Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Der Henker von London/The Mad Executioners (1963)

The Mad Executioners marks one of the few times when a Bryan Edgar Wallace movie featured mysterious villains in disguise. This time a bunch of hooded judges - who look remarkably similar to the baddies in later “proper” Wallace films such as The College Girl Murders - hold judgment over criminals who managed to escape the traditional justice system. Their verdict is invariably death by strangulation courtesy of the hangman’s rope that gets stolen in regular intervals from Scotland Yard’s Black Museum. Their court room is full of coffins and skulls just for added atmosphere. Their macabre success even spawns copycats: criminal gangs who use the imminent threat of execution to terrorise some straying gang members.

Half way through the film it switches focus to an apparent sexual predator who decapitates young girls, one of them the sister of Inspector John Hillier (Hansjörg Felmy). The killer needs those heads to perform Frankensteinian experiments.

Chris Howland is a crime reporter in various disguises. He sings… badly. He cross dresses... badly. Dieter Borsche is a pervy old man who still manages to get the gals with the help of some incredibly bad chat up lines. A veritable lady killer.

Also starring Wolfgang Preiss as Hillier’s superior in Scotland Yard, Harry Riebauer as Hillier’s friend and police surgeon and Maria Perschy as the token blonde love interest and decoy to help catch the decapitating mad doctor. Rudolf Fernau is a butler with a wonderfully fixed gaze.

The final solution does for a change come as a surprise and is unusually downbeat.

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