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Olsen Gang

Olsen Gang
Olsen Gang.jpg
Left to right: Kjeld, Benny, Yvonne, Egon.
Type Fictional crime syndicate
First appearance The Olsen Gang (1968)
Founded The Olsen Gang's Last Trick (1998)
Location Denmark

The Olsen Gang (Danish: Olsen-banden, Norwegian: Olsenbanden, German: Die Olsenbande) is a Danish comedy film series about the eponymous fictional criminal gang. The gang's leader is the criminal genius and habitual offender Egon Olsen and his accomplices are Benny and Kjeld (Kjell in Norwegian). The gang members are harmless, extremely rarely target ordinary citizens, and never use violence. The first film came in 1968; during the next thirty years a total of fourteen films were made.

A Norwegian version of the film series was also made (a total of 14 films from 1969 to 1999), in most cases based directly on the scripts for the Danish films. Later, starting in 1981, Sweden also produced their own version: Jönssonligan.[1]

Plot

Most of the films start with Egon coming out of jail and being enthusiastically welcomed by Benny and Kjeld. The three men will then have a beer together in the living room of Kjeld's dilapidated home in a run-down Valby neighbourhood, where Egon will inform his friends of his latest plan, usually (but not always) for making them millionaires. Plans are often two-step plans, where the first heist will get the equipment for the real, second plan. The plans usually feature everyday artefacts such as Lego, party balloons, cigarettes etc., which are then brought together in surprising ways in elaborate and well-timed plans, often including clever social engineering. Bennys main function in the heists, besides get-away-driver, is often as keeper of "The Thing", a metal bottle opener used for manipulating most any machinery. Egon often serves time with lawyers or executives who provide him with the information he needs, such as duty rosters for the national public record office. Egon is also a brilliant safecracker, operating manually, specializing in the fictive "Franz Jäger" brand.

Egon's plans often bring the gang into perilously close contact with white-collar criminals from the Danish business (and political) elite. For example, in one episode some well-connected people try to make money out of the so-called "butter mountain", a huge amount of butter bought up and stored by the EEC (now the EU) to keep prices up. Egon Olsen learns about this from a lawyer who is serving prison time, and the gang interferes with the plan to secure the millions for themselves. But as always, Egon – after having succeeded with a genius plan – loses because he underestimates the power and unscrupulousness of these people. For several movies the role of antagonist was filled by CEO Hallandsen of Hallandsen Inc. Egon is usually arrested in the end, for various reasons: scapegoat, bad luck, some completely irrelevant crime, or even turning himself in as a matter of honour.

A recurring part of the films is making fun of Danish authorities, especially the police. Superintendent Jensen to his younger colleague, inspector Holm: "The only thing the police can do when the real big criminals come by is offer them protection!" Jensen incredously uses the recurring exclamation "Bagmændene!" (Behind-men/Big Fishes) to reference the in-joke of powerful players moving outside of the law.

In the early episodes, profanity and soft-erotica (scantily-clad women) were more freely used than in later ones, where said content was somewhat watered down to suit younger viewers. Later movies focused on the satirical interplay between Jensen and Holm and Egon and Kjeld, with a frequent outburst of anger from either Olsen or superintendent Jensen. Especially Olsen's long list of slurs are famous, like "social democrats!", "insane woman!" (to Yvonne), "lousy amateurs!", "cowards!", "dog heads!", "porridge peasants!", "sop!", "scumbag!", to name a few.

Characters

Olsen Gang silhouettes at a cinema wall in Thisted, Denmark.

Recurring characters in the Danish version:

  • Egon Olsen: Gang leader, expert safecracker, brilliant but short-tempered and occasionally overdramatic
  • Benny Frandsen: Gang member, get-away driver, handles practical stuff and always seem to float
  • Kjeld Jensen: Gang member, tool master, ever nervous and humble, but does on a rare occasion rise to meet any challenge
  • Yvonne: Kjeld's very bossy wife, often with firm plans on how to use the millions from the various plans
  • Børge: Kjeld and Yvonne's son, occasionally an impeccable part of the schemes
  • Harry (a.k.a. Dynamite Harry): Benny's brother, explosives expert (at least in his own opinion) and deeply alcoholic
  • Jensen: Superintendent at Copenhagen Police, somewhat disillusioned and mostly forgotten by the brass in his basement office
  • Holm: Detective with Copenhagen Police, young and with high ambitions, but somewhat naïve
  • Mortensen: An overambitious but very clumsy detective with Copenhagen Police appearing in the early films
  • Holm-Hansen/Bang-Johansen/Hallandsen: A role with the same actor playing various villains, always on top of the social hierarchy, most often also with international contacts
  • Kongen og Knægten (King and Knight): A confidence trickster and his violent nephew
  • Bøffen (The Beef): Enforcer and muscleman for Hallandsen and others
  • Hansen: Rival gang leader with theme music from Bob le flambeur

International versions

The Olsen Gang have been made in Norwegian and Swedish (Jönssonligan) versions too. The films differ a bit from each other, but they follow a generally similar formula to the Danish films.

