Der Würger von Schloß Blackmoor

dir. Harald Reinl
1963 / Mosaik Film / 84′
a.k.a. The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle
written by Ladislas Fodor and Gustav Kampendonk
cinematography by Ernst W. Kalinke
music by Oskar Sala
starring Karin Dor, Harry Riebauer, Dieter Eppler, Rudolf Fernau, Ingmar Zeisberg, Hans Nielsen, and Hans Reiser

Former colonialist bureaucrat Lucius Clark (Rudolf Fernau) has found a pretty sweet set-up for himself. He’s soon to be knighted for his crimes against humanity/deeds for the British Empire, and spends his life sponging off the money belonging to his niece Claridge Dorsett (the inevitable Karin Dor) which he is uses to rent most of the castle of a certain Lord Blackmoor (Walter Giller). Oh, and he also has an oven full of stolen raw diamonds he’s slowly selling off to the – of course – shady bar owner Tavish (Hans Nielsen). Because Clark’s lazy, he has hired on ex-con diamond cutter Anthony (Dieter Eppler as Klaus Kinski) as pretend butler, so that everything needed for the illegal diamond trade is happening in house, or rather in castle.

Alas, all good things have to come to an end, and so Clark soon enough finds himself confronted with various problems, most of them connected to his dark past (so it’s all his own fault). First and foremost, a masked man who knows quite a lot about Clark’s past wants him to hand over the diamonds, and kills whoever gets in his way. That guy, let’s call him “The Strangler”, strangles his victims and then cuts an “M” into their foreheads before he decapitates them for extra fun and games. Then there’s the fact that Tavish, the shady lawyer Tromby (Richard Häussler) and barmaid Judy (Ingmar Zeisberg) – in varying configurations – would very much like to acquire some of Clark’s diamonds without having to pay for them. Oh, and did I mention Claridge’s colleague Mike (Hans Reiser) and Lord Blackwood are also acting quite suspiciously? Or that Anthony’s raving mad, wants to make sweet sweet love to the diamonds, and would prefer to make Clark rich by killing Claridge instead of seeing his boss sell his precioussss?

Fortunately for the blandly innocent Claridge, Scotland Yard sends its most wooden inspector, Jeff Mitchell (Harry “I’m so emotionless, I’m two pieces of wood” Riebauer) to romance her painfully somehow solve the strangler cases.

 
 
 

Der Würger is yet another of those non-Edgar Wallace krimis that are doing their best to emulate the successful formula of the Rialto movies; that’s certainly easier to do when you have, like krimi veteran director Harald Reinl does here, a Bryan Edgar Wallace novel to adapt. Edgar Wallace’s son did, after all, make a career out of emulating his father and selling his surname to the highest bidder (frequently German producer impresario Artur “Atze” Brauner, who is as close to one of the eccentric producer impresarios of the US and the UK as we Germans ever got), so the shoe fits perfectly well.

Of course, with the sort of movies I generally champion, keeping as close to a successful formula as possible is not necessarily a bad thing as long as one knows what to do with it. Reinl (and scriptwriters Ladislas Fodor and Gustav Kampendonk, both men of excellent names, interesting filmographies, and a talent for writing absurdly confusing scripts) is as good at producing excellent, low budgeted entertainment out of a formula as one can be. Whenever I praise one of Reinl’s krimis, I mention his highly mobile camera, his talent for serial-like action sequences and the noir-like mood of the slower scenes (often also thanks to cinematographer Ernst W. Kalinke), and these three elements are again what turn Der Würger into a pretty great time.

Sure, the action isn’t quite as good and frequent as in some of Reinl’s higher budgeted Rialto productions, but what is there of it is as exciting as action in German movies of this period (or, frankly, any period, for German director almost always just suck at this sort of thing) gets, showing off some nicely creative touches.

The art direction also isn’t quite up to the Rialto standards; fake Britain is not as playfully fake as it sometimes gets, nor does the film show quite the absurd imagination of its big predecessors. There’s your standard castle, there’s fog, there’s a boring bar, and for most of the film’s running time, that’s perfectly enough to put me in the not-Britain of the krimis.

 
 
 

The film’s other big flaw is clearly the acting. While German movies of this period always tend to the stiff and slightly melodramatic, most of the performances here are just the decided bit stiffer than usual (that might vary with the dubbed versions, of course); the performances aren’t horrible, they’re just not as good as the could be. There are two exceptions to that in the cast: Riebauer who plays exactly the same character Heinz Drache or Joachim Fuchsberger usually played lacks so heavily in charisma I have a hard time understanding why anybody would want to cast him as anything, not to speak of as the male lead, while Dietler Eppler may not be a Klaus Kinski, but sure as hell does his utmost to channel the great actor’s spirit by ranting, raving and making bug eyes at Karin Dor, something I do heartily approve of.

I also do approve of the production’s peculiar choice of soundtrack. The krimis always had a tendency to involve some of the better German film composers like Martin Böttcher and the godly Peter Thomas, but Der Würger goes one step further by (like a few other films did) employing the pioneer of electronic music Oskar Sala, co-inventor of the Trautonium and all-around eccentric musical genius. His weird, abstract electronic score probably isn’t what one would expect to hear in a piece of pulpy entertainment like this (some of Sala’s musical decisions seem somewhat perverse) but it’s often exactly what the film needs to feel more unique than it actually is. Sala’s music even turns what may be the most boring bar in the krimi genre into a place of weirdness and (slight) wonder.

Now, even though I’ve been pretty critical about nearly every part of the movie, I do like Der Würger von Schloß Blackmoor quite a bit, even ignoring Sala’s and Eppler’s contributions. The film may not be quite up to the standards of the best of the Rialto Wallace krimis, but those films are as good as this genre gets; Der Würger may not be quite as excellent, yet it’s still an all-around fun film despite all of its flaws.


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Death Falls Lightly

dir. Leopoldo Savona
1972 / Agata Films / 85′
a.k.a. La Morte Scende Leggera
written by Luigi Rosso and Leopoldo Savona
cinematography by Luciano Trasatti
music by Coriolano Gori
starring Stelio Candelli, Patrizia Viotti, Veronika Korosec, Rossella Bergamonti, and Tom Felleghy 

Warning: It’s impossible not to talk about the film’s ending when talking about its strengths and weaknesses, so the following will enter spoiler territory.

