Cobweb draped secret passages. Shadowy churchyards. Decrepit mansions. Hooded killers. Mod girls in mini-skirts. And most terrifying of all, lurking around every corner and behind every false bookcase…Klaus Kinski. The works of mystery writer Edgar Wallace conjured up a netherworld of insane criminal masterminds being pursued by dogged Scotland Yard inspectors that struck a chord with, well, Germans in the 1920s. Perhaps recognizing something of Weimar-era decadence and doom in the stories, Germany voraciously devoured Wallace’s works up until they were declared verboten by the ascending Nazi party.
Germany produced a couple Wallace adaptations before the war, and the author’s own England made several adaptations during 1930s. Wallace’s stories even made their way to US screens, though admittedly he was better known in the US for some obscure movie about a largish gorilla climbing buildings in New York.
Years later, in 1959, Danish film studio Rialto decided to see if there was bankable nostalgia for the Wallace mysteries of old. Their first production, The Fellowship of the Frog, sparked a trend that resulted in dozens of new Wallace adaptations, as well as plenty of imitators — including companies adapting the work of Edgar’s mimic son, Bryan.
This month, the B-Masters pay tribute the sinister, strange, and often surreal blend of serial adventure, old dark house mysteries, and swingin’ sixties pop-art spy films that became known collectively as “krimi.” Look out! The man walking toward you could be Klaus Kinski in a skull mask!
|1000 Misspent Hours and Counting||The Fellowship of the Frog||As we’ll see later on, it is not merely through police incompetence that the Frog manages to stay always a step or two ahead of the law. Internal secrecy is the guiding principle behind the organization of his mob; none of his subordinates know the true names of anyone higher up in the organization than themselves, and the Frog invariably wears a disguise in the company of even his most trusted minions. Mind you, that getup defies in every other way the dictates of good sense, good taste, and practicality, suggesting as it does the costume that might be worn by the Dark Overlord of the Universe in a Star Wars rip-off directed by Larry Buchanan.|
|The Mad Executioners||The Secret Court tries its cases in the catacombs beneath an ancient church somewhere in London, and while their juridical theories are rather barbarous for my taste, I surely can’t fault their sense of showmanship. Black robes and hoods, antique coffins for a bench, skulls for paperweights, black balls dropped ceremonially into a bowl to signify a guilty verdict, a 17th-century horse-drawn hearse to transport defendants from the sites of their abduction to the dungeon where the Secret Court sits— classic stuff all around. And talk about reverence for the history of their profession! It’s not enough for these guys to hang their condemned malefactors in public places (by the dead of night, admittedly, but a few concessions to the illegality of their activities are obviously unavoidable); no, they have to break into Scotland Yard’s Black Museum each time to borrow a noose that was used for countless executions back when Britain still went in for hanging as the preferred method of capital punishment.|
|And You Call Yourself a Scientist!||The Dark Eyes of London||This is, rather, one of Edgar Wallace’s convoluted masquerade plots, with a supposedly respectable member of society unmasked as the head of a criminal enterprise. The film tips its hand about Orloff to the audience, at least up to a point, well before the good guys figure it out, which is all for the best because, let’s face it, with Lugosi you’re not fooling anyone. This film never goes to the extreme of “kindly Dr Carruthers”, but our very first glimpse of the equally kindly Dr Orloff makes it amusingly apparent who the villain of the piece is – even before Orloff goes into a rant against the fools in the medical profession who ruined his career.|
|Braineater||Der Wixxer||While Very Long questions Cockwood, Even Longer escorts himself through Blackwhite Castle, leading to yet another of the movie’s untranslatable but clearly understandable gags, and one that sums up the whole krimi genre in a surprisingly sophisticated way. Longer comes across a trap door, conveniently labeled TRAP DOOR. The supposedly-English detective stands there for a moment, considering: trap door, trap door… Hmm. It isn’t until he recollects the German word for it — falltür — that he realizes what it is… and by that time, he’s fallen through it.|
|Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension||The Green Archer:
|It’s an absurdity worthy of Wallace himself to relocate a story set in an ancient castle to the U.S., but that’s what they’ve done. Furthermore, the [opening] crawl establishes—I think; it’s written somewhat confusingly—that this upstart colonial replica still possesses secret tunnels. Although the idea of hidden treasure is given but scant mention in the book, I think we can safely wager it assumes a rather larger, Scooby Doo-ish pertinence here.|
|Teleport City||Creature with the Blue Hand||The movie begins with a frantic Dave Emerson (Klaus Kinski) being convicted of murder despite frantically pleading his own innocence. He is committed to a sanitarium run by the slightly shady Dr. Mangrove (Carl Lange) while his family — including twin brother Richard (also Kinski) bemoans the sorry state to which Dave has fallen. But all is not as it seems, which becomes evident when Dave escapes — with suspicious ease — and suddenly people are finding themselves ont he deadly end of the blue metal claw. Is Richard really Dave, or is Dave Richard? Is Dave pretending to be Richard pretending to be Dave? Man, as if krimi weren’t convoluted enough, this one goes and throws twin Kinskis — Twinskis, if you will — into the mix.|
|The Unknown Movies||The Mighty Kong||I admit I wasn’t expecting too much, seeing that this was a straight-to-video movie, but I soon discovered that even then my expectations were too high. This is one of the worst-looking pieces of animation I have seen for a long time. For one thing, it doesn’t look like it was done under the control of one team, seeing how the designs of the characters differ wildly through the movie. Some characters look straight from a ’70s Filmation television show, while other characters look so grotesque that they barely look human.|