Most modern-day viewers are familiar with German author Alfred Doeblin's naturalistic novel Berlin Alexanderplatz from its epic TV miniseries presentation, directed in 1980 by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The Doeblin work was previously filmed on the very brink of the Nazi takeover in 1933, with Heinrich George as the ex-convict protagonist. Yearning for respectability, George finds he cannot escape the influence of his old criminal cohorts. When George refuses to pay "hush money" to the mob, his faithful wife Margarete Schlegel is killed. George resignedly returns to a life of crime, ultimately descending into madness. The 1933 adaptation of Berlin Alexanderplatz ran a brisk 90 minutes; Fassbinder's 1980 TV version ran ten times longer.
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