After returning home from a business trip Giorgio Darica (Stelio Candelli) finds his wife dead in her bedroom with a slit throat. Giorgio does not report the murder to the police, for his business trip was of a type one just can’t use as an alibi, unless one is a big fan of spending time in prison. Instead, Giorgio goes to a judge (or lawyer, the fansubs aren’t quite sure about that one, though I’d go with judge) he is working with. Giorgio’s business, you see, is to smuggle drugs for a conspiracy of corrupt judges, cops and politicians who buy position and influence with the money they make from the drug trade (and clearly, any form of corruption that’s profitable). Even though that’s not something you want to say aloud in a murder trial, it is very much something a man like Giorgio is willing to say in a murder trial if his rather well-positioned “friends” don’t help him out of his problematic situation.

Because nobody wants to risk to have Giorgio arrested or questioned, and even just killing him is deemed too risky, his partners hide Giorgio and his girlfriend Liz (Patrizia Viotti) in a big, empty hotel building, while they put their influence in action and make further plans that may or may not be meant to exonerate Giorgio.

The couple’s stay at the hotel isn’t too pleasant. Giorgio’s new position in life as a murder suspect does not make Liz happy, especially since she isn’t quite sure her lover didn’t actually kill his wife, so there’s a lot of squabbling and hysterics going on between the two. That, however, is before the hotel turns strange. Music plays in rooms where there shouldn’t be any music playing, and noises hint at other people staying where there shouldn’t be any. It’s as if the hotel were haunted by ghosts peculiarly in tune with Giorgio’s troubles. Things turn even stranger, when a group of people appear who claim to be the hotel’s owners. It doesn’t take long until Giorgio isn’t sure what’s dream, what’s reality and what’s delusion.

  
  

Leopoldo Savona’s Death Falls Lightly is a more interesting example of the giallo than it at first seems to be. The film’s first half is more than a bit slow going, and even though its rather sardonic comments on the state of Italian judicial and political culture are not completely without relevance for anyone curious about the political climate surrounding early 70s Italian genre cinema, it’s also not exactly a riveting first half. Especially the whole “lovers flip out on each other after spending about one day alone together” angle is just not very convincing, and while the secrets and lies which these scenes disclose as the basis of Giorgio’s and Liz’s relationship will be important later on, I could think of less artificial ways to expose them.

However, once that (expository) hurdle is taken, Death takes a turn for the weird I can only describe as delightful; at least if your definition of “delightful” fits a series of scenes that turn a character’s inner workings into simply yet effectively realized metaphors and nearly drive him insane in the process. I find especially lovely how organic the film’s turn from the semi-realistic tone of its beginning to the weird and possibly supernatural is, with Savona using the empty hotel as a place that – even when we are nominally still in the “realist” part of the movie – does more belong to the realm of dreams than to that of reality as we usually understand it. Savona emphasises this by lighting and blocking everything that takes place in the hotel quite differently from the rest of the film, suggesting the claustrophobia and spacial and temporal disjointedness of a dream.

Of course, and somewhat disappointingly, all the supernatural occurrences will later turn out to be no such things at all in a last act twist that is not exactly to my taste – as I prefer the supernatural in my narratives to stay supernatural, or at least ambiguous – but that works too well to ruin what came before. Mostly, this part of the movie works well enough for me because Death - quite surprisingly for a giallo – does play fair with its audience by featuring a killer whose motivations you can discern from the clues the film delivers, as well as by using a device for its plot twist whose cause you have actually witnessed and (hopefully) just forgotten as one of these random flourishes giallos tend to include. Of course, even though the twist’s set-up makes sense seen from that perspective, it’s still quite difficult to buy it as anything any police force, even one as corrupt as the one shown in the movie, would actually be involved in; on the other hand, it’s thematically and atmospherically so fitting to the film at hand, I can’t find it in me to see that fact as a problem for anyone who doesn’t insist on absolute realism – and therefore boredom – in her movies.

I, for one, am happy to have found another giallo that succeeds at wedding rather sardonic politics with moments of dream-like beauty.


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Don’t Look in the Basement

dir. S.F. Brownrigg
1973 / Century Films / 89′
a.k.a. The Forgotten, Death Ward #13
written by Tim Pope
cinematography by Gerald Gibbs
music by Robert B. Alcott
starring Bill McGhee, Jessie Lee Fulton, Robert Dracup, Harryette Warren, Michael Harvey and Jessie Kirby
Don’t Look in the Basement is available in multiple editions through Amazon.com

When psychiatric nurse Charlotte Beale (Rosie Holotik, growing increasingly hysterical very prettily) arrives at the peculiar little clinic of Dr. Stephens (Michael Harvey), where no door is ever locked, and patients are treated in a manner as far away from traditional psychiatry as possible (with all the good yet also all the bad that implies), she doesn’t suspect the awful truth the audience learned during the pre-credit sequence. Stephens has been axed by one of his patients, the axe-loving Judge Cameron (Gene Ross and his favourite fake axe), and the only nurse has been strangled for supposedly kidnapping a baby (that is in fact a doll) by another patient. It’s the sort of thing that can happen when you give an axe to a man with violent tendencies so he can live them out hitting a poor innocent log, and a baby doll to a woman who thinks it’s her baby.

The only remaining medical professional, Dr. Masters (Annabelle Weenick), has decided to get rid of the bodies, so that her little family can remain as if nothing had ever happened. How fortunate there’s no missing persons bureau in Texas (or so I imagine).

Masters is not too keen on Charlotte’s arrival, but after some back and forth, she decides to allow the nurse to stay. That’s a decision Charlotte won’t be all that happy about in the long run, for the streak of violence among the patients, once awakened, continues with a bit of murder and a bit of tongue cutting, and deteriorates further from that point. Why, you could even think at least some of the murders have a concrete reason besides madness.

But who is doing the killing – creepy manchild Danny (Jessie Kirby, reminding me of Steve Ditko’s “The Creeper”, among other nightmare-inducing things), orally fixated friendly manchild Sam (Bill McGhee, in a surprise turn where the person of colour is the least murderous character on screen), the judge, the nymphomaniac, the soldier (Hugh Feagin)? All of them together, or somebody else?

