Werner Herzog Movie: The Accidental Tourist

The Accidental Tourist: A Werner Herzog Film

Logline: In 1977, a German brewery worker with a love for beer and a thirst for adventure takes a trip to San Francisco. There’s just one problem: he ends up in Bangor, Maine. This heartwarming comedy by Werner Herzog explores the world’s last lost tourist, Erwin Kreuz, and his hilarious journey of getting gloriously lost.


Erwin Kreuz, a simple man with a taste for lagers, embarks on a life-changing adventure – a trip to San Francisco. Fueled by excitement and a few too many beers at the airport bar, Erwin stumbles off the plane in Bangor, Maine, completely convinced he’s in his dream city.

Unaware of his geographical blunder, Erwin embraces the sights and sounds of Bangor, charming the locals with his childlike wonder and broken English. News of the “lost tourist” spreads like wildfire, turning Erwin into an unlikely folk hero.

As the world marvels at Erwin’s innocent mistake, the spotlight shines on Bangor. The once-quiet town embraces its newfound fame, showering Erwin with gifts, parties, and even an honorary membership in the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Meanwhile, Erwin basks in the unexpected attention, oblivious to the truth. But the jig is up when a kind local helps him realize his misplaced San Francisco dreams.

Torn between the warmth of Bangor and the allure of his original destination, Erwin embarks on a whirlwind trip to the real San Francisco. There, he meets the mayor, rides a cable car, and even gets a standing ovation at a rodeo.

Despite the bright lights of San Francisco, Erwin’s heart remains in Bangor. He returns to Germany a changed man, fired from his brewery job but forever grateful for the kindness of strangers and the joy of getting gloriously lost.

Herzogian Touch:

The film will capture the essence of Werner Herzog’s style – a blend of humor, pathos, and a fascination with the human condition. The vast landscapes of Maine will be juxtaposed with the bustling streets of San Francisco, highlighting Erwin’s displacement. Herzog’s signature voice-over narration will add a layer of philosophical reflection to Erwin’s simple journey.

The bizarre tale of the world’s last lost tourist, who thought Maine was San Francisco

By Andrew ChamingsUpdated Dec 15, 2022 12:31 p.m.

