Saturday 10 August 2019

Olsen-banden (1968)

Off-List: Olsen-banden
The second off-List movie of 1968 is a classic Danish movie. This was the year where one of the most successful Danish franchises got started, the Olsen-banden franchise (The Olsen Gang) and the first installment was simply called Olsen-banden. I suppose at that time the producers had no idea this would become a major franchise.

I do not know if these movies were ever released in any form in English speaking countries, but in Scandinavia and Germany they found a very large audience, so large that a total of 14 movies were made. Legend has it that these were some of the only western movies allowed in Eastern Germany because the authorities there thought there was an inherent critique of the capitalistic system in them.

In this first movie a lot of the standard tropes are established. The gang consists of three members. Egon Olsen (Ove Sprogøe) is the leader and master mind. Egon always has a plan and it is always brilliant and ridiculously complicated. Benny (Morten Grunwald) is the fixer. The lanky man always has a trick or two up his sleeve, though not always thought through. Finally, Keld (Poul Bundgaard) is a heavyset, small man, prone to crying and always placed in difficult situations. He is also heavily under the thumb of Yvonne (Kirsten Walther), a very vocal and not too smart woman.

The plan Egon has concocted is to steal a very valuable German art artifact, currently being displayed in Denmark. It is very well protected, but with the plan perfectly executed Olsen-banden runs away with it. This is however the point where thing usually goes wrong for the gang. On the way to the airport their getaway car runs out of gas and is taken into custody by the traffic police because there are a million things wrong with it, so the gang now has to break into the police parking lot to steal back the artifact. This happens a few times, they lose the item, win it back and lose it again. Always by ridiculous coincidences and that is part of the fun.

Most of what is fun about watching these movies is already included in this first movie: Yvonne getting her tantrums, Egon going crazy, the police being hopelessly incompetent and Egon’s insane schemes. It also went places that were later abandoned. There are a number of naughty girls, some nudity and using pornography as a joke to make people flustered. This was very modern at the time, pornography having just been legalized in Denmark, but was abandoned already from the second movie, giving those movies the most general rating. I think that was a wise decision. The Olsen-banden movies are for the entire family, but probably not this first movie.

I grew up with these movies, but have mostly watched the later episodes. It was fun watching the first installment (Copenhagen looked so quaint back then), though while I can warmly recommend trying your hands on this franchise, I would suggest starting with a later episode. They can be watched independently and usually do not reference each other.

Last year I managed to get a box-set of all 14 movies, and as a movie was released each following year it is likely I will review more of them later on. In a thin year I can always fall back on Olsen-banden.

Skide godt, Egon!


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