The film traces Uli's progress from his humble peasant surroundings to the homes of the wealthy and prominent. The characterizations are convincing, and the comic interludes surprisingly subtle and believable for a Swiss film. The no-star cast doomed Uli Der Knecht from the start so far as American distribution was concerned. It was another matter in Switzerland, where the film was one of the year's top moneymakers. Uli der Knecht was based on a novel by Jeremias Gottbelf.