Monday, 24 April 2017


In the beautiful Black Forest region of West Germany, Professor Klaus Brinkmann runs the Schwarzwaldklinik, a prestigious private hospital.

The German cult medical drama Black Forest Clinic (Die Schwarzwaldklinik, 1985-1989) is available on French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films since February, with the release of the first half of Series 1 as "La clinique de la Forêt-Noire - Saison 1".

Die Schwarzwaldklinik originated from an idea by TV producer Wolfgang Rademann, the creative force behind the lighthearted ZDF series Das Traumschiff ("The Dream Ship") for Polyphon Film- und Fernseh GmbH. This German answer to The Love Boat (1977-1986), which premiered in November 1981, still exists today. For two years Rademann tried to convince the channel to air something in the vein of the Czechoslovak medical drama Nemocnice na kraji mesta (1978-1981), shown in both East and West Germany under the title Das Krankenhaus am Rande der Stadt. Until ZDF entertainment boss Peter Gerlach told him: "You're getting on my nerves. Do it yourself!" (1) 

Produced by Polyphon, Die Schwarzwaldklinik started filming during summer 1984 in the district of Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald. Crime drama scriptwriter Herbert Lichtenfeld (Tatort) wrote all the episodes. Veteran movie and television director Alfred Vohrer helmed the 90-minute pilot (Die Heimkehr) and 11 episodes of the first series. His impressive filmography includes a long string of Edgar Wallace movies and some Winnetou films but also several episodes of producer Helmut Ringelmann's hits Derrick and Der Alte. Experienced TV helmer Hans-Jürgen Togel took over from Vohrer until the end of Die Schwarzwaldklinik in 1989.

A competent ensemble cast is headed by stage, movie and TV actor Klausjürgen Wussow as Professor Klaus Brinkmann and Gaby Dohm as Nurse Christa Mehnert. Wolfgang Rademann wanted Armin Mueller-Stahl (Veronika Voss, Lola) and Thekla Carola Wied (Ich heirate eine Familie) but they didn't wish to bind themselves with the series on the long-term. Dr. Udo Brinkmann (2), Prof. Brinkmann's impetuous and womanizing son, is played by Sascha Hehn, a.k.a. Chief steward Victor Burger in Das Traumschiff. Hehn came back aboard the Dream Ship as Victor and his twin brother Stefan Burger. Victor Burger finally got promoted to Captain three years ago in Das Traumschiff and he appeared in Kreuzfahrt ins Glück, its spinoff (which debuted in 2007).

Klaus Brinkmann returns to his hometown with his housekeeper Käti to become the chief physician of the reputable Black Forest Clinic. His wife died a while ago and he's separated from with his anesthetist girlfriend, Dr. Elena Bach. Klaus has a complicated relationship with his son Udo, who lives in the family house and works at the clinic as a doctor. Later he meets Nurse Christa, who has an affair with Udo. The doctors of the Schwarzwaldklinik are confronted with all sort of patients and situations. The victims of a road accident and the man who caused it, a woman with cancer and her husband, a life prisoner who has an ulcer, etc. Professor Brinkmann is even taken hostage by bank robbers.

Karin Hart (Käti), Karl Walter Diess (Dr. Schäfer), Franz Rudnick (Dr. Wolter), Holger Petzold (Dr. Rens), Eva Maria Bauer (Head nurse Hildegard), Barbara Wussow (Klausjürgen Wussow's daughter) as Nurse Elke, and Jochen Schroder as the sympathetic Nurse Mischa are amongst the other Series 1 regulars. Familiar faces pop up in this first series: Werner Kreindl (Soko 5113), Christiane Krüger (Arsene Lupin joue et perd, Star Maidens), Rainer Hunold (later in Ein Fall für Zweï, Dr. Sommerfeld – Neues vom Bülowbogen and Der Staatsanwalt), Philipp Moog, Alexander Wussow (3), Rolf Schimpf (later Leo Kress in Der Alte) or Karin Baal.

Launched in October 1985, Die Schwarzwaldklinik quickly became highly popular and attracted up to 28 million viewers. It ended in March 1989 after 70 episodes (pilot included). Sold in 38 countries, the series was shown in France on M6 in 1987 as La clinique de la Forêt-Noire, and in the UK on Channel 4 (dubbed) in 1988 under the title Black Forest Clinic. The characters of Black Forest Clinic reappeared in a 1991 Christmas crossover between several ZDF series. In 2005, the German pubcaster aired a 20th birthday special titled Die Schwarzwaldklinik - Die nächste Generation. It was followed the same year by Die Schwarzwaldklinik - Neue Zeiten. Both TV movies were helmed by Hans-Jürgen Togel.

The exterior of the "Black Forest Clinic" is actually The Carlsbau, a building which houses a health clinic in Glottertal. The outside of the beautiful "Villa Brinkmann" is the Hüsli local history museum in Grafenhausen-Rothaus. Film and TV composer Martin Böttcher (the Winnetou movies) was hired for the music and wrote a main theme but he was replaced by Hans Hammerschmid, who composed the famous Hallo - Dr.B. and the rest of the soundtrack. Böttcher's theme served as the intro of ZDF's Forsthaus Falkenau (1988-2013). The 4-disc Koba Films DVD set contains the pilot + 11 episodes of the first series, in French only. It's an excellent opportunity to revisit (or to discover) a bona fide German television classic.

(2) "Hugues" in the French dubbing.
(3) Son of Klausjürgen Wussow. In 2005 he played Dr. Benjamin Brinkmann in the two TV specials.

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