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Rancid Popcorn » Krimi

Posts tagged: Krimi

Krimi Korral #4: The Indian Scarf

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Das Indische Tuch aka The Indian Scarf (Alfred Vohrer, 1963)

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I responded quite positively to this one, finding it possibly my favorite in the Rialto/Wallace series that I’ve seen thus far. I suspect I’m on a bit of an island in feeling that way. I like these “Ten Little Indians”-ish stories, with a finite number of suspects being inexorably reduced. It features more than the normal helping of humor, and more than a little of that humor being of the meta, fourth-wall breaking variety. Think mid-period Avengers and you’re about there.

In slowly working my way through these films, there have been some surprises. I’m surprised by how amused I am by Eddi Arent. I’m surprised at how well the Pete Thomas scores consistently work. What I did not imagine I could be surprised by is finding any great tonal deviations between the films. The reputation of the Rialto Krimis is very much one of formula – a handful of basic plots reworked a handful of ways by a handful of directors working with a handful of core actors. A product. And yet I have been surprised by some varying tones within these strict bounds. The style of self-knowing comedy here is alien to the similarly-plotted The Strange Countess from just two years earlier. This is all to the good, and a reason to keep going back to the Krimi well.

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This gimmick is used twice. The setting, a rich old English mansion, is presented as a tapestry, which is then raised like a curtain to create a proscenium arch effect. The artificiality of film is frequently referenced, and suspension of disbelief is actively foiled. Director Vohrer insists we watch self-referentially.

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The same tapestry later on, as characters convene in the mansion. The lights go on!

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Edward, the strange scion of this wealthy family. This tableau sort of hits the visual nail on the head for what is to come – a fair number of statues/effigies with a wtf-juxtaposition. A stuffed horse? In one’s bedroom? Sure, everything’s hunky-dory around here!

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His father, Lord Lebanon. The first victim of the scarf strangler.

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The phone falls as he dies, from which we receive the standard opening catchphrase:

Halloo! Hier ist Edgar Wallace!

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Always happy to see Eddi Arent’s credit come up.

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Lord Lebanon’s survivors gather for the reading of his will. The lawyer administering, and hero for this entry is played by Heinz Drache. Joachim Fuchsberger gets to take a break.

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Events conspire to belay the reading of the will, allowing us to evaluate this band of potential heirs: the predictable collection of blowhards, kooks, connivers, secret long-lost relatives, inscrutible servants, and the sweet innocent young girl. The actress playing the girl is named, no kidding, Corny Collins. Nothing whatsoever to do with the emcee from Hairspray, I assure you.

Naturally, the power goes out and the phone lines are cut, because how’s a crazy killer s’posedta go on a locked-house murder spree without doing that?

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Tee-Hee!

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Black-gloved killer, reporting for duty!

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Comin’ at ya with scary fashion accessories!
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Drache goes investigating, discovering secret passages and tunnels connecting rooms. What would a Wallace Krimi be without secret underground passageways?

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This one emerges into a false shelf in an armoire. As luck would have it, it’s Corny Collins’ room, and she just happens to be undressing. Our hero pervs out.

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Let’s move on from the appetizers to the main event – Klaus Kinski!:

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Klaus shatters a glass in his bare hand, providing this lovely still. It looks like he’s got a fistful of fiberglass.

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Klaus plays an illegitmate son of the Lord, an angry artist, and consumer of injectible “medicine”.

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Ady Berber, the blind killer of Dead Eyes Of London, here plays an idiot servant whom Klaus is making a bust of.

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Love them disembodied black glove shots!

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A nice juxtaposition in back-to-back scenes. First Heinz confronts Klaus across his bust-in-progress, then young Lord Edward and a relative talk around this giant bust (Beethoven?) in the next scene.

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Klaus gives us the crazy eyes that made him famous.

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Every mansion needs a steam room.

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The killer goes for a twofer.

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Every time another person in the house is killed, Butler Arent wordlessly removes a place setting at the dining room table. In one of the meta-movie moments, he silently beckons a wheeled serving table to come to him of its own power. It does. He places dishes on it and motions it away. It zooms off.

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Going up to feed the pigeons, Eddi notices legs dangling in midair where the should not be

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The end of Ady Berber.

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Evidently the soup was not to his liking. I’d say they’re dropping like flies now, but flies are hardier than this.

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Heinz is trapped in the dungeon, leaving Klaus free to menace Corny Collins:

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Hairy tarantulas, weapon of choice for bound girl terrorizing.

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I have no, repeat NO use for a mansion that doesn’t feature inexplicable hanging skeletons and cobwebs in the basement.

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The end of Klaus Kinski.

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Actor Hans Clarin as Edward Lebanon, giving Klaus a run for his money in the crazy eyes department.

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In the wrapup, the will finally gets read, with no one left alive to hear it but Corny and the Butler.

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Another sight gag. As Heinz begins reading, all the empty chairs around the table lean forward, as if occupied by the ghosts of all the now-dead family members, still caring about how they all came out in the will. Heinz, slightly irritated, tells them all to calm down. He comes to the punchline, telling them that Lord Lebanon has left the lot to “The greatest author of the 20th century…” (he addresses the camera)…Edgar Wallace!

