Wednesday, February 12, 2020


At a fancy dinner party at Blackmoor Castle, Lucius Clark announces that he is soon to be knighted by the Queen. Outside the castle, the dogs are barking up a storm, unnoticed by the partygoers but raising an alarm among the groundskeepers and the (possibly sinister) butler, Anthony. Tom, the handsome gardener, is attacked and killed by a masked figure who leaves the letter "M" branded on his forehead, though his body isn't found until the next morning. After the guests leave, the killer enters the house and confronts Clark, saying, "A thief and a murderer shall never be a knight of the realm"; he claims he will avenge the death of Clark's old friend Charles Manning and demands that Clark give up six million pounds worth of diamonds that (he says) Clark stole from Manning. Clark very coolly refuses to give in, even at gunpoint, so the masked man warns he will make Clark's life a living hell until he gives in. We are soon introduced to the other characters: Clark's niece Claridge who is trying to make a name for herself as a local reporter; Mike, a fellow reporter and friend who agrees to work with Claridge on the story of the Blackmoor killer; Inspector Mitchell and his assistant Watson who keep finding more castle staff strangled; the lavishly mustachioed Edgar (a Scot in a kilt) who actually owns the castle but rents it to Clark; and a young boy named Flip who knows his way around the various caves and secret passages underneath the Blackmoor estate. We soon discover that Clark is trying surreptitiously to sell the diamonds to Tavish, the owner of the Old Homestead Inn; a lawyer named Tromby is in some partnership with him; and Judy, a sexy blond barmaid at the inn, may be a key to the mysteries that pile up, along with the bodies—more than one of which is killed not by strangulation but by decapitation.

This German movie is based on a book by Bryan Edgar Wallace, son of the famous thriller writer Edgar Wallace (who was a co-creator of King Kong). Nearly 200 movies have been made based on books by Wallace the father—most of them, for some reason, made by German film companies—and Bryan himself has twenty film credits for film writing or adaptations. A lot of plot is crammed into this, and I got a bit lost in the twists and turns of the story—there's a character who is decapitated while riding a motorcycle and I had no idea who he was—but things mostly get sorted out in the end. The explanation of the revenge plot is interesting and I must admit that the identity of the killer came as a complete surprise to me. It's always difficult for me to judge acting in movies which are dubbed into English, but the German actors all do their jobs well. Karin Dor (Claridge) made a number of German Edgar Wallace thrillers but is probably better known by cult movie fans for her appearance in The Face of Fu Manchu and as a Bond Girl in You Only Live Twice. Harry Riebauer (Mitchell) and Walter Giller (Edgar) had long careers in German movies and TV. The print of this I saw on YouTube is rather murky, but that goes along with its "old dark house" atmosphere. Not really a horror movie, but good spooky-evening viewing. [YouTube]

1 comment:

tom j jones said...

I watched pretty much all of the 1959-to early 70s German Krimis (their name for thrillers based - allegedly - on Edgar Wallace stories) in succession over the summer; all I really remember about this one is that it's one of the better-made ones, with one of the best casts, although it wasn't made by Rialto, the studio that made most of them, but by CCC, who seem to have spent a bit more money - relatively-speaking, anyway!

They're all available on pretty good quality DVD (some of the Rialto ones are also on Blu Ray) but about a third of them don't come with English dubs or subtitles. You can find subtitles for them easily enough, so if you don't mind watching a DVD in German on a PC or laptop with unofficial English subtitles, I would definitely recommend this one.