Satan's Brew (1976)

Kurt Raab, Margit Carstensen, Helen Vita, Volker Spengler,
A famous poet who hasn't written a word in two years unconsciously plagiarizes the work of Stefan George, while dealing with several mistresses, his dim-witted brother, and a murder investigation.
  • 6.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Director:
  • Michael Fengler, Producer:

All subtitles:

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10 / 10

"F*** flies"

According to the description on the DVD I received of Satan's Brew from netflix this was the first actual full-on comedy that Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed. I imagine watching the film that it was something that was building up in him and basically, in a near literal expression in his art, exploded. This film is about as kinetic and sharp-tongued as Marx Brothers, as insane as the best Mel Brooks, and even has some of that completely f***ing gonzo sensibility that one only finds with other tales-of-writers like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which has little to do with actual writing and mostly to do with how far its creative genius will go in excess and other "shenanigans." I can probably make more comparisons, but it might be unfair to the success Fassbinder pulls off here: it's as inspired as all of those, but it's all him, his natural excesses and *big* personality coming out in the cracks (big cracks) of the story and the character Walter (Kurt Raab).

Simply put, this movie is not just funny, it's hysterical. It's so hysterical that you'll laugh at yourself while laughing at what's going on on screen. Fassbinder's tale of a writer who hasn't written in years, spends all of his advance money on whores, has a lunatic brother obsessed with flies and having his way with them, has a wife whom acts more like a mother than anything (albeit she reminds him it's been 17 days... no, 18 days since sex last happened), and then at the end of his rope financially and mentally and with a really (more than relatively) crazy sycophantic woman following him everywhere he goes turns to pretending he's a homosexual 19th century poet, is like a loaded baked potato. Really loaded; you'll wonder where something might suddenly pop, until something else interesting happens - Fassbinder will write his characters and direct his actors in moments of seriousness, taking us into moments that do feel real and not just super absurd pieces of German theater.

Suffice to say it helps that Fassbinder has the exact right person to play this unlikely (very unlikely) anti-hero with Walter: Kurt Raab has a look that is devilish, diabolical, slightly seductive and with the possibility of violence or the unexpected at the drop of a hat. He's also as funny as the material can get him to be, which includes saying random lines like to a leering restaurant patron, "Quiet, you person!" Sometimes just his demeanor is amusing, and also frightening and highly charged; he is in a way like the Cartman ala South Park for Fassbinder, as a figure who is pretty twisted, verging on if not just evil (dont assume anything with that opening murder!), and surrounded by a league of people who he can manipulate or feel crossed by or just not know what to do with (his "biggest fan" whom he make walk out in the cold in a thin raincoat or stay under a friend's rug). Just watching him react to the brilliant actor playing so over the top the fly-fixated brother is classic stuff.

Towards the end it becomes grim, and possibly stranger than ever. It's also overall not something you'll want to show your mother (unless, you know, your mother is a Fassbinder fan or into crazy German cinema). But for a certain niche audience it's about as uproarious as any anarchic comedy, and in fact as beautifully directed as anything of the great slapstick or surrealist days. In this case, they go hand in hand; it's one of the director's very best. A+

10 / 10

love it or hate it, but please love it, don't hate it

I definitely understand, that this film is not for everyone, but I also have to say it is one of my all time favorites and there are not many movies i have seen that often. In fact every time somebody new steps into my live, I have to watch this movie with him, and i saw every possible reaction meanwhile.

But still, this is my favorite Fassbinder movie and this for several reasons. The most important of these is, that the movie has a rhythmical quality from the beginning to the end. Also there are literally hundreds of remarkable quotes inside. It is black humorous, funny and the overacting is terrific. It is amazing how Fassbinder manages to change the mood radically from scene to scene, how he is playing with emotion, speed and dynamic.

Of course people who are interested in Fassbinders historic post war movies and expect something like that will be disappointed, but if anybody is interested in the absurd elements, that appear in most of Fassbinders movies, Satansbraten gives you the possibility to enjoy them to the fullest. So get some friends, watch this movie and have a good time seeing lots of grown up people jumping around and repeating words for at least three times. Geld Geld Geld.

10 / 10

One of Fassbinder's Best

I had seen quite a few Fassbinders when I came across this one and was blown out the door. It is not only one of his funniest film, but a kind of humor that is really unique. Of course, being Fassbinder, it is dark, but there's also a sense of the darkness becoming comical in its haphazard unfolding. Smaller characters emerge and add depth. This isn't the usual RWF setup where one or two characters disintegrate under a microscope. This work's phenomenal density is all the more astonishing given Fassbinder's tremendous output (and ironic given the plot is about a blocked/dysfunctional writer). Don't miss this.

6 / 10

I have no clue what to rate this

In the case you've seen a lot of Fassbinder's films, this is worth a shot. You will definitely not be bored, so there's that. The film can be abrasive and there really aren't any likable characters. If you don't like that kind of stuff then avoid this. I can't blame you. I hated the first hour, then I reluctantly started respecting it, realizing that it was a satire and black comedy not a straight drama, pi**ing on the myth of the artistic genius and the wide berth we grant them (or did before the Me Too movement).

This protagonist actually reminded me a lot Pablo Picasso, a notorious wife-beater and all around jerk. Of course no would pay to see their sacred cows brought down a peg, so we have stand-ins like this guy. But the critique still works.

It's a biographical film, but not of the typical hacky kind that every director seems to make. Fassbinder had undoubtedly seen a lot of sycophants and brainless hangers-on in his life, self-aware enough to sense how full of **** people were when they were in the presence of a celebrity, knowing that he really could only trust a few people, compelled to "develop" and chronically produce or become irrelevant. Fassbinder would know. He died after making forty films in a decade, his heart exploding from too much coke.

2 / 10


Kurt Raab is some sort of a writer. His publisher won't give him another advance, so he gets a check from one of his mistresses, then shoots her. Helen Vita is his frumpy frau. Volker Spengler is his brother who collects dead flies and and pinches the breasts of all visiting women.

This is, of course, a comedy from Rainer Werner Fassbender, and if there were anything but disgusting behavior, as Raab goes about having sex with everyone but his wife, stealing their money, and whacking his brother on his bare bottom, it might actually be funny.

All comedy has at its basis some transgressive behavior, but there seems be no norms in Fassbender's cinematic world for anyone to rail against. There is no society to disapproves of Raab's actions, no foe to fight against, no consequence to any of his actions. Without resistance, there is no tension, and thus no relief to make the audience laugh. There's just Raab behaving like a jerk, and everyone is fine with it.

There is a certain amount of auctorial sneering at the behavior, but that is the lowest sort of humor, the straw man butt of the joke. Once that is apparent, such jokes cease to be funny. They become sad and repetitious.

That realization occurred to me very soon in this movie, perhaps as late as the 15-minute mark. It then continued for another 97 minutes.