Friday, 28 September 2007

The Door with the Seven Locks (1962)

The British thriller/mystery writer Edgar Wallace, who died in 1932, enjoyed enormous popularity in Germany. This popularity was maintained for many years after his death, and spawned countless movies based on his books. The best-known are the series of krimi (or mystery thrillers) made by Rialto Films in the 60s. The Door with the Seven Locks (Die Tür mit den 7 Schlössern) marks my first exposure to this genre, and I’m completely hooked. It starts a little slowly, and at first you could be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a fairly straightforward, if rather complex, murder mystery. As the story progresses, though, it just gets weirder and weirder, and more and more entertaining. Elements of horror are added to the mix, and there’s a quite bizarre mad scientist sub-plot (with Pinkas Braun making a wonderfully crazed mad scientist). The plot is impossibly convoluted but it doesn’t matter – there’s too much fun being had to worry about the intricacies of the plot. Alfred Vohrer directs the film with energy and style. The sets are outlandish – a mixture of high-tech modernist and gothic but with some truly grotesque and fascinating touches. Heinz Drache as Inspector Martin of Scotland Yard (although made in Germany the film is set in England) makes a likeable hero, and Sabine Sesselmann is an engaging heroine. There’s a whole galaxy of major and minor villains, all played with considerable panache by a very solid cast. There’s even Klaus Kinksi in a small role as a nervous safe-cracker. The Door with the Seven Locks is fast-paced outrageous fun and I recommend it highly. I can see myself buying lots more of these German Edgar Wallace krimi films! In fact I have another one waiting to be watched at the moment – The Black Abbot.

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