Norwegian Olsenbanden

The Norwegian remakes were, with two exceptions, directed by Knut Bohwim based on Balling and Bahs's original scripts with various degrees of adaptations to Norwegian conditions. For example, some names of the main characters were changed: Kjeld became Kjell, Yvonne became Valborg, and Børge became Basse. The character of Benny's brother, Dynamite Harry, was used much more often in the Norwegian films than in the original Danish series, with six appearances.

Swedish Jönssonligan

In the Swedish version, the Egon character is called Charles-Ingvar "Sickan" Jönsson, with a slightly different costume and mannerisms, and was a huge success for the actor Gösta Ekman. When the actor got tired of the character and left the series, other leaders took charge of the band, though never replicating the popularity of "Sickan". Benny's character was named (Ragnar) Vanheden, a small-timer from Stockholm, played by Ulf Brunnberg. Kjeld's character was named Rocky, but appeared only in the first films. Later films featured Dynamit-Harry played by Björn Gustafson instead.

The Swedish franchise also includes movies of the band as young kids: Lilla Jönssonligan (small Jönsson band) with four features to date. There is also a reboot, featuring brand new actors in the adult roles.

Danish films

The first thirteen films were directed by Erik Balling, while Tom Hedegaard and Morten Arnfred directed the fourteenth and final Olsen Gang film. The scripts were written by Balling and Henning Bahs, who also worked as a production designer.

English title (Original title) Release date Notes
The Olsen Gang (Olsen-banden) October 11, 1968
The Olsen Gang in a Fix (Olsen-banden på spanden) October 3, 1969
The Olsen Gang in Jutland (Olsen-banden i Jylland) October 8, 1971
The Olsen Gang's Big Score (Olsen-bandens store kup) October 6, 1972
The Olsen Gang Goes Crazy (Olsen-banden går amok) October 5, 1973
The Last Exploits of the Olsen Gang (Olsen-bandens sidste bedrifter) October 4, 1974 This was intended to be the last movie at the time it was made.
The Olsen Gang on the Track (Olsen-banden på sporet) September 26, 1975
The Olsen Gang Sees Red (Olsen-banden ser rødt) October 1, 1976 This movie contains the famous showdown scene in which the gang bombs, drills, and hammers its way through the basement of the Royal Danish Theatre in synchronicity with the music of Friedrich Kuhlau's overture to the opera Elverhøj.
The Olsen Gang Outta Sight (da) (Olsen-banden deruda') September 30, 1977
The Olsen Gang Goes to War (da) (Olsen-banden går i krig) October 6, 1978
The Olsen Gang Never Surrenders (da) (Olsen-banden overgiver sig aldrig) October 26, 1979
The Olsen Gang's Escape over the Fence (da) (Olsen-bandens flugt over plankeværket) October 16, 1981
Olsen-banden over alle bjerge (The Olsen Gang Long Gone) December 26, 1981
The Olsen Gang's Last Trick (Olsen-bandens sidste stik) December 18, 1998 The actor in the role as "Kjeld Jensen", Poul Bundgaard, died while filming the last movie. The actor Tommy Kenter stepped in to fill his role to finish the film. This was hidden through various effects and cover-up techniques.
[2]

Danish cast

Spin-offs

A Danish TV series and a feature film have been made showing the main characters as children:

Two computer animated films have been released in the 2010s:

  • Olsen-banden på de bonede gulve (The Olsen Gang Gets Polished, 2010)
  • Olsen-banden på dybt vand (The Olsen Gang in Deep Trouble, 2013)

Norwegian films

DVD Cover of the first Norwegian Olsenbanden: from left to right: Benny, Egon, Kjell.
  • Olsenbanden Operasjon Egon (1969)
  • Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry (1970)
  • Olsenbanden tar gull (1972)
  • Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry går amok (1973)
  • Olsenbanden møter Kongen og Knekten (1974)
  • Olsenbandens siste bedrifter (1975)
  • Olsenbanden for full musikk (1976)
  • Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry på sporet (1977)
  • Olsenbanden og Data-Harry sprenger verdensbanken (1978)
  • Olsenbanden mot nye høyder (1979)
  • Olsenbanden gir seg aldri (1981)
  • Olsenbandens aller siste kupp (1982)
  • …men Olsenbanden var ikke død (1984)
  • Olsenbandens siste stikk (1999)

Several elements recur in the films series. As the Japanese carmaker Toyota was usually the main sponsor of the film series, most cars, including the villain's cars, the security cars, the police cars, the gang's car, civilian cars parked on the sidewalks, etc. was supplied by the company. Models include the Crown as taxis, Toyota Cressida as police cars, Hiace as security vans and money transports, and so on. There have been exceptions, notably Olsenbandens aller siste kupp (The Olsen-Gangs Very Last Coup) from 1982, which was sponsored by Datsun.[citation needed]

Norwegian DVDs

Most of the Norwegian films have been digitally restored. The discs include English & Norwegian Subtitles, 16:9 format and Dolby Digital 1.0 surround sound.

