Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Death Match: THE PHANTOM vs. GLASS EYE

In my recent review of Der Mann mit dem Glasauge/The Man With the Glass Eye (1968) I wrote: 

 The Man With the Glass Eye is one of those Wallace films that doesn’t even pretend to be based on any of his novels anymore. Its development, however, is probably way more interesting than a straight forward adaptation would have been as this is an example where a rival production from a different studio initially influenced by the success of the Rialto Wallaces in turn influenced a film in the original series back again. 
Ladislas Fodor, an author who had been very influential in creating the 1960s series of Mabuse movies, had also provided a screenplay for Artur Brauner’s CCC Film production Das Phantom von Soho/The Phantom of Soho (1964), allegedly based on Bryan Edgar Wallace’s novel Murder by Proxy, a book that does not, however, seem to exist. In his screenplay Fodor focused on a string of knife murders in London’s red light district, committed by a masked killer in revenge for the actions of a gang of drug and girl smugglers. 
Which kind of is the entire premise of The Man With the Glass Eye as well! (Right down to the exact nature of the reason for the revenge.) 
For Rialto’s production Fodor supplied a treatment under the title “Die grausame Puppe” [The Cruel Doll]. His involvement went uncredited and his treatment was reworked by Paul Hengge whose name features in the credits of Rialto’s 28th Wallace movie. 
There is speculation as to whether Phantom of Soho’s screenplay may have simply been sold over to Rialto at the time. Whatever exactly happened remains unknown but the similarities between both movies is striking (and possibly a subject for a future blog post).” 

 I have just rewatched Das Phantom von Soho/The Phantom of Soho (1964) so now thought it would be neat to have a little death match between those two movies to see which comes out the superior production. 

 Mind you, this is just a fun little exercise. Both movies are thoroughly enjoyable in their own right and get a thumbs up from me but this kind of exercise may help highlight some of the differences between the two rival series as well as how the Krimi genre ended up progressing over time. 

I have come up with a number of categories under which I will have a quick look at the two movies before announcing the winner in each category. At the end of this post, I will count up those individual wins and announce the ultimate champion of this Death Match. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Nicholas G. Schlegel: German Popular Cinema and the Rialto Krimi Phenomenon

Nicholas G. Schlegel, Krimi, Edgar Wallace, Rialto
Just finished reading Nicholas G. Schlegel's new book German Popular Cinema and the Rialto Krimi Phenomenon, the first full length English language book dedicated to the 32 films that make up the Rialto Edgar Wallace series.

A proper review will be published elsewhere (and then also announced here) but in short: This is a quintessential book for anyone even remotely interested in those films. It's an academic publication but in no way a dry read. The only drawback is its price which will be unaffordable for most but if you can make do without a few meals to pick up the required shekels to purchase this, do. Else, see if you could at least possibly get a loan of it from a public or university library.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill (German Film Program)

Illustrierter Film Kurier 101

In contrast to a lot of the more common four-page programs that mainly displayed collages of images together with in-depth plot synopsis often revealing major spoilers, this 12-page program for Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt/Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill (1966) also contained a number of short articles:

  • Teaser plot written from the perspective of a majorly annoyed Tom Rowland 
  • How Tito supported the production in Yugoslavia by also offering the use of his private villa as well as filming in a power plant
  •  Tony Kendall's film career. He first role was seemingly in 1951 (sic!) in The Whip and the Body (1963) by "Y.M. Old" (even Mario Bava's alias John M. Old was mixed up)
  • An interview with Maria Perschy who bemoans the fact that she is always considered a starlet and not a genuine actress
  • A stunt by Brad Harris gone wrong in front of 5000 spectators while filming in Dubrovnik

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris

kiss kiss kill kill, kommissar x, film program, jagd auf unbekannt, tony kendall, maria perschy, brad harris


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Die schwarze Kobra/The Black Cobra (1963)

Die schwarze Kobra, The Black Kobra, Krimi, Klaus Kinski, Ady Berber, Adrian Hoven
The availability of Krimis in an English friendly version has always been one of the main talking points amongst fans of the genre. 

