Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Phantom of Soho (1964)

The conventional wisdom is that the best of the German krimi films based in the works of Edgar Wallace that were so popular during the 1960s (and that played such a key role in keeping the German film industry afloat) were those made by Rialto Studios. That may be so, but The Phantom of Soho (Das Phantom von Soho), produced by the rival CCC studios, is still a great deal of fun.

This 1964 production was actually based on a work by Wallace’s son, Bryan Edgar Wallace, as were quite a few others. This allowed the use of the familiar Edgar Wallace name without involving copyright difficulties.

A mysterious assassin known as The Phantom is murdering wealthy Englishmen in Soho. The case has attracted the attention of the famous crime writer Clarinda Smith, who happens to be engaged to the head of Scotland Yard. She is eager to show that she can solve the crime before the police can. The crimes seem to be linked to a night-club, a night-club that has associations with prostitution and assorted criminal activities. It transpires that the murders are connected with the mysterious disappearance of a yacht some years earlier.

The actors are not the familiar faces from the Rialto movies but they’re still extremely competent. in these films there always has to be one detective whose role is to provide comic relief. In this case it’s Peter Vogel, as the bumptious Sergeant Hallam, and he’s moderately amusing and not overly annoying.

The plot is highly involved and has a satisfying number of twists and turns. The atmosphere of London’s Soho as usual has little to do with the real London but it’s nicely mysterious and foggy. There’s plenty of entertainment to be had here and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The best thing that can be said about the Alpha Video DVD release is that it’s cheap. Sound quality is OK but image quality is dreadful. But it is very cheap, and it’s a fine little horror/crime movie.

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