Johann Schwarzer – Saturn Filme (1906-1910)
The following article is taken from the Journal of Film Preservation, December 1998
(C) The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF)
Saturn: The erotic beginnings of Austrian cinematography
Michael Achenbach and Paolo Caneppele
Asked about early Austrian cinema most film historians will mention Von
Stufe zu Stufe or Der Müller und sein Kind, movies filmed between 1908
and 1911. Not many people know that before them, in 1907, a Viennese
studio called Saturn started mass production of feature films.
Unfortunately, because of the Saturn-films’ peculiar topics, up until now
certain reluctance combined with a large amount of bashfulness caused a
distortion in the historical reconstruction of Austrian filmography. The
chronology of the real events was falsified and important sources of the
birth of Austrian cinematography were kept as a secret. Filmarchiv
Austria decided to set the record straight and fill the gap by publishing a
book and a videocassette. The book addresses movie-specialists, while
the cassette will be suitable for a general audience interested in the his-
tory of Austrian movie production.
Johann Schwarzer, the founder of the Saturn studio was born on August
30 1880, in Javornik, Silesia. There he studied chemistry and photogra-
phy, before moving to Vienna. He was a master of children and family
portraits, but later became interested in erotic photography.
In his time French erotic movies were very successful. Often in the cine-
mas of the Habsburg Monarchy, “Herrenabende” (“night shows for men”)
were organized, where erotic movies were shown to an adult audience.
Success came within a short time for both the movie theatres and travel-
ling film shows. Directed by a reliable sense for good business, Johann
Schwarzer started his production of erotic films in late 1906, as his
advertisements prove. His films dealt with plots that were situated
between the rather bashful French productions and the pornographic
products of his time.
As history proves these were the first feature films produced in Austria.
In most Saturn-films the actresses are shown undressed, but they are far
away from any relations with pornography. The main subject of
Schwarzer’s films was voyeurism, demonstrated in bathing scenes, artist-
and-model-combinations or exotic oriental scenarios.
The advertisement for Saturn-Films mentioned above was published
until the end of July 1907. In this time Saturn was well known, and
advertisements in newspapers and journals were no longer necessary.
The priority of further publicity shifted to oral propaganda and also to
distributor-catalogues. French film producers had already published
such catalogues, and Schwarzer orientated his publications on their pat-
With the production of this special kind of films, Saturn was able to
obtain its place on the film market, since it supplied most of Europe
with its products, and catalogues soon appeared in Italian and French.
Since September 15, 1907 all Saturn-films bore a star as special trade-
mark, which can be seen on the credits as well as on various parts of the
decoration in the films.
In 1909 the decline of the successful company began. The Austrian gov-
ernment had received lots of protests from foreign countries against so-
called „pornographic films“ from Vienna. According to special orders the
Viennese police rummaged through and observed the Saturn-studio.
In 1911 a judicial decision of the „k.k. Landesgericht Wien“ stated that
from now on the circulation of all Saturn-films and -catalogues was pro-
hibited. Due to this judgement Saturn had to stop its production of
In the following two years it seems that Johann Schwarzer suspended the
production of films in general. He tried it again in 1913 with a film dis-
tribution company, but without the kind of films he had become famous
for. Instead of that he unsuccessfully produced newsreels, local shootings
and suchlike material. Three months after a new series of advertisements
for his film distribution started, all traces of the film producer Johann
Soon after the beginning of World War I, in October 1914, Johann
Schwarzer was killed as a reserve officer on the eastern front.