  
  
  

The Forgotten (as is the initial and least sexy sounding title of the film at hand) is the directorial debut of Texan local filmmaker S.F. (Science Fiction? San Francisco?) Brownrigg. Brownrigg, unlike many other director/producers of local independent horror actually managed to put out more than one film, and going by The Forgotten, that’s a thing to be quite excited about. Even in this debut Brownrigg proves himself a capable director, using the small number of locations available – the film basically takes place in and around one not very interesting mansion – and a love for close-ups and surprisingly sprightly camera-work and editing to produce a mood of increasing claustrophobia and tension. Sure, there are some moments that will seem amateurish compared to bigger productions (sometimes Brownrigg’s love for close-ups goes a bit too far for example, the blocking of scenes is often just strange, and you can’t turn a normal house into a clinic, not even one as weird as this one), but by and large, Brownrigg is in control of his material, and knows which techniques to use to achieve his aesthetic goals.

I very much love how Brownrigg’s direction grows less and less “normal” and conservative the longer the film runs, clearly mirroring how increasingly unhinged the characters become.

These characters, though, may be the film’s main problem for some. The way they are written and acted is hardly informed by any actual knowledge about mental illness. One might even find the movie’s whole set-up and large parts of its execution and vibe offensive. Personally, I’ve seldom found myself offended by the depiction of the mentally ill in horror films because I see the movies’ various whackos and psychos as just as fictitious as vampires and werewolves. If you want to piss me off in this regard, show me I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK and its horrible romantization of the pain people with mental illnesses suffer from.

Anyhow, coming back to the film, Brownrigg, has to work with a cast of amateur and semi-amateur actors, and if you’ve ever seen an amateur actor trying to play “mad”, you probably know what to expect: a horde of people chewing scenery so hard and excitedly, it comes as a bit of a surprise there’s still scenery left to chew after half an hour of the film is through. However, the actors’ various ideas of how to go about their roles (from cackling, to shouting, to bug eyes, to menacing stares, to McGhee’s awesome blissful calm and Kirby’s “crazy clown in puberty” performance) come together in a way that may start out silly but become increasingly intense, the bad portrayals of “insanity” taking on the feel of more real insanity, as if all the cackling, shouting and gibbering would actually unhinge the actors and/or the audience. Come the film’s grand (as much as the budget allows, of course) freak show finale, the performances have taken a turn towards the feverish, even the disturbing, and the film’s tone turns from a 70s interpretation of the friendly hokeyness of a William Castle production towards something a little more nightmarish and (in)arguably creepy. One may very well argue the latter turn to be utterly typical of the more cynical mood of 70s horror cinema, even though Don’t Look doesn’t have quite as cruel an ending as one would expect of it following this theory.

While Brownrigg does escalate his movie’s action further than older horror rules and regulations would have allowed, and certainly shows himself unafraid of a little blood and decapitations, there’s also a sense of (rather black) humour surrounding the movie that reveals itself in knowing nods in the direction of the audience that are best exemplified by the film’s lovely ending credits, which show the actor’s names over stills of their characters’ corpses (if available). It’s the perfect mix of the brazenly exploitative, the funny, and the slightly disturbing – a perfect ending for a film like this if ever I’ve seen one.


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan

dir. Nobuo Nakagawa
1959 / Shintoho Co. / 76′
written by Masayoshi Onuki and Yoshihiro Ishikawa
from the play by Nanboku Tsuruya IV
director of phogoraphy Tadashi Nishimoto
music by Michiaki Watanabe
starring Shigeru Amachi, Noriko Kitazawa, Katsuko Wakasugi, Shuntaro Emi and Ryuzaburo Nakamura
Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan is available for online streaming through the Criterion Collection channel on Huluplus

Before he shocked audience sensibilities with the bizarre and inimitably grotesque Jigoku in 1960 veteran Japanese director Nobuo Nakagawa sent shivers down their spines with this stylish tale of ghostly revenge. Early on a director of everything from comedies to war-time documentaries, Nakagawa is most remembered for a number of supernatural horrors directed for Shintoho Co. in the latter half of the ’50s. Among those films 1959′s Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan may well be the best. Adapted from the famed (and oft-filmed) 19th century kabuki by playwright Nanboku Tsuruya IV, Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan tells the classic story of innocence tormented, only to rise up from beyond the grave to grant evil its just deserts.

The first half of Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan operates as a catalogue of atrocities perpetuated against a woman and her family from without and within. Central to the drama is ronin Tamiya Iemon (Shigeru Amachi), a samurai of ill-repute whose intentions of marrying Iwa (Katsuko Wakasugi), daughter of the Yotsuya family, are thwarted by his would-be father-in-law Samon. One dreary evening, enraged by the elder’s insults, Iemon slaughters both Yotsuya Samon as well as the father of Sato Yomoshichi (Ryuzaburo Nakamura), a talented young swordsman betrothed to Iwa’s sister Sode (Noriko Kitazawa). Witnessed by ne’er-do-well Naosuke (Shintaro Emi), who is himself obsessed with Sode, Iemon finds himself in an alliance of convenience, and following a plan by Naosuke to blame the deaths of fathers Yotsuya and Sato on a local rough who had troubled the families in the past. Yomoshichi quickly joins up with the two schemers, believing that they wish to help avenge the families by hunting down those responsible, only to find himself at the edge of their swords as well.

Some time later, all obstacles to their success seemingly overcome, Iemon and Naosuke each take up residence in Edo with their respective sister. While Sode refuses to marry Naosuke, demanding that her family be avenged before such can come to pass, Iemon settles uncomfortably into a married life with Iwa and has a son. It doesn’t take long for Iemon to grow tired of his pedestrian lifestyle, doing unsatisfying work to support his wife and child and losing most of his earnings to gambling. When a chance encounter finds him in the good graces of the wealthy Ito’s, and their beautiful daughter Ume, he sees a chance for escape. Soon Iemon, the Ito’s, Naosuke and even a local masseuse are scheming to absolve Iemon of his familial obligations, but when Iwa proves too devoted to her husband he takes drastic, irreversible action.