In 1977, 49-year-old German brewery worker Erwin Kreuz blew his life savings on his first flight — a once-in-a-lifetime birthday trip to San Francisco. He’d seen it on TV, and he wanted to visit the Wild West. As the World Airways flight from Frankfurt stopped to refuel in a small airport in Bangor, Maine, before continuing on to California, an air stewardess who had finished her shift told Kreuz to “have a nice time in San Francisco.” Her choice of words would change Kreuz’s life. Kreuz, who typically enjoyed drinking 17 beers a day, was a little groggy, and on hearing this, grabbed his suitcase, got off the plane, went through customs, jumped in a cab and asked the driver to take him to the city. He wandered Bangor for three days enjoying the sights and sounds that Maine had to offer. Unfortunately, Kreuz thought he was in San Francisco. Within a week, Kreuz became an international celebrity, made the “Today Show” and Time magazine and was handed the key to San Francisco. He became a folk hero, as the world’s last lost tourist. — Outside of a day trip over the border to Switzerland, Kreuz had never stepped foot outside Germany, let alone boarded an airplane. He spoke only German and lived in a small Bavarian village near Augsberg, working in a local brewery. His trip in October 1977 was a big one, and Kreuz was understandably eager to see the famous hilly city from the glossy travel magazines with his own eyes. Most of us have stepped off a bus or train at the wrong stop — an embarrassing and annoying moment that involves a quick check on your phone to figure out how to get back to your intended destination. But what if a friendly face just told you that train stop was the right one, and all the signs were indecipherable, and cellphones didn’t exist, and you were three sheets to the wind? Once Kreuz got through customs in that little airport, he was certain he was in San Francisco, and he didn’t stop believing that for three very strange days. The cab dropped Kreuz in downtown Bangor where he checked into the Bangor House Hotel, walked the streets a little and found a tavern to quench his almighty thirst. At one point Kreuz was reassured by the sight of two Chinese restaurants in the town, something he knew was in San Francisco from the movies. The rusted green bridge that links Bangor to neighboring Brewer was clearly not the Golden Gate, but Kreuz carried on regardless. After much wandering, Kreuz decided he must be in a Bay Area suburb, so he hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take him to downtown San Francisco. The driver sped away as though Kreuz was crazy. Kreuz returned to the bar, suddenly a little unsure of himself, and tried to get some help from a waitress. The language barrier was too wide, and she put him in contact with a neighbor named Gertrude Romine, a Czechoslovakian immigrant who spoke German. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad “It was so funny,” recalled Romine, who was the first to make Kreuz aware of his monumental error. “He couldn’t speak any English and didn’t know. He knew there were hills around San Francisco and when he saw the hills around Bangor he figured he was in the right area.” Romine and her family took Kreuz into their home, and word spread of the lost tourist, first to the Bangor Daily News, then nationally, then the world. What may be more surprising than someone believing a small logging town on the Atlantic Ocean was San Francisco was the way the world reacted to his story. Everyone was enamored by this strange visitor who had been walking around a very different town in his head. Within days, Kreuz became an honorary member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, had a folk song written about him, was thrown a 50th birthday party and was visited by the governor of Maine. He was even gifted an acre of scrubland in northern Maine as an act of goodwill. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad The Bangor Daily News compared him, somewhat lovingly, to the town seal, whom Kreuz kissed for a photo op. “Erwin Kreuz met Andre the Seal Thursday morning. They must have had a lot to talk about, because they have a great deal in common,” the paper wrote. “Neither speaks a word of English; each ranks among the great communicators of our time. Both are media events of the first order.” The Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977. Bangor Daily News Kreuz’s lack of English only heightened his character and mystique in the press. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad “Just what is Mr. Kreuz thinking about as he says (according to his translator) all those nice things about Bangor? Is it possible for a man to be nice to everyone he meets?” the Daily News pondered. Reports started surfacing that a San Francisco newspaper might pay for Kreuz to fly out to his initial destination, but some Bangor residents claimed him as their own, like a drunk child in a custody battle. During a trip to the local jail in Maine, where Kreuz was ushered through the cells and met the inmates (he had requested to see “an American jail,” and no one could apparently say no to the big-hearted German) the warden told the press, “He was tickled to death. He wants to stay right here in Bangor. He doesn’t want to go to San Francisco.” The San Francisco Examiner did indeed foot the bill for Kreuz to extend his vacation and finally head out west. When there, he was treated like visiting dignitary; he met with Mayor George Moscone half an hour before the mayor met Prince Charles. It was Moscone whom Kreuz told about his 17-beers-a-day diet, to which the (alleged) heavy-drinking mayor replied, “Well, that beats me.” ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad On his whirlwind tour of the city Kreuz took a cable car, was plied with gifts and three marriage proposals, and even became an honorary member of the Wong Family Association at the Empress of China restaurant in Chinatown. Kreuz also did the most San Francisco of activities by attending an, um, rodeo at Cow Palace. There he was given a white cowboy hat, to complement the headdress he was gifted in Maine, and got a standing ovation in the middle of the ring. Word had spread across the world of Kreuz’s journey. Time Magazine ran a story as he was still in San Francisco on the German’s “exceptional jet age odyssey.” On NBC’s “Today Show,” Tom Brokaw complimented the town of Bangor on their loving treatment of the lost German and celebrated his time in San Francisco. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad Word got back to West Germany too, where magazines Stern and Der Spiegel told his story. In San Francisco, it was a feel-good story at a time when the city — reeling from a crime wave, serial killings, kidnappings and emboldened cult leaders — needed to feel good. “The roly poly Kreuz was welcomed to The City by Mayor Moscone, who presented him with a proclamation declaring that San Francisco does, in fact, exist,” The Examiner reported. Though, as Time magazine wrote, “The ruddy-faced bachelor finally did get to see the Golden Gate. But, by all accounts, he left his heart in downtown Bangor.” And Kreuz would prove this in his later travels. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad The Town Talk, Nov. 1, 1977. The Town Talk Kreuz was soon due back at work at the brewery and, after four days in San Francisco, boarded a flight back home brandishing a “Please let me off in Frankfurt” sign. Despite his apparent childlike misunderstanding of the world (and maps), Kreuz proved to be masterful with the press, telling reporters at his arrival at Frankfurt airport, “If Kennedy can say ‘Ich bin ein Berliner,’ then I can say, ‘I am a Bangor!'” Kreuz wasn’t able to turn his 15 minutes of international celebrity fame into a career, though not for want of trying. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad One year after his initial visit he returned to Bangor for a two-week trip. The returning German son of Bangor was welcomed back to the city and given the honor of opening a mall, and visited with the friends he had met the year prior. Maybe sensing trouble at home, Kreuz told his friend Ralph Coffman, who was hosting the German, “I don’t care if I ever go back to Germany.” “He loves to go for long walks and there are plenty of woods here,” Coffman added. Kreuz had reason to not want to go home, as he returned to find his employers, Schaller Breweries, had fired him. They claimed the dismissal was due to Kreuz spending the height of Oktoberfest, the company’s peak season, on a jolly in America. But according to Kreuz, the beer makers were trying to make money off his image and fame, and so he asked for more money. When they denied that request, he told a TV reporter he drank a competitor’s beer and was unceremoniously fired. In 1979, Kreuz made one last attempt to live out his life in Bangor. This time there were no headdresses, parties or seals to kiss, and he was met with little fanfare. He was offered only a minimum wage janitorial job at the mall he had opened the previous year. He graciously turned it down and returned to Germany for the last time. Kreuz didn’t get a statue in Bangor. There aren’t even any punk bands named after him, which seems like a no brainer. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad Even after being dumped from the brief bright limelight of celebrity, Kreuz was gracious until the end, and repeatedly thanked the people of Bangor for their hospitality and his wild ride. — Like the uncontacted tribes in the depths of the Amazon rainforest, aiming their arrows at passing flying machines, there’s a doomed poignancy in people stuck out of time with a wide-eyed ignorance of the world, a purity that gets swallowed by the shrinking planet in every passing tweet. Kreuz’s adventure was already an unlikely anomaly in 1977. Today, it would be an impossibility. The story is perhaps as much about the news as it is about a lost roly poly German, though. The coverage was joyous. The world didn’t laugh at him, they laughed heartily with him. And while it would be a much harder task to mistake one city for another in 2021, if that were to happen the fail memes and YouTube comments wouldn’t be so kind. ADVERTISEMENTArticle continues below this ad “I have a very warm feeling for America, I will never forget this until the day I die,” Kreuz said in 1977. Researching this story, deep in the newspaper archives, it was hard to find out where and when our traveller did finally leave this Earth that was just a little too big for him. But it doesn’t really matter. Folk heroes don’t die. Instead, we can end on a woman named Belinda Michaud’s distant interaction with Kreuz. As the tax collector of the small town of St. Francis, Maine, Michaud was responsible for collecting property dues on the acre of land gifted to Kreuz in the north of the state. The plot of brushland between State Route 161 and an old railroad track was a small piece of American soil Kreuz could always call his own.

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