Ernst Lubitsch has long been recognized as the director of some of Hollywood’s greatest comedies, including Trouble in Paradise (1932) and Ninotchka (1939). However, he made one of his best films while he was still an emerging filmmaker in his native Germany. The Wildcat, which was never released in the U.S., is a playfully subversive satire of military life that makes Robert Altman's M*A*S*H look positively tame by comparison.
At a remote fort, the commander awaits the arrival of a new lieutenant, who is captured en route by a band of outlaws that roam the nearby, snow-covered mountains. But the daughter of the bandits’ leader quickly falls for the young officer, thus setting in motion an outrageous farce that is Lubitsch at his most unrestrained. Peter Bogdanovich has described The Wildcat as "an uproarious, hard-edged anti-military spoof," and ranks the film among the five funniest movies he’s ever seen (along with another early Lubitsch comedy, 1919’s The Doll).
The Wildcat (aka Die Bergkatze) not only looks ahead to Lubitsch's later comedies, but can also be seen as an ancestor to Monty Python and the early, anarchic films of Woody Allen. The film’s refreshingly unhinged approach is also reflected in its visual style, including a fortress that looks like a giant toybox and even the film's frame, which continuously changes size and shape. In Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise, Scott Eyman states, "In style, it is like nothing else committed to film," and ultimately dubs it "an exercise in riotous artifice, as much pure fun as anything in Lubitsch's canon."