Convincing masseuse Takuetsu to seduce his wife so that he might have proper grounds to divorce her, Iemon secretly plots to kill the pair as adulterers – his right, by law. Knowing that Iwa will never willingly accept Takuetsu’s advances, Iemon instead guarantees her demise by feeding her a deadly, disfiguring poison. Iwa discovers too late her husband’s treachery, and the depth of his crimes against her family, but before throwing both herself and her child on a blade curses his name, vowing to avenge her misfortunes with nothing less than the eradication of the Tamiya family line. Takuetsu becomes collateral damage, killed to support the facade of adultery, and is dumped along with Iwa into a canal. Convinced that all obstacles have again been overcome Iemon commences with his marriage to Ume, blind to the possibility that his late wife’s spirit might seek revenge…

  
  
  

Adapted in a streamlined fashion by Masayoshi Onuki and Yoshihiro Ishikawa to fit the fiscal and temporal constraints of Shintoho Co.’s typically low-budget fare, Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan nevertheless crams a lot of complex character-driven drama into its first few acts. Those unprepared for director Nakagawa’s brisk pacing may find themselves a bit lost in it all, as schemes build upon schemes and ever more outwardly upstanding citizens conspire against young Iwa. It can feel quite chaotic at times, though I dare say that was likely the point. As quickly as things develop it seems improbable, if not impossible, that Iwa could ever have understood the awful depth of human cruelty amassing against her until it was too late, something that makes her plight all the more sympathetic and her eventual revenge all the more satisfying. Katsuko Wakasugi (Ghost of the Girl Diver) lends the role a necessary frailty, seeming a truly helpless victim until the truth of things is revealed to her. From that moment her characterization changes into that of a driven monstrosity, the inhumanity pitted against her giving rise to a suitably inhuman instrument of vengeance.

The versatile and underrated Shigeru Amachi (Black Line, Jigoku), here appearing as the scheming Iemon, plays in pitch-perfect contrast to both iterations of the Iwa character. In the film’s early acts, when Iemon has the upper hand, Amachi is positively psychopathic, utterly remorseless in his actions and forever distant, cold, dangerous. In his day-to-day torments of Iwa he is wantonly despicable, but in his scheme to poison her, playing the dutiful and loving husband all the while, he disturbs, becoming nothing but a murderous beast masquerading as a man. Even the pretense of humanity is dropped once the tables ultimately turn, and the cornered Iemon reverts to a state of frightened, caged animalism.  Only at death’s door does a glimmer of genuine humanity shine from within him, the damned Iemon praying too late for his slaughtered wife’s forgiveness.

Director Nobuo Nakagawa skillfully manages the film’s breezy but complex drama, complementing it with a variety of interesting visual motifs (like a recurrence of vertically striped imagery and a notable emphasis on the color red) and otherworldly compositions that often feel like paintings-in-motion. By contrast the latter half of Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan is positively alive with indelible fantasy imagery – a corpse carried across a field of yellow flowers, a body rising from a pool of murky red, Iemon lost on a sea of shutters, a man falling, slowly, onto the flooded floor of an impossible room-turned-marshland. At its height Nakagawa’s work here is absolutely haunting, glimpses of half-remembered nightmares obscured by shadow and punctuated with rich primary color. The style here is highly reflective of that seen in Jigoku and elsewhere throughout Nakagawa’s career, and this flair for the fantastic served the director well as he transitioned to the Toei Co. payroll following Shintoho Co.’s bankruptcy in 1961.

As could be said of so much of the great genre cinema, it would have been easy for Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan to be a mundane outing, another in a long line of adaptations of a story all too familiar, but a favorable confluence of just the right elements have conspired to make it something far greater than that. While Jigoku, with its abstract proclivities and abundant gore (a real rarity in 1960), remains the best known of his films in the West the more substantively accessible Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan may well be Nakagawa’s masterpiece, a classic tale retold in a manner that’s thrilling and unique and oh so spooky. This is vintage Japanese genre cinema at its absolute best, and a must-see for anyone keen on the same.

Though currently unavailable on domestic home video, Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan is available for online streaming through the Criterion channel on Huluplus

Maya

Year: 1989   Runtime: 96′  Director: Marcello Avallone
Writers: Marcello Avallone, Andrea Purgatori, Maurizio Tedesco  Cinematography: Silvano Ippoliti
Music: Gabriele Ducros   Cast: Peter Phelps, Mariellia Valentini, Erich Wildpret, Cyrus Elias,
Mariangélica Ayala, William Berger

A small town in rural Mexico is predominantly inhabited by descendants of a Mayan tribe who are still holding to some old traditions. Once a year, the townsfolk celebrate a ritual, symbolic sacrifice of a child on top of the local pyramid to keep the ghost of the evil Xibalba (or Xibalbai – the voice actors are of more than one opinion), whom the townsfolk’s ancestors murdered, at bay. Of course there’s a prophecy that the dead guy will some day return to cut out every tribe member’s heart.

Some time before the newest celebration is supposed to take place, US expat Salomon Slivak (a very sweaty William Berger) stumbles onto the top of the pyramid after meeting a strange, big-haired girl child, mumbling an off-screen monologue about crossing some sort of “border to the other side”. Slivak sure seems to have crossed over to somewhere, for something or someone kills him up there by cutting out his heart.

A few days after the old man’s death, his daughter Lisa (Mariella Valentini) arrives in town. The more Lisa hears about the circumstances of her father’s death, the more disquieted she becomes, until she kinda-sorta begins to try and find his killer herself. This being the sort of film that it is, Lisa isn’t actually doing much more than walking around, asking weird questions that are answered in even weirder ways, and doesn’t appear for large parts of the plot (such as it is). She also kinda-sorta falls for another local US expat, restaurant owner, gambler, bum and all-around jerk Peter (Peter Phelps), whose best trait probably is his hatred of wearing shirts.

While Lisa and Peter aren’t doing much, further killings hit the town. An invisible force murders people in various, creative ways, but never misses out on cutting out the hearts of its victims afterwards.

The whole affair culminates (as far as a film told in a way as roundabout as this one can be said to culminate) on the night of the big ceremony. Will our protagonists actually do some protagging for a change?

Marcello Avallone’s Maya is a pretty weird film that will grow on a certain, very specific and very small sub-set of fans of Italian horror like green fungus on bread, while the rest of the world will look at it – if it’ll realize its existence at all – with a mixture of boredom and exasperation. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to find out to which of the two groups you, dear reader, will belong. Just try and imagine a film indebted to the style and rhythm of Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, transplanted into Venezuela standing in for Mexico, tarted up with some barely understandable and badly explained bit of fictitious mythology, with less gore and more interrupted rape scenes (three, by my count), and made by a director who isn’t quite as talented (or mad) as Fulci at his best, but is really trying to be. If that thought makes you happy, or at least a wee bit interested, than there’s a good chance that you’re either me or belonging to the group of Italian horror fans in need to watch out for fungus attacks. Otherwise, you better stay away from Maya, because it’ll only bore you.