True, about two thirds of the Rialto Wallaces can be purchased from Germany via the import route but definitive Blu Ray (or even DVD) collections for the international audience are still nowhere to be seen. (Are you listening, Synapse or Severin?) 

It gets even more frustrating when you realise that the German DVD of a standalone Krimi like Die schwarze Kobra/The Black Cobra (1963) does not contain an English track or subtitles even though the credits on this release are in English (“Director: Rudolf Zehetgrube” [sic]). 

So clearly at some stage this was released abroad but, alas, for now the German version is all that is currently officially available…. unless one opts for the old Euro-Fantastico Double Feature DVD from 2010. 

In a nice bit of synchronicity while I was preparing this blog post, YouTube’s ever reliable Old Movies B/W & Colour channel, however, has also come to the rescue and posted the English dub of The Black Cobra

 When Peter Karner (Adrian Hoven), a truck driver, is unknowingly transporting drugs, he becomes witness to a killing amongst two rival gangs (one of them run by the mysterious Mr Green) and is subsequently chased by both of the gangs and the police who suspect him of being the killer himself. 

 This Austrian Krimi is not based on any literary source and suffers from a confusing plot that ultimately does not make too much sense. For the most part we see various parties chasing someone who is not doing much hiding and instead pretty much operates in plain sight. 

The direction overall is very pedestrian and the cinematography fairly flat, however, this production does come with a sufficient number of intriguing moments that will please the Krimi aficionado. 

“The Black Cobra” is the name of the truck stop restaurant in which our hero openly hides for most of the time and that just also happens to be next door to a little animal show featuring the titular snake. In one otherwise unrelated scene the cobra goes on a rampage, threatens some of the bystanders and ultimately gets chased away by a mongoose. The fight between mongoose and cobra seems to be stock footage taken from a different movie and is one of the rare examples of mondo style animal cruelty in this genre. 

A giant man-monster called Guba (Michel Ujevic in his one and seemingly only role) provides the right amount of chills. 

The mysterious gang leader Mr Green offs his victims with the help of a retractable blade inside a walking stick. 

 And just who is Secret Agent X15? 

We also get a secret passageway, a lunatic Baroness and the boobs of a nude desk statue provide some politically incorrect thrills (as well as clues). 

Joachim Fuchsberger, Rudolf Zehetgruber, Dudu, poster
Rudolf Zehetgruber is a journeyman director who never reached the heights of more identifiable auteurs like Harald Reinl or Alfred Vohrer. He shot a handful of lesser known Krimis as well as two Konmissar X movies. In the 1970s he wrote, directed and starred in a Herbie “inspired” series of German comedies about a VW Beetle, one of which also featured Joachim Fuchsberger. 

On top of the occasional gonzo scene that helps to brighten up the more lacklustre elements of the plot, the film is also chockablock with genre familiar actors. 

Adrian Hoven makes the most of a fairly one-dimensional hero role. Much is made out of the character’s previous run-ins with the law, however, it appears that he only ever spent a few short weeks in prison so we’re talking more unpaid TV licence rather than seriously hardened criminal. 

During the 1950s Hoven was the charming romantic lead in numerous movies. For Rialto he starred in Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee/Secret of the Red Orchid (1962) before alternating between art house (several films with Rainer Werner Fassbinder) and Eurotrash (his own produced, co-written and co-directed Mark of the Devil as well as a number of Jess Franco films). 

Ann Smyrner is Hoven’s character’s love interest in this movie. She can also be seen in the Bryan Edgar Wallace film Das siebente Opfer/The Racetrack Murders (1964). 

