewing his clients, Garrett tries to plea bargain for long sentences at hard labor, but Pakenham feels he has a strong case. Garrett starts investigating, questioning the residents. He is followed by Inge Koerner (Barbara Rütting), a hostile German reporter from what Garrett considers to be a scandal-seeking newspaper.

At the start of the trial, three of the men plead not guilty. Larkin tries to enter a plea of guilty, but is overruled by Garrett. Garrett produces an army psychiatrist who had been treating Larkin before the incident. The witness testifies that Larkin is impotent for psychological reasons. Larkin violently denies it, and has to be forcibly removed from the courtroom. After the first day, Garrett pleads with Karin's bank manager father, Karl Steinhof (Hans Nielsen), to withdraw her from the trial before it is too late, stating that he will have to break her down on the stand to save his clients. He advises Herr Steinhof to take his family and leave town, but Steinhof refuses.

With no choice, Garrett shows that Karin is not as innocent as she first appeared, nor is she well liked. He also catches both her and Frank in pointless little lies to destroy their credibility. As his cross examination of Karin continues, the girl eventually collapses under the strain. Her father withdraws her from the trial, which ensures that the defendants cannot be executed. Three are sentenced to long terms at hard labor; Larkin is given a shorter sentence of six years. The damage has been done, however; the townsfolk turn against Karin.

Though Frank attacks him with a whip, Garrett tells him to take Karin and leave town forever. The young man takes his advice, but to raise money, he forges his mother's check. Determined to keep her son under her control, she sends the police after the couple. While Frank argues with the policemen, Karin runs away. Koerner later informs Garrett that Karin drowned herself in the river near where she had been violated. The last line of the title song is, "It isn't very pretty what a town without pity can do."



The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin. Tiomkin also wrote the music for the song "Town Without Pity", with lyrics by Ned Washington. It was performed by Gene Pitney. The song became an Academy Award nominee and Pitney's first Top 40 single.

Filming took place in the towns of Bamberg and Forchheim in Bavaria, Germany, with some scenes shot in a studio in Vienna, Austria.

See also


  1. ^ p.136 Mirisch, Walter I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History University of Wisconsin Press, 2008

External links