  
  
  

For us, the un-bored and un-boreable, Maya is a bit of a treat, especially since there aren’t all that many films actually inspired by more than just the gore of Fulci’s best films. As I said, Avallone’s movie is much more restrained in the gore department than Fulci’s movies generally were, but the murder scenes share the near-arrogant apathy towards the laws of physics and logic with the maestro’s work. The murders are very much at the heart of the movie, too, establishing the proper mood of the unreal, of the breaking-in of the illogical into the world as we know it, at a place where the borders between the quotidian world and the beyond have grown thin and weary.

The parts of the film’s running time that aren’t spent on the murders show the town (most of the time, it actually looks like a village, but some scenes seem to establish it as slightly larger with a slightly less rural feel – you could certainly put it down to sloppy direction, or you could see this imprecision as just another way Avallone uses to rattle the audience’s securities) as a place whose inhabitants are generally closer to acts of madness, violence and irrationality than is typical. Interestingly enough, Avallone uses two (horribly acted) wandering rapist Texan punks on vacation to make it difficult to read the townsfolk’s irrational tendencies as an expression of his film’s racism (though it’s clearly not a filmwithout any problematic ideas about race) but rather as a consequence of the place’s closeness to the other side, as if a door had been standing open just a tiny bit for centuries, letting something unhealthy and destructive cross over that infects (perhaps calls to) anyone coming into contact with it, in small and large ways.

Maya’s plot – as far as you can actually speak of a plot, which you probably can’t – has the stop-and-start quality of the Fulci films it is so obviously inspired by, the same sense of rambling and meandering that is hypnotic to some, and just boring to others, but that seems to be just the logical way to plot a film that is in part about the absence of the sort of order “tight” or just technically competent plotting would suggest.

The movie’s characters, all – as is tradition in Italian genre cinema – either chew scenery as if they’d never eaten anything better or seem passive and listless as if the only emotional reactions they have ever been able to show is sweating. And there’s a lot of sweating done by the whole cast, adding to the air of heaviness and oppression. Maya‘s script includes some minor attempts at giving its characters something akin to development, but most of it is buried under the murder scenes and the sweating, and obstructed by the film’s slow, slow rhythm.

I’ll certainly always prefer Fulci’s big three of gory, dream-like horror to Maya, for Fulci’s just a better, more daring director than Avallone.Maya, however, is still a minor pearl that puts such a heavy, honest emphasis on a mood of weirdness and slight alienation that it would be quit impossible for me not to love it.

The Horror!? is a weekly cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, an aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Der Frosch mit der Maske

a.k.a. Face of the Frog
Year: 1959   Runtime: 87′  Director: Harald Reinl
Writers: Egon Eis, J. Joachim Bartsch  Cinematography: Ernst W. Kalinke
Music: Willy Mattes, Peter Thomas   Cast: Joachim Fuchsberger, Siegfried Lowitz,
Eva Anthes, Eddi Arent, Jochen Brockmann, Karl Lange, Walter Wilz

For over a year now, a (rather large) gang under the leadership of the mysterious masked villain only known as the Frog (played by himself, if we can believe the credits), has been terrorizing Britain with a series of robberies and break-ins, blackmail, and a bit of murder to make things more interesting, always leaving behind the mark of a frog at the places of their crimes. Why it’s so difficult to catch the members of a gang who is in the habit of branding its own with the sign of the Frog in a pretty visible place I don’t know.

On the case is Scotland Yard’s Inspector Elk (Siegfried Lowitz, who’d later go on to play a smug and rude cop in the long-running – and pretty damn boring – TV police procedural Der Alte, in popularity only second to Derrick), a man of a smugness and rudeness as great as his success at catching the Frog is small. But even the incompetent must get lucky some time, and Elk’s time comes when the Frog takes a carnal interest in a certain Ella Bennet (Eva Anthes). The villain’s idea of romance is a bit peculiar: suddenly appearing masked in a lady’s room at night and declaring that you’ll come again to take her with you another night, whether she wants to come or not is – I think – not what Miss Lonelyhearts recommends. I’m not sure what Miss Lonelyhearts says to blackmailing the lady of your heart by pulling her improbably naive brother (Walter Wilz) into a contrived murder affair, but that’s The Frog’s Way of Romance™, too. Whatever happened to roses and long walks in the park?

The Frog’s rather dubious handling of his romantic situation is good news for Elk, though, for it provides the inspector with ample opportunity to gather clues regarding the plans and identity of his enemy.

Fortunately for everyone involved, Elk’s not the only one the case. Cocky millionaire amateur detective (and nephew of Elk’s boss) Richard Gordon (Joachim “Blackie” Fuchsberger, some time before his career as a popular TV host, or as we Germans say, “Showmaster”) and his competent comic relief butler James (Eddi Arent) are inserting themselves into the investigation. Gordon’s pretty damn enthusiastic about his hobby, too, at least once he’s met Ella; he’s also a bit more competent at the whole romance thing than the Frog.

Now, our heroes will only have to find a traitor inside of Scotland Yard (don’t trust the thin ‘staches and eyebrows), investigate a dubious night club, survive captivity and wait until so many of the film’s human red herrings have been killed off that there’s only one guy left who can be the Frog.

  
  
  

Watching the very first of Rialto’s Edgar Wallace adaptations (this early in the proceedings still keeping comparatively close to Wallace’s novel), it’s becomes clear at once why the cinematic Wallace krimis took Germany by storm. Compared to just about anything else the country’s cinema put out at the time, Der Frosch is pure pop cinema: a bit lurid (as lurid as you could possibly be in Germany in 1959, really, which isn’t that lurid, but certainly also not coy), a bit silly, delightfully pulpy, taking itself not too seriously, yet not walking into the trap certain later Wallace movies would enter where a film takes itself so little seriously that it can be read as self-hatred or self-destructive. It’s not the sort of film you’d expect coming from German cinema at all, especially not in 1959 when pop cinema as an idea didn’t very much exist over here and pop culture itself had entered the slow, sad years between 1959 and 1961 when it looked as if pop itself had only been a fad.