The main surprise of the movie is Ady Berber. Usually confined to small non-speaking supporting roles with a menacing presence (this film’s Guba character would normally be his forte), in The Black Cobra he has a fairly substantial speaking part as the owner of the mini-zoo providing regular assistance to our hero on the run. Softly spoken and very much a gentle giant Berber seems to relish the chance to finally demonstrate more of his talents. Hell, he is even allowed to tenderly play with some puppies! Needless to say, though, we still also get to see him wrestling some villains, most notably in a big bar room brawl. 

Die schwarze Kobra, The Black Kobra, Krimi, Ann Smyrner, Adrian Hoven
Of course, every film just gets better with Klaus Kinski in it. And here he is a drug addicted pianist who tries to play all sides as long as they can finance his addiction. 

It is rare that Kinski acts alongside someone who can outcreep him but Klaus Löwitsch definitely gives him a run for his money. In later years Löwitsch would be on the right side of the law as macho crime fighter Peter Strohm in a popular German TV series. For The Black Cobra, however, he convincingly plays a psychotic killer on drugs who seems to relish his work quite a lot and at one stage hisses back at a wild cat which tries to threaten him. 

1960s Dr Mabuse Wolfgang Preiss is the gentlemanly successful owner of a scrapyard with a sideline in drugs. Günter Meisner (Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse/The Terror of Doctor Mabuse (1962), Der Mönch mit der Peitsche/The College Girl Murders (1967)) is his mysterious helper. And Herbert Fux early in his career as a popular bit part film villain is still borderline frightening before he fully turned into a sneering parody. 

Peter Vogel, Paul Dahlke and Hans Richter play the by and large colourless representatives of the law who find it difficult to stick out in comparison to the heroes and villains of this film. In the final showdown in a scrapyard they do get to shine a bit when the movie anticlimactically switches the focus away from the main heroes.

 All in all, The Black Cobra is a very average standalone Krimi, however, with a number of infrequent standout scenes and performances that will lift this up to somewhat ever so slightly above average enjoyment. 

For a quick rundown of some of those highlights watch this lengthy German trailer:

For the full English dub, venture here:




Tuesday, March 29, 2022

German Lobby Card Set for DIE SCHLANGENGRUBE UND DAS PENDEL/THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM (1967)

Say Count Regula three times fast and see what that sounds like….. 

Sumptuously filmed with stunning set design this is a gorgeous looking production reuniting director Harald Reinl again with his wife Karin Dor. It is one of only a very few German horror productions from the 1960s.

Pilfered from a number of different classic tropes (Dracula, Edgar Allan Poe, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday to name but a few), this production was aimed at a family audience and as such is more a Fantasy Adventure film rather than an outright horror movie, bearing certain similarities in style with Reinl’s own Karl May movies and the Gothic elements of the Wallace films. 

Christopher Lee and Lex Barker provide the international star power and are aided by a number of excellent German performers, most notably Carl Lange as Count Regula’s creepy trusted servant. Lange can also be seen in Der Frosch mit der Maske/Fellowship of the Frog (1959), Der Hexer/The Ringer (1964) and Die blaue Hand/Creature with the Blue Hand (1967).


Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker,  Christopher Lee

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Karin Dor

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Karin Dor

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Christopher Lee

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Karin Dor, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Christiane Rücker

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Karin Dor

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Christopher Lee, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Christopher Lee

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christiane Rücker

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Karin Dor

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Karin Dor, Christiane Rücker

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Karin Dor, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Christopher Lee

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Karin Dor, Christiane Rücker

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee, Carl Lange

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Lex Barker, Karin Dor

Friday, March 25, 2022

YouTube Playlist with English subbed Krimis


Just discovered this YouTube channel and playlist with a range of Krimis with English subs: Edgar Wallace, Bryan Edgar Wallace, Mabuse and others. 

Well worth checking out given how difficult it is to come across English friendly versions of those movies otherwise. If only some of the niche labels would finally come around to release proper box sets of those films for the International market.