Euro Stairs Of Horror! #4

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Zimmer 13 (Reinl, 1964)

Krimi Korral #3

Zimmer 13, aka Room 13 (Harald Reinl, 1964)

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Zimmer 13 is a rather strongish entry in the Rialto/Edgar Wallace series. It’s shot in a pleasing widescreen black and white by Harald Reinl. Reinl more or less split directing chores with Alfred Vohrer on most of the series (Vohrer, for instance, helmed the last one I featured, Der Hexer). One of the things that most always comes with Reinl is certainty over who the lead actress will be – his wife, Karin Dor, a onetime Bond bad girl from You Only Live Twice.

In Zimmer 13, she plays Denise, daughter of a wealthy man with a secret – a past association with a crime boss named Joe Legge. Joe’s out of prison, planning a massive heist, and he’s blackmailing Denise’s dad into helping him hide the loot afterwards. Joe’s criminal headquarters is inside London’s HighLow Club, a tattered but somehow quaint strip club that manages to attract clientele who dress and behave as if they might have been intending to go to the opera. I guess it draws some sort of inspiration from the Windmill Club, but that’s purely a guess. To be even more specific, Joe’s headquarters are upstairs, in a secret safe room hidden within Room 13.

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The pre-credits opening contains this startling image. If this doesn’t anticipate the Italian giallo, I don’t know what does. Amid all the folderol over the gang’s heist plans, a serial killer is zeroing in on women around their club, wielding the straightedge razor as weapon of choice.
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In exploring these films, I’ve found one of the thoroughgoing joys to be Peter Thomas’ crunchy, jazzy themes.
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Joachim Fuchsberger’s back in business! This time he’s playing tough London private eye Johnny Gray. He’s on the case, but, already cribbing from Bond films, that requires prying him away from a nameless belle de jour.
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The gang goes over their heist day plans, reviewing the part about getting the money to its stash point. Someone in this group should get extra credit because that’s a lovely topographical study they’ve made – no simple drawing for them! This person has a future outside of crime, perhaps as an Art Director for films. Or at least a props guy.
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Meanwhile, downstairs in the club, the floorshow proceeds apace.
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Denise and her chaperone/protector Johnny take it all in, like the modern sophisticates they are.
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The dancer gives ’em what they came for, collects her applause, and slips backstage, where this happens:
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Now that’s a bloodspurt!
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Scotland Yard arrives in force. On the right is Siegfried Schurenberg, playing Sir John of the Yard, a part he trotted out a good dozen times. Sir John is a pretty stereotypical blustery, obtuse British authority figure, always managing to stay at least one step behind the villain. In the middle, investigating the lacy underthings, we have Eddi Arent (yay!) as Higgins, the police forensics expert. As a CSI, Higgins is less Gil Grissom, more Jerry Lewis.
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Eddi Arent really is a pretty funny guy, and his various characters more often than not were fond of bowler hats. I think it’s amusing that at more or less the same time that Patrick Macnee was defining the bowler as a real piece of Carnaby Street cool through John Steed and The Avengers, Eddi was busy across the channel using it as clown gear.
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Back at Eddi’s police lab, where experiments happen, things blow up, and through it all he’s ably assisted by his beloved, beloved blonde…er…assistant.

It would appear to be a fetish on his part.

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Throats continue to get slashed in the club.
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The dummy keeps getting treated like she’s a third person in these scenes – a lab assistant, just a very quiet one.
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The very success of these films in Germany is fascinating to me. Yes the source material (Edgar Wallace) is British, but I don’t see why they couldn’t be rewritten as plots taking place in Germany. It must have simply been more appealing for them to be “foreign”. And so, this slavish fealty to recreating Britain with German actors. Even leaving background signage in English. I can’t really think of any series or group of films like it in American cinema. It’s not quite alone from a euro perspective – Spaghetti westerns come to mind. But Americans are not such huge fans of celebrating other nations. Sherlock Holmes stuff is an example, but that’s still using a culture that shares a common language. Maybe Inspector Clouseau and Paris fits, but even then, those films do their background signage in English when it really counts don’t they?
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There’s not enough eyepatched villains today. Who’s with me on that?
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Eddi Arent, undercover as a waiter, wanders into his dummy-obsessed idea of heaven.
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In one the strangest criminal/copper encounters I can recall, villainous Joe Legge wakes up Sir John in the middle of the night and insists he come down to the station to meet him. All Joe wants to do when they meet is point out the time (three in the morning), and that he’s with Sir John. This is because Joe’s gang is simultaneously robbing a payroll train, and now he has an unimpeachable witness to say he wasn’t at the scene of the crime. This would be oh so clever if it wasn’t oh so dumb, as it means he has pretty well confessed that it’s his gang’s crime – Sir John just has to go after Joe’s associates.
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The coppers surround the mansion.
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Lots of closeups of eyes in this film, especially Karin Dors’.
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A nice mix of old fashioned (very old fashioned! Old hat before the thirties were over!) crime film with a hefty dose of where the european style of the genre was headed – violence by blade, madness, and a suspicious attitude to sex.