Mainly responsible for the film’s energetic (and energizing) effect is Harald Reinl’s direction. Though they roughly belonged to the same generation of filmmakers who started out in the biz in the 1930s and were therefore pretty damn old for being “pop”, Reinl’s style is quite different from that of his Wallace adaptation colleague Alfred Vohrer – until now the only krimi director I’ve talked about here or over at my home base. Where Vohrer likes his acting melodramatic and his directing zooming in the direction of the surreal, Reinl seems to be going for an updated serial effect, using the much better technical and financial state of his production to achieve a feeling of dynamism and intensity atypical of the usual ponderous German movie. Reinl uses a lot of separate shots for every scene, loves snappy and tight editing and is no friend of scenes going on for too long. The editing is especially effective when it comes to the action scenes. As you probably know, neither the 50s nor Germany are usually praised for their action choreography, but (if you can ignore the minor fact that fists don’t actually seem to connect with faces in Wallace land) Reinl and his editor Margot Jahn manage to actually make the action sequences exciting through the cinematic wonders of clever framing and speedy cuts.

Reinl’s no slouch in the atmosphere department either. There are some fine examples of moody (studio) night shots to be found whenever appropriate, with some stylish uses of high contrast light and shadow play you can describe as noir-ish without having to stretch things too far.

Ironically, all that visual beauty comes from a director whose filmography shows him as a pure work for hire guy who spent his time directing whatever was thrown at him – Wallace krimis, Heimatfilme, unfunny comedies, Karl May adaptations, some Erich von Däniken “documentaries” or even (later in his career) a would-be Roger Corman Poe adaptation. Directors like Reinl never get a fair shot at being taken seriously outside of our cult movie specialist world, as if the qualities of a director were defined by the commercial situation he works in, and not by what we see on screen. This isn’t to say that parts of the director’s output aren’t pure and simple crap – because man, they sure are – it’s to say that we should probably not decide the worth of a life’s work by looking at someone’s worst films.

The Horror!? (not to be confused with The Edgar Wallace Mystery Hour) is a weekly cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, an aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

13-nin Renzoku Boukouma

a.k.a. 13-Victim Serial Attacker / Serial Rapist
Year:
1978   Company: Shin-Toho Film Company   Runtime: 60′
Director: Koji Wakamatsu   Writers: Koji Wakamatsu    Cinematography: Hideo Ito
Music: Kaoru Abe   Cast: Kumiko Araki, Mayuko Hino, Kayoko Sugi, Maya Takagi, Ami Takatori, Tensan Umatsu

Ferociously independent writer and director Koji Wakamatsu (United Red Army, Secrets Behind the Wall) has never been one to trifle over the social acceptability of his work, and is well known for his combination of sociopolitical commentary and extreme sex and violence.  Even with that in mind this is a tough one.  Wakamatsu’s 1978 obscurity 13-Victim Serial Attacker concerns a troubled young man who bikes around Tokyo on a seemingly meaningless quest to rape and murder any young woman he finds.  It’s a bleak, discouraging film that offers neither justification nor excuses for its content, and though broadly categorized as “pink” erotica and even horror, trying to classify it as entertainment of any sort is missing the point.

Thematically 13-Victim Serial Attacker can be seen as a direct offshoot of Wakamatsu’s earlier Secrets Behind the Wall, which focused partly on the rise of a homicidal sexual deviant in an anonymous Japanese apartment complex.  Indeed, an early montage of endless indistinguishable apartment buildings echos the past film nicely.  13-Victim Serial Attacker‘s simple and repetitive narrative follows a similarly misguided youth, but perhaps misguided isn’t the word.  Unguided may be more apt.  Shuffling aimlessly about the banal artifices of postwar prosperity, the attitude of the unnamed offender speaks as much of boredom and time-fed anxiety as it does of psychopathy.

The opening moments of the film have our unnamed and overweight protagonist whittling together a custom firearm in a rundown metal works before stuffing it into his omnipresent overalls and speeding off on his bicycle.  He soon finds himself in an apartment complex, where he picks a tenant at random and infiltrates her home by pretending to be a policeman.  Once inside he viciously assaults the inhabitant, a young stay-at-home wife, raping her until he reaches a hollow satisfaction and then unloading his firearm into her uterus.  The brief opening credits fade in over a static shot of her sad remains, sprawled bloody and lifeless and treated with all the respect one might grant a heap of dirty laundry.  When we meet up with the young man again he is wandering around Tokyo Bay, killing time before an opportunity to strike once again arises.

The rest of 13-Victim Serial Attacker follows in a similar vein, as our anonymous assailant happens upon victim after victim, many of whom seem at least as adrift as himself.  A pair of hot-headed lovers near a commuter line, a young artist by the sea, and a host of faceless others are needlessly attacked and murdered in spaces as small as automobiles or public restrooms and as expansive as undeveloped industrial land.  Wakamatsu shows grim imagination in some of the assaults, as when a prostitute and her gent are tied back-to-back by their limbs before the attacker begins his deadly business.  The director also incites reaction from his audience through his brutal and honest depictions of rape, with several of the victims appearing to enjoy themselves as they seek a respite from the violence in the fleeting comfort of sexual arousal.

The most substantial development of the film again echos an earlier Wakamatsu production, as the nameless creature at the story’s center captures a policewoman and holds her hostage in an abandoned warehouse, assaulting her again and again.  The narrative thread reminds strongly of the director’s first independent production, The Embryo Hunts in Secret, in which a well to do businessman takes a female associate hostage and forces her into a variety of degrading subservient behaviors.  That film, which speaks of the oppressive nature of power and the necessity of rebellion, offers the audience a satisfyingly gruesome out.  Here there is nothing of the kind.  After the policewoman misbehaves, nearly drawing the police into her kidnapper’s hideaway, he simply draws his gun and shoots her.  She ends her appearance like so many others, as another statistic to be rattled off on the radio news.

Throughout 13-Victim Serial Attacker the audience is given very little in the way of insight into the character’s reasoning, and the purpose of his actions remains elusive.  When his final victim, a young blind woman, asks him if he enjoys killing he responds as honestly as he likely can – “I don’t know.”  When she summarily asks if why he kills he has no answer for her at all.  Oddly, the only understanding the audience is really allowed to develop for the eponymous serial attacker comes by way of the film’s score, a collection of sparse avante-garde improvisations by renowned alto saxophonist Kaoru Abe, who would die later the same year of a drug overdose.  The harshness of Abe’s performances evoke sensations of loneliness and interminable angst, while a brief encounter between the attacker and Abe, in cameo, draws a rare emotional reaction, a single tearful eye, from the former.