To access the relevant Rialto Wallaces I had to change my region via VPN as they weren't available in my area.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Der rote Rausch (1962)

Klaus Kinski, Der rote Rausch, Krimi, Brigitte Grothum
When Josef Stief (Klaus Kinski) escapes from the mental clinic he is held in after killing four women wearing red coral necklaces, he finds refuge in a little village near an Eastern European border. There he calls himself Martin and is mistaken as a refugee from behind the Iron Curtain. The shy “Martin”, prone to wildly erratic behaviour, is subjected to the suspicions of the locals but manages to befriend a woman (Brigitte Grothum) whose husband, also called Martin, has gone missing for years after operating near the border and is presumed dead, forcing her to raise her daughter (Christine Ratej) on her own. “Martin” has no recollection of the killings he had committed but a trip to the nearby city reveals the truth of his past to him and results in a full blown manhunt in which emotional villagers decide to take the law into their own hand. 

The best and most important Kinski role you (likely) haven’t seen. 

 Filmed at the height of the Edgar Wallace boom in Germany, Der rote Rausch (tr. “The Red Rage”, a term used by a psychologist to describe Martin’s temporary murderous impulses) is as far removed from the Rialto series as a contemporary German language crime drama can be. Yet, despite (or maybe: because) of this, the film is highly fascinating for a variety of different reasons.

  • This is Klaus Kinski’s first leading role. 
  • The film dispenses of any gimmicky effects and plot twists. It’s a serious drama, more M (1931) than Edgar Wallace. 
  • Rather than being set in an imaginary London, the film takes place in a very real contemporary Germany/Austria. Just a year after the Berlin Wall was begun, this production uses the plight of refugees from East Germany as part of its narrative.
  • Der rote Rausch was not a commercial success and after its cinematic release had only once been shown on German television in 1967 and subsequently been considered lost until its rediscovery in 2002 when the original negative was found in a mislabeled can.
  • It features a number of supporting players that will be familiar from other more typical Krimis.
  • For a Krimi this is also a fairly bloodless affair. The only murders take place off screen and prior to the beginning of this plot. The focus is much more on the drama between the characters and yet always with a constant threat of possible lurking danger. 

 The original serialised magazine novel this has been adapted from is from 1952 and featured Martin as a possible war returnee. Filmed in 1962, this was updated for the film. 

Shot in rural Austria and Vienna, it is never explicitly stated what border area this film is exactly set in. Instead we get constant references to “von drüben” (=“from over there”), a popular catch phrase to describe East Germany in particular but also neighbouring Eastern European countries in general. 

Very likely it is the Hungarian/Austrian border that is depicted, a popular area at the time for East German residents trying to escape into the West though it may just as well have been similar looking border areas in Germany itself. 

 Though by then he had already appeared in a handful of supporting roles in Edgar Wallace Krimis, Rialto itself would not avail of Klaus Kinski as the leading man until later in the 1960s. 

Der Spiegel, Klaus Kinski
In 1961, a year before production to Der rote Rausch began, the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel had featured him in a very prominent 14-page lead article and cover story. The focus of this piece was very much on Kinski’s theatrical performances and recitations of classic authors. Far from being hero-worshipping, the tone was often quite derogatory and highly critical in its appraisal of Kinski as a performer. 

And yet unsurprisingly having such a prominent piece in a major magazine, was the best possible PR for him and ensured that his profile was instantly raised so a move to a lead role in a movie was the next logical step. 

And true to form this film cleverly played with both facets of Kinski’s public persona at the time as we get Kinski, the resident madman, as well as Kinski, the reciter of classic works of fiction. 

His Martin is a major tour-de-force mixing moments of bug eyed intensity with subtle shy cues full of sadness and desperation. The truth of Martin’s violent past is only gradually revealed in full to both the character and the audience. Martin, despite his obvious anguish and mental difficulties and fits of violence, always remains a sympathetic though tragically doomed character. 

In one scene we see Kinski performing the tale of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant in a puppet theatre for a young girl. This was one of his popular recitations and is a piece that is available in whole on Spoken Word collections. 