 

 

Krimi Korral #2

Der Hexer (Vohrer, 1964) aka The Mad Magician

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Der Hexer is one of the best-remembered of the Rialto Studios krimis, thought by some to be the best of the whole run. It nudges a little closer to early Bondian territory than most entries, what with a more playboyish Inspector and renting studio tank time for underwater filming. The score goes pretty far in its quest for jazzbo freakout status. It’s casually amoral without being prurient. It’s enjoyable, but not quite top-rank for me. I was disappointed Eddi Arent didn’t get to do much, and the total absence of Klaus Kinski is never a good thing. I think generically I prefer the family curse/inheritance krimis I’ve seen over the revenge/master criminal ones. Still, Alfred Vohrer directs with some spunk and it’s certainly a diverting 82 minutes. Recommended.

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This girl is eavesdropping on her up-to-no-good boss’ call when this fellow creeps up. We get the mandatory shot of the killer slowly reaching for the neck from behind. The only weird thing here is the absence of the trademark black gloves.

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This is not neccessarily vacant acting – this is an attempt to depict being dead. The girl’s body is placed in this odd two-man submersible.

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Color! As per usual in the B&W entries in the series, the title card and sometimes the credits are in color. Accompanying the credits is composer Pete Thomas’ crazy theme song “Der Hexer”, which suggests to me epileptic orangutans. I mean that as a compliment.

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The sub sails out to deeper darker waters where the girls’ body is ejected. Turns out she was the sister of The Hexer, a well-known vigilante/criminal who has been in hiding out of England for some time after causing several baddies to commit suicide. I think we’re meant to think that this is like unwittingly killing Batman’s sister – he’s unlikely to let it lie. Cops and robbers alike are convinced The Hexer will now return to England to exact vengeance.

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Series regular Joachim Fuchsberger, as yet another of his interchangeable Scotland Yard Inspectors. This one is named Higgins, and he’s in something of a tug of war between his fiance and his secretary. They both call him “Higgy”.

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Some classic rear-projection driving cheese. Note those authentic London backdrops! It’s the number 14 to Putney!

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Naturally, the villain’s wall-mounted bearskin rug has a door buzzer mounted in its ear, to open the passage to the secret tunnels (aka the Criminal Tradesman’s entrance).

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Aha, the old surveill-the-hotel-lobby-through-the-hole-in-the-newspaper trick!

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Fuchsberger together with Heinz Drache, for once in a Krimi together. They more typically took turns playing the Scotland Yard hero. This time out Drache is the prime Hexer suspect.

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Now there’s the black glove!

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“What shall we do darling, drink or smoke? Why not both?” They drink, they smoke, they lie around, until interrupted by a phone call from Higgy’s secretary…

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…who’s also smoking! This must be 1964! Puff away, you teutonic chimneys!

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Aha, the old secret-lever-to-collapse-the-staircase trick! The lever-puller badguy is wearing a priest getup, another common trope of the series.

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Series stalwart/comic relief Eddi Arent gets a much smaller role than usual this time out, as new butler to the criminals and possible undercover Hexer.

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Aha, the old up-through-the insides-of-a-rotary-phone camera setup!

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The cast gathers, the lights flicker as they expect The Hexer to appear. The lights go out and this title card comes up:

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My german’s nothing special, but this should be “Do you want to know who The Hexer is now?”

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The lights are restored, revenge has been exacted. The Hexer gives them the slip, leaving behind a mask. His/her identity is revealed, but I’ll not post it here. A year later, the sequel Neues vom Hexer was produced, continuing the chase.

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Krimi Korral #1

Das Indische Tuch, aka The Indian Scarf, 1963 (Vohrer).  That’s Klaus Kinski under the plaster, by the way.

The Edgar Wallace Krimis were German crime films of the 60s (and a little 50s and a little 70s), derived from Edgar Wallace stories (plus some from his son Bryan).  I’ve never read a one of these, but they certainly moved copies back in the day.  They mostly faded from print in America but remained quite common and popular in several other countries, Germany most conspicuously.  They were mystery/thrillers, sometimes featuring a madman killer, or an evil genius, or some sort of locked house Ten Little Indiansish thing about secret wills and murdering one’s way to an inheritance.  Some of the masked villains would have fit in just swell in a Scooby Doo cartoon. 

There were quite a few cheap english-language film adaptations in the 30s and 40s, but this 60s German incarnation featured jazzy scores, a rotating cadre of detective heroes, a dash of naughty/bloody luridness and a fair amount of fourth wall-breaking humor, of the sort that would eventually find a happy home in The Avengers.  The genre seems to be a substantial tributary to (and die in favor of) the Italian black-gloved killer giallos of the 70s.  To learn more, do check out http://www.latarnia.com/krimi.htm, which has some nice English-language information.  Also have a look at Video Watchdog #134, where Kim Newman has a lengthy, just-the-facts-ma’am rundown of 8 DVD boxes worth of Rialto Studios Edgar Wallace Krimis.

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