13-Victim Serial Attacker ends abruptly, and with violence every bit as sudden and needless as the rest.  With the police unable to stop him the army (!?) is called into action, and an unstoppable social monster meets the irresistible force of military intervention.  As the sun literally sets on our protagonist’s violent spree, a solitary jeep lies in ambush.  Their meeting is torrid and bloody, and as the unknown man dies his voice fades into the inhuman shriek of Abe’s saxophone.  Wakamatsu’s parting shots recall the opening scene, with the man’s bullet-riddled body floating in Tokyo Bay, the army having left it behind as though it were nothing more than an innocuous bit of garbage.  Its a final act of inhumanity in a film overflowing with them, and Wakamatsu leaves the audience to contemplate its consequence.

As a brutal example of Wakamatsu’s rebellious cinematic spirit 13-Victim Serial Attacker is striking, with exceptional photography from ace cinematographer Hideo Ito (In the Realm of the Senses, here working in cost-effective 16mm) and haunting musical contributions from the late Kaoru Abe.  Its capacity to offend also ranks higher than just about anything else I’ve had the pleasure to cover here, though with Wakamatsu one should always expect a little confrontation.  Those with a hankering for a bit of intellectual pursuit will find the most satisfaction here, while those looking for a good night out would do best to avoid Wakamatsu all together.

And now, a brief note on the title used here.  13-Victim Serial Attacker is my own rough translation from the original Japanese title.  The more common translation of Serial Rapist just isn’t accurate, eliminating the numerical beginning and lending the word boukouma (literally something like “habitual act of violence”) a more precise meaning than it seems to have.  The word nin that follows the number 13 literally means “man” or “person”, and has been translated here as “victim” since these are the people that the word is, in this case, referring to.  Keep in mind that I am in no way trained in the Japanese language, but in the absence of a suitable official English title for this rarely seen film I have done my best.  Whine if you must.

Der Todesrächer von Soho

a.k.a. The Corpse Packs His Bags
Year: 1972   Runtime: 76′  Director: Jess Franco
Writers: Jess Franco, Artur Brauner  Cinematography: Manuel Merino   Music: Rolf Kühn, Jess Franco
Cast: Horst Tappert, Fred Williams, Elisa Montés, Barbara Rütting, Luis Morris, Siegfried Schürenberg

A murderer with a very peculiar modus operandi haunts London. Concentrating on people visiting the fair city, he first packs his victims’ bags, then kills them with an incredibly precise knife throw.

Inspector Ruppert Redford (Fred Williams) – oh, the hilarity! – of Scotland Yard has quite a bit of trouble solving the case. I’m sure his trouble has nothing at all to do with him being a typical early 70s smartass playboy who just loves to let civilians do his job for him, like the (weirdly competent, obviously odious) comic relief photographer Andy Pickwick (Luis Morris) or his personal friend, the crime writer Charles Barton (Horst Tappert).

To be fair to Redford, one has to admit that the case is rather complicated, seeing as it not only involves the strange murders, but also a shady doctor (Siegfried Schürenberg) with more than just one secret, his lovely assistant (Elisa Montés) with a secret of her own, a drug ring peddling a drug thrice as potent as heroin, various bombings, one or more revenge plots, and Barton’s secret. Not unlike Redford (who will solve his case by going where Pickwick tells him to, and being obnoxious), I lost track of the plot about halfway through the movie, and never was quite sure what was going on in some of the plot lines, so it’s difficult to blame him.

Say what you will about German producer impresario Artur “Atze” Brauner’s attempts at jumping on the successful Edgar Wallace adaptation wagon by making a contract with Wallace’s son Bryan Edgar Wallace that allowed him to use the younger Wallace’s name and the often very fine titles of the man’s books and make completely unrelated films out of them, but the man did show good taste when it came to the international co-operations late in his film cycle. After having co-produced Argento’s Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Brauner hired beloved auteur Jess Franco for his next Bryan Wallace movie, Brauner’s second version of Wallace’s Death Packs A Suitcase.

  
  
  

Now, I have gone on record saying that I generally prefer Franco’s more personal films – at least when we’re talking about his work of the 60s and 70s – to his attempts at making more conventional genre movies, but Der Todesrächer von Soho (which translates as “the death-avenger of Soho”, and no, the word “Todesrächer” does exist in German as little as “death-avenger” does in English – it’s just a lovely case of the sort of random composite noun the German language loves so dearly) turns out to be an exception to the rule, and may in fact be one of my personal favourites among Franco’s films. It’s probably because Franco might not have been allowed to indulge himself in his erotic obsessions as heavily is Franco fans are used to – well, beyond a very short nightclub sequence and a lot of women wearing boots, anyway – but does indulge heavily in his love of pulp and a visual and narrative style that have come down through the serials (on the visual side, of course combined with the man’s usual tics and enthusiasms).

While Der Todesrächer doesn’t work at all as a straight pulpy narrative (what with it having a plot so byzantine my first viewing didn’t even leave me with an understanding of the knife-thrower’s motives, even though I guessed his identity without much trouble with his first appearance on screen), it’s a virtual feast of classic pulp, serial, and krimi clichés as seen through the slightly skewed but loving perspective of Franco. The whole film is basically Franco shooting classic poses of the genres he’s working in from his favourite weird perspectives and through glass tables while a pretty hip soundtrack by Rolf Kühn (with some contributions by Franco himself) plays, pretty obviously having a lot of fun with it and for once not even trying to achieve transcendence through boredom. In fact (and genre-appropriate), Der Todesrächer is as fast-paced and sprightly as a Franco movie gets, with nary a minute where nothing exciting or at least interesting is happening on screen, making this one a Franco movie that’s much easier to appreciate than his more self-indulgent films. How could I not appreciate Franco having fun in this way?

As much as I love Franco, I usually do not use the word “exciting” to describe any of his films, but Der Todesrächer von Soho is an exception to that rule too, working as a timely reminder that Franco could be versatile if a given project interested him enough.

German viewers will probably have another reason to look fondly, or even with mild astonishment, at the film, for its use of Horst Tappert is quite an eye-opener. Here in Germany, Tappert is primarily known today as the star of the long-running (I thought about eighty years, Internet sources speak of only twenty-four) cop show Derrick. The show’s complete run of 281 episodes was written by Herbert Reinecker whom you also might know as the writer of Rialto Film’s Edgar Wallace cycle (and yes, Tappert was in some of those too, and quite lively at that). Unfortunately, Reinecker’s attempts at a more psychological crime show only resulted in a show as visually dead, emotionally and intellectually dull, and politically conservative as anything I’d care – or rather not care – to imagine, and drove Tappert to performances that would be cruel to call “wooden”, for even pieces of wood have feelings that can be hurt. Having grown up with Derrick, and somewhat forgotten Tappert’s part in the earlier Wallace movies, it came as a real shock to watch the actor here, about two years before he started on the show that was to make/end him, smiling, acting, even over-acting, and possessing an actual physical presence like, well, an actual human being, outplaying the film’s cops film character with effortless charisma. It’s quite a thing to behold, though not enough for me to ever want to revisit Derrick.

