Third Sex, The (1957) AKA The Bewildered Youth
Cast: Christian Wolff, Paula Wessely, Paul Dahlke, Peter Nijinski, Ingrid Stenn
Director: Veit Harlan
Nutshell: Impressionable youngster in terrible danger of turning into the vile Third Sex!
Young and impressionable Carlos’ friendship with “weird” and effeminate Manfred is the source of immense concern to his parents who thrive on normality and conformity and are well respected in the community as white, upright, decent and above all, super-normal folk. Herr Teichman, Carlos’ father is a successful and well respected banker yet his world threatens to come crumbling down around him as his as he realizes that his son is in danger of turning into something unthinkably vile – “girls don’t interest him – he only meets his terrible friends”.
Carlos (or is it Klaus?) persists in confounding his parents, sneaking off to visit the sickly Manfred until the early hours of the morning. Both parents are exasperated that their son is slowly but steadily falling into a trap from where there can be no return – he is slowly becoming one of the “Third Sex” – a fate worse than death. The parents are seemingly powerless to stop Carlos in his downward spiral into “abnormality”. His father attempts to set things straight by forcing Carlos to attend a party “where there will be lots of pretty girls…dancing by the lakeside”. Reluctantly Carlos attends the party where to he is totally at ease with female company and has a splendidly “normal” time, rocking and rolling with a shapely, attractive girl who he gets on with like a house on fire.
A jealous Manfred shows up at the party, burning up with jealousy at the sight of “his” Carlos having a rock and roll time with a girl! Later that night Carlos pays Manfred a visit as he promised and after hearing Manfred complaining about the girl they settle down to listen to some really terrible new wave electronic music given to him by a fascinating character by the name of Boris Winkler – who likes to spend his time surrounded by handsome young men and chat about such dubious subjects such as poetry, art and of course electronic music. Winkler is a wealthy unmarried 50-year-old who is clearly “one of them” and is seen to be avidly encouraging the community’s fine young men into a trap of debauchery from which they will never recover. He is also Manfred’s benefactor cum Sugar Daddy.
Mrs Teichman is terribly worried and desperately tries to hatch a scheme which could yet save her son from turning into the dreaded Third Sex. When she asks her husband if he was aware of the presence of this Third Sex he responds “naturally I’ve been aware of them……oh it’s so terrible that such things exist!” He then berates Manfred referring to him as an “under-baked pigeon” among other things. Mrs. Teichman has a chat with her beautiful young maid and encourages her to help save her son by making him realize what he is missing by spending all his time with male company. The Teichman’s take off for a short holiday leaving the beautiful young made Gerta alone in the house to look after Carlos. Soon she manages to seduce him but didn’t quite count on him to turn into a sex fiend overnight whose lust once excited cannot be controlled! Meanwhile Mr. Tiechman tries to find something slanderous to use against the corrupting Mr. Winkler and tries to hound him out of town – a plan of his that backfires horribly as Winkler in turn takes the Tiechman family to court for “corrupting” their young maid and forcing her to prostitute for their son Carlos.
The film smacks of the attitudes of the era in which it was made – an era which was rife with “educational” films attempting to shape the youth into conforming and moulding them into perfect model, responsible citizens. An era where words like homosexual were mentioned in hushed whispers if at all with phrases like “them” and “The Third Sex” being preferred. This curious oddity was produced in Germany by a director who had previously worked on Nazi propaganda films which hardly comes as a surprise having watched this “correctional” and “educational” effort at curing impressionable young men from the lure of “abnormality”.
Moral of the story: If you have a young son exhibiting an interest in poetry, new wave music and the arts all is not lost – just have him seduced by sexy female employee but make sure you don’t end up in court for aiding and abetting prostitution while you are at it. The Third Sex is a true oddity from today’s perspective yet offers a fascinating peek into the mindset that prevailed during the puritanical 50’s when America was all Doris Day and Apple Pie.