The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, which was previously released in the Criterion Collection on DVD with Spine #177, finally sees a new 4K transfer Blu-ray release this month. The 1975 German film tells the story of Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler), an innocent woman who becomes embroiled in controversy after a one-night stand with a suspected terrorist. Cops and right-wing journalists collude to turn her into an pariah, and she is forced to take matters into her own hands.
Although made and set 40 years ago, the story remains as relevant today as it ever has been. An essay included in the release by Amy Taubin, written in 2003, makes the same argument. Taubin writes from the perspective of an American living through the immediate post-9/11 disaster. I watched Katharina Blum in 2020, the day before QAnon’s “Save the Children” protests nationwide cast known Hollywood figures as pedophiles for the sake of a public that seems anxious to be part of a big movie. Journalism now is not the same as it was then, but the intoxicating power of gossip and innuendo has never been more acutely administered. The stakes for individuals have never been as heavy.
Katharina Blum is a critique of power and an iconic piece of New German Cinema. It is also a captivating thriller. Winkler’s performance as Blum — a woman with secrets she deserves to keep — is tragic. The late Dieter Laser (who later became known in cult-cinema circles for his turn in The Human Centipede) plays Tötges, the tabloid journalist whose vile methods throw Blum’s life asunder. He’s handsome, confident and wildly willing to throw away another life to sell papers. A recognizable villain.
The new Blu-ray release features the new restoration. However, the special features are identical to the original DVD release. It’s a worthy addition to any individual’s Criterion collection, but those who already own the original release may find little reason to upgrade.