Der rote Rausch stands and falls by Kinski’s performance. All the other actors are highly capable but some of their scenes sans-Kinski can drag a little bit. 

Klaus Kinski, Krimi, Brigitte Grothum, Der rote Rausch
By far the weakest part of this production is the relationship between quasi-widow Katrin (Brigitte Grothum) and Martin. Her sympathy and borderline romantic feelings for him just don’t appear realistic even given the fact that his assumed name and his fate reminds her of her long lost husband. He is just way too unhinged to ultimately make this relationship believable. 

The previous year the two actors had first appeared alongside each other for Rialto-Wallace Die seltsame Gräfin/The Strange Countess and in 1962 they also acted together in Das Gasthaus an der Themse/The Inn on the River. The next year Grothum also played the female lead in the non Rialto-Wallace Der Fluch der gelben Schlange/The Curse of the Yellow Snake.

Grothum seems to have got on well with the notoriously difficult Kinski and says that a lot of his behaviour was just a publicity stunt. 

For Der rote Rausch he apparently spread the rumour that he was going back to nature and sleeping in a tent on the lake, causing paparazzi to try and capture some sneaky tabloid fodder while Kinski was indeed quietly staying in the crew hotel where he also had his regular breakfast in polite company with the rest of the cast and crew. 

 In the 1950s director Wolfgang Schleif was mainly known for a series of lighthearted comedies. Der rote Rausch was one of the last feature films he made before predominantly switching to a career in television.

 Schleif had directed Grothum already in her star making performance as Das Mädchen Marion (tr. “The Girl Marion”, 1956). 

For Der rote Rausch he together with cinematographer Walter Partsch successfully captured moody black and white reed fields in stark contrast to most of his usual films. This style of photography appears to have been inspired by some of the more realistic films coming out of Italy and Continental Europe at the time.

Klaus Kinski, Brigitte Grothum, Krimi, Der rote Rausch
Dieter Borsche (Die toten Augen von London/Dead Eyes of London, Der schwarze Abt/The Black Abbot, Scotland Yard jagt Dr. Mabuse/Dr. Mabuse vs. Scotland Yard, Der Henker von London/The Mad ExecutionersDas Phantom von Soho/The Phantom of Soho) is the director of the mental institution who treated Martin and his character spouts a lot of pseudo-scientific baloney while evaluating his patient’s mental state. 

Internationally Sieghardt Rupp is best known for his part in A Fistful of Dollars (1964). In this film he plays Katrin’s long suffering admirer and eventual leader of the mob against Martin. 

Born in 1919, Jochen Brockmann is one of those actors who only started appearing in films fairly late in life. He was around 40 when he began making an impact in mainly villainous roles and can be seen in the very first Rialto-Wallace Der Frosch mit der Maske/Fellowship of the Frog (1959) as well as maybe the quintessential Krimi Der Hexer/The Ringer (1964) and standalone non-Edgar Wallace Krimi Das Rätsel der grünen Spinne (tr. “The Mystery of the Green Spider”, 1960). In Der rote Rausch he can be seen in a more sympathetic but equally authoritarian role as Katrin’s father, desperately attempting to help his daughter overcome her feeling of loss over her missing husband. 

The interplay between all the characters, the sense of suspicion and paranoia surrounding Martin, the increasing levels of hostility towards him and his ultimate fate (no spoilers here), are as well presented and tragic as they are understandable. 

For all intends and purposes Der rote Rausch should feature in any Top 10 list of best or most important Kinski performances. It does feature all his typical mannerisms but way before they became routine and cliché and also serves as a cinematic reminder of his classic dramatic skills. 

And yet this is one production that is practically unheard of outside of Germany due to it not being available in an English friendly versions (a popular complaint for this blog) and even in Germany this film has been under appreciated and unduly forgotten for far too long. A flop at the time, the public obviously preferred their Krimis to be less realistic and instead demanded more Edgar Wallace type movies. It is, however, definitely a film in dire need of a reappraisal.