Home Television Comedy Private Schulz

Private Schulz

1 9 8 1 (UK)
6 x 55 minute episodes

This BBC2 series cast Michael Elphick as small-time German crook and wheeler-dealer Gerhard Schulz, who had spent two spells in Spandau prison for fraud, before being sent to work in an underpants factory run by the voluble Herr Krauss (a great comic turn by Ken Campbell).

Shortly afterwards, war is declared and Schulz receives his call-up papers, going to work in the Postal Censorship department where he can use his knowledge of five languages.

Meanwhile, Major Neuheim (Ian Richardson) of the SS Counter Espionage unit discovers a plot to assassinate Hitler and negotiate peace with Britain. He arrests two German officers who were due to meet with the British Secret Service and has them shot.

He decides to take their place and kidnap the British agents, even though the meeting is due to take place in neutral Holland. Schulz is transferred to Neuheim as he speaks both English and Dutch and they meet the British in the no man’s land between two checkpoints at the Dutch border.

The British at the checkpoint open fire and Neuheim’s driver is killed but Schulz hotwires the ignition and manages to make a successful getaway.

Neuheim then sets up a high-class brothel named ‘Salon Kitty’, in which all the rooms are bugged so that he can eavesdrop on its visitors.

Schulz falls for Bertha (Billie Whitelaw), who runs the establishment – and claims to have a psychological block making it impossible for her to go with anyone below the rank of Major.

When the British drop counterfeit clothing coupons during a raid, Shulz tries to buy a night with her, but she sees immediately that they are forgeries.

Schulz then masterminds a plan – which Neuheim takes credit for – to flood Britain with millions of forged £5 notes to undermine the British economy. When the SS technical department says that it is impossible to make the forgeries, Schulz recruits his friend Solly (Cyril Shaps) from Spandau and they use a group of prisoners from Barracks 19 of the Saxenhausen concentration camp to make the money.

Schulz’s private scheme is to keep some of the banknotes so that he and Solly will be very rich once the war is over but he is caught using some of the forged money at Salon Kitty and given two choices: face a firing squad or parachute into England carrying £2 million of the forged fivers and attempt to spend them unobtrusively.

Arriving in Britain, Schulz finds his contact, Melfort (also played by Ian Richardson) has been rumbled by the British and so escapes back to Germany – having buried the forged money in England – by stealing a small boat and joining in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Returned in disgrace to Berlin, Schulz suggests keeping the operation going and using the money to pay agents and buy valuables  He is sent on another mission with £1 million.

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With Neuheim’s secretary, Gertrude Steiner (Rula Lenska), Schulz plans to steal the money by dumping their driver, Gruber – but is instead himself dumped by Gertrude and Gruber. They are caught and Schulz’s plan is exposed, and he is sent to a labour camp for three years.

In late 1944 the workers and equipment which had been used for printing the forged English money are evacuated from Saxenhausen to the labour camp which Schulz is in, and he manages to get himself posted to act as Neuheim’s clerk again.

As the war draws to a close, Schulz is ordered to move into the Alpine Last Redoubt. He forges orders which allow him to take the prisoners as well, rather than shoot them.

After releasing the prisoners he dumps the equipment and money in a lake but is promptly caught by an American patrol.

Released later in 1945, he is found by Neuheim and forced to retrieve the money from the lake. He has no sooner succeeded in raising some when the Austrian police arrive and arrest him.

Eventually released from prison and penniless, Schulz discovers he still has the map showing the location of the money he buried in England in 1940.  Back in Britain, he recruits Stan, a local criminal (Ian Richardson once more), to help him dig for it beneath the public lavatory which has since been built over the spot.

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Recovering the canister of money, Stan and his gang try to double-cross Schulz but he is able to seize the canister and escape. Closely pursued by Stan, he throws it into a rowing dinghy, only for its booby-trap to explode and destroy all the money.

Returning to Britain by ferry, he bumps into Bertha Freyer (a good time girl from Salon Kitty) and they agree to settle down together – she gives him £5 to buy himself a drink.

Private Gerhard Schulz
Michael Elphick
Major Neuheim/Melfort/Stan
Ian Richardson
Bertha Freyer
Billie Whitelaw
Iphraim ‘Solly’ Solikoff
Cyril Shaps
Gertrude Steiner
Rula Lenska
Gruber
Derek Martin
Herr Krauss
Ken Campbell