DVD Release List:

  • Olsenbanden Operasjon Egon (27 October 2004)
  • Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry (27 October 2004)
  • Olsenbanden tar gull (27 October 2004)
  • Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry går amok
  • Olsenbanden møter Kongen og Knekten (1 December 2004)
  • Olsenbandens siste bedrifter (1 December 2004)
  • Olsenbanden for full musikk (1 December 2004)
  • Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry på sporet (8 December 2004)
  • Olsenbanden og Data-Harry sprenger verdensbanken (19 January 2005)
  • Olsenbanden mot nye høyder (19 January 2005)
  • Olsenbanden gir seg aldri (19 January 2005)
  • Olsenbandens aller siste kupp (19 January 2005)
  • ...men Olsenbanden var ikke død
  • Olsenbandens siste stikk (1999)

Norwegian cast

Spin-offs

The Danish TV series showing the gang during their childhood, Olsen-bandens første kup, was remade in Norway as Olsenbandens første kupp. There has also been made an entire feature film series, Olsenbanden Jr., with six films from 2003 to 2010.

In popular culture

The popularity of the film series inspired a Norwegian restaurant chain, Egon, with the logo alluding to Egon Olsen's iconic hat and cigar. Håkon Aasnes also drew some comic strips based on the series.[3]

Unofficial English translation of Danish and Norwegian titles

Danish films

Original title Translation
Olsen Banden The Olsen Gang
Olsen Banden på spanden "The Olsen Gang in Trouble"
Olsen Banden i Jylland "The Olsen Gang in Jutland"
Olsen Bandens store kup "The Olsen Gang's Grand Burglary"
Olsen Banden går amok "The Olsen Gang Goes Crazy"
Olsen Bandens sidste bedrifter "The Olsen Gang's Last (Latest) Accomplishments"
Olsen Banden på sporet "The Olsen Gang on the (Rail) track"
Olsen Banden ser rødt "The Olsen Gang Snaps (Sees Red)"
Olsen Banden deruda "The Olsen Gang Full Speed Ahead"
Olsen Banden går i krig "The Olsen Gang Goes to War"
Olsen Banden overgiver sig aldrig "The Olsen Gang Never Surrenders"
Olsen Bandens flugt over plankeværket "The Olsen Gang's Escape Over the Fence"
Olsen Banden over alle bjerge "The Olsen Gang Long Gone"
Olsen Bandens sidste stik "The Olsen Gang's Last Trick" (as in cards) or "Last Sting"

Norwegian Films

Original title Official English title Translated directly Translated contextually
Olsenbanden: Operasjon Egon "The Olsen Gang: Operation Egon" "The Olsen Gang: Operation Egon"
Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite-Harry" "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite-Harry"
Olsenbanden tar gull "The Olsen Gang Takes Gold" "The Olsen Gang Wins" (title is a pun, since the gang literally "takes gold" in the movie)
Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry går amok The Olsen Gang and Dynamite Harry Run Amuck "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite Harry Run Amuck" "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite Harry Run Amuck"
Olsenbanden møter Kongen og Knekten "The Olsen Gang Meets the King and the Jack" "The Olsen Gang Meets The King and The Jack" (The King and The Jack being the handles of the movie's villains)
Olsenbandens siste bedrifter "The Olsen Gang's Last Accomplishments" "The Olsen Gang's Last Accomplishments"
Olsenbanden for full musikk "The Olsen Gang for Full Music" "Totally Olsen Gang" (title is a pun, as music plays a rather important part in the movie)
Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry på sporet "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite-Harry on the Track" "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite-Harry on the Track" ("track" here referring to a railroad track. Title is again a pun)
Olsenbanden og Data-Harry sprenger verdensbanken "The Olsen Gang and Data-Harry Blow Up the World Bank" "The Olsen Gang and Computer-Harry Rob the World Bank"
Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry mot nye høyder "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite-Harry Towards New Heights" "The Olsen Gang and Dynamite-Harry Towards New Heights"
Olsenbanden gir seg aldri "The Olsen Gang Never Gives Up" "The Olsen Gang Never Gives Up"
Olsenbandens aller siste kupp "The Olsen Gang's Very Last Coup" "The Olsen Gang's Very Last Burglary"
...men Olsenbanden var ikke død "...But the Olsen Gang Wasn't Dead" "The Return of the Olsen Gang"
Olsenbandens siste stikk "The Olsen Gang's Last Match" "The Olsen Gang's Last Trick" (as in cards) or "Last Sting"

References

  1. ^ Nicholas Wennö (13 January 2015). "Ny proffsig Jönssonliga vill lämna farsen" (in Swedish). Dagens nyheter. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  2. ^ Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Cinema. Scarecrow Press. 31 August 2012. pp. 300–. ISBN 978-0-8108-5524-3. 
  3. ^ Håkon Aasnes Lambiek Comiclopedia

External links