The Horror!? is a weekly cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, an aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Una Iena In Cassaforte

Year: 1968   Runtime: 91′  Director: Cesare Canevari
Writers: Cesare Canevari, Alberto Penna  Cinematography: Claudio Catozzo   Music: Gian Piero Reverberi
Cast: Maria Luisa Geisberger, Dimitri Nabokov, Ben Salvador, Alex Morrison, Karina Kar, Cristina Gaioni

Eleven months after the deed, a group of intrepid robbers and their backers come together in the villa of one of their own, Boris, to divide up the diamonds they stole out of a Swiss vault. The diamonds are hidden away in a safe that in its turn is hidden away in a pool of water, only to be lifted by some sort of hydraulic device, and not openable through explosives because it’s somehow built with uranium inside™. Said safe can only be opened with six keys, one of which should be in the possession of each robber.

Of the original robbers, only Steve (Dimitri Nabokov), Klaus (Otto Tinard?) and Albert (Alex Morrison) are left, though. Boris has died (and is entombed in his own backyard) and is represented by his wife Anna (Maria Luisa Geisberger) whose frightening fashion stylings will delight and/or horrify the audience for the rest of the movie, while another of the original robbers has lost his key gambling to a certain Juan (Ben Salvador). The final robber is hiding from the police and has sent his girlfriend Carina from Algiers (Karina Kar). Because two women aren’t enough, Albert has brought his fiancée Jeanine (Cristina Gaioni, doing her best Brigitte Bardot impression) to the party.

Alas, things are not going as smoothly as everyone present had hoped. Just when the group is about to open the safe, Albert realizes that he has lost his key. The others don’t believe his story and begin to first try to find the key on Jeanine’s body and then – after that doesn’t lead to anything but a woman at once sticking out her décolleté and cupping her breasts – decide to torture Albert for a night by not giving him his favourite drug and puttering about on a piano.

  
  

Once that is over, leading nowhere, somebody shoves Albert down a balcony. Obviously, this won’t be the last murder in the villa, because soon enough, everyone is at each other’s throats, and everyone’s trying to get the diamonds for his or herself.

Una Iena In Cassaforte belongs to that school of the giallo that doesn’t see its own lack of a budget as an excuse for not being a mad and stylish concoction of luridly glowing pop particles. As giallos go, this one’s most definitely far on the mindless pop and pulp side of the equation, and not at all interested in (even pop-)psychology, social commentary or depth. Instead Una Iena is a film working hard to keep its audience entertained by throwing as much exciting and crazy shit at it as the money allows, in a style closer to the weirder eurospy films than most other giallos.

The whole story is presented with all the sensibility and subtlety of a fumetti (I’d be very surprised if “make it look like a comic” wasn’t scrawled on the first page of the script), with caricatures instead of characterization, delights through weird flourishes like the “uranium in the safe” business, and is dominated by a mood of overexcited playfulness that seems to have infected every part of the movie.

  
  

The actors (most of them having only this and one or two other films in their filmographies) are inhabiting their one-note roles with great enthusiasm, as if they were born into them (and I’m not too sure they weren’t), and – when the situation affords it – can go from comparatively normal acting to wild scenery chewing at the drop of a hat. Especially Geisberger and Gaioni are fantastic that way. As a special bonus, the former actress does all her freak-outs wearing clothes and make-up that many of the more exalted drag queens would reject as a bit too tacky and bizarre, as if the guy responsible for her wardrobe were a Martian visitor trying to get his three brains around the concept of a “vamp”, at once failing and succeeding incredibly well.

There’s something wildly inventive (always bordering on hysteria, but only succumbing to it from time to time) about Cesare Canevari’s direction too. Canevari seems to have gone into the film with the determination to do something visually interesting or outright bizarre with every single shot (possibly to distract from the small number of locations). Sure, some of his ideas of the bizarre and the interesting are quite clearly part of the generic visual language of the pop cinema mainstream of his time, but Canevari manages to build a beautiful little freak out of these more generic parts and his own ideas. Plus, the generic of 1968′s pop cinema is pretty damn colourful.

Una Iena In Cassaforte (yes, as far as I understand, the film’s title really translates as “An Hyena in the Safe”) is not only an extremely fascinating and fun film to watch, it’ also a film that can make for an instructive hour and a half of “guess the influences”. Elements like the water death trap garage seem to point either at the Bond movies, the eurospy film, or Rialto’s Edgar Wallace krimis as sources and influences for the film at hand, but it’s neither impossible, nor unlikely that these influences did run in more than one direction, and this small and unassuming film influenced later films of the respective series back. We are talking about pop cinema after all, and one of pop cinema’s most noble activities is to go through an endless cycle of films borrowing ideas other films took from somewhere else, that will in turn be borrowed again by other films, and then by other films again, until it becomes difficult, possibly even absurd, to find an original source, or anything amounting to a state of authenticity.

The Horror!? is a weekly cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, an aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Die Blaue Hand

a.k.a.: The Blue Hand / Creature With the Blue Hand / The Bloody Dead
Year:
1967    Runtime: 84′  Director: Alfred Vohrer
Writer: Herbert Reinecker  Cinematography: Ernst W. Kalinke   Music: Martin Böttcher
Cast: Klaus Kinski, Harald Leipnitz, Carl Lange, Diana Körner, Siegfried Schürenberg, Albert Bessler
(This write-up concerns the original German cut of the movie, and not that abomination some cruel American producer created out of it and random horrible inserts later on.)

Dave Emerson (Klaus Kinski), descendant of a formerly rich family, is sentenced to a nice little holiday in the establishment of local shady psychiatrist (so untrustworthy he’s even wearing a monocle, for Cthulhu’s sake! in the 60s!) Dr. Mangrove (Carl Lange) for killing the family gardener.

Nobody cares much that Dave has insisted on his innocence in the murder throughout the trial, or that the evidence against him is pretty circumstantial, least of all his “loving” mother Lady Emerson (Ilse Steppat).

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