Krimi Korral #3

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

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.

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.
In exploring these films, I’ve found one of the thoroughgoing joys to be Peter Thomas’ crunchy, jazzy themes.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, downstairs in the club, the floorshow proceeds apace.
Denise and her chaperone/protector Johnny take it all in, like the modern sophisticates they are.
The dancer gives ’em what they came for, collects her applause, and slips backstage, where this happens:
Now that’s a bloodspurt!
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.
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.
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.

Throats continue to get slashed in the club.
The dummy keeps getting treated like she’s a third person in these scenes – a lab assistant, just a very quiet one.
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?
There’s not enough eyepatched villains today. Who’s with me on that?


Eddi Arent, undercover as a waiter, wanders into his dummy-obsessed idea of heaven.
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.
The coppers surround the mansion.
Lots of closeups of eyes in this film, especially Karin Dors’.
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.



2 Responses to “Krimi Korral #3”

  1. You must forgive us, DB, for sounding…well…one track, but… From how you’ve set this puppy up (and thank God we have these box sets on the shelf begging for exploration), it leads us to believe that perhaps this film houses — yes, we’re gonna say it — a dummy-death? Just in the milli-tableaux you’ve presented there are transformations/substitutions/facsimilia/deceptive presentations/body abstractions… Any luck? What a psych-out if there were none…!

  2. Darrell says:

    Well Howard, I’d say it’s more psychout than not. There is some dummy violence, but it’s not a substitution. The lab dummy gets its plastic throat cut by the killer, who doesn’t realize its a dummy. Even this dummy violence is offscreen, we merely see the resulting damage later.

    Mentally replaying – I don’t think I’ve missed any conventional use of dummys. Still, it is visually rich in reflections, abstractions etc, as you say.

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