Der Joker (1987) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This film is also known as Lethal Obsession, but if they had called it Hamburg Vice, it might have given a more accurate picture. Stylistically, Der Joker is pretty much of an episode of Miami Vice relocated in Germany, and filmed without the TV restrictions on nudity and drug use. Two hip cops - one wearing leisure suits, the other sporting a mullet - get caught in a turf war between baddies. The lead is played by Peter Maffay, a popular singer of soft rock ballads in the manner of Phil Collins, more or less. Maffay also did the musical score, and he made it as "Miami Vice" as possible. There is a lot of atmospheric photography of smoky sleaze clubs, cars winding through city streets, the Hamburg harbor, and old creaky deserted bridges in foggy nights. Again, this is your basic Michael Mann schtick transported to cold weather climes. Although it was filmed entirely in Hamburg, there are some interesting international names in the eclectic supporting cast, like Elliott Gould, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Michael York.

The plot is typical grade-B crime thriller material.  One of the cops is injured in an explosion and loses the use of his legs. He leaves the police force and swears revenge on the bombers, enlisting the aid of a coldly efficient professional killer. As he pursues revenge from his wheelchair, he finds that various situations may not play out exactly as he imagined. The situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that both partners are in love with the same woman, and she is sleeping with both of them. (One knows, the other doesn't.) Blah, blah, blah. Gunfights. Betrayals. The legs miraculously recover at precisely the moment they are needed. People die. The end.

There is one scene which impressed me. After the injured cop begins his revenge campaign, the baddies eventually find out who he is and fight back. At one point, he is in a narrow street in his wheelchair when a fast vehicle and a powerful tow truck box him in from either direction. The film editor and the stunt players are to be commended for their work in maintaining the illusion of several harrowing narrow escapes.

Tahnee Welch, Raquel's daughter, provides the celebrity nudity. At one time it seemed that she might follow in her mom's footsteps to stardom, especially after Cocoon was a big hit. Didn't happen. The rest of her career, such as it was, seemed to consist of grade-B American films and throwaway European projects like Der Joker, and since 1998 she has disappeared altogether. Why? She looks good enough. She has the same wide, square, athletic shoulders as her mom, and her face is every bit as beautiful as mama's. Of course, she is also missing two of her mom's most famous physical assets, but that isn't what kept her from stardom (well, maybe it was part of it.) Her real problem seems to have been a lack of electricity. She is a very low wattage version of the Welch bulb, and just doesn't have her mom's hot stage presence.


DVD INFO:  This film is not available on a Region 1 DVD. The link to the left leads to the VHS video tape, which is out of print.

There is a German Region 2 DVD. It has a very respectable letterboxed widescreen transfer, trailers in two languages, a slideshow of stills, and interviews with the director and star.

The German DVD info (in English) can be found here. The U.S. distributor's home page can be found here. If you are thinking of buying DVDs from outside your region, read this first.



  • Tahnee Welch shows her breast and buns.
  • The victim in the first scene shows her breasts and provides full rear nudity (including open legs).
  • Several hookers and strippers show various body parts, including some distant full frontals.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online. (No English reviews at all)

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 4.4/10. It is not a great movie, but it could be a point higher than that. It has some positives.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. I would call it a C, a serviceable crime thriller, except for the poor acting on the part of the people who dubbed the English dialogue. In its existing form, in English, it is a bare minimum genre flick with some pretty good atmosphere. It might be worth a higher score if you watch it in German.

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