Friday, 10 June 2011

The Monster of London City (1964)

While connoisseurs of the genre generally seem to prefer the Rialto productions some of the German Edgar Wallace krimis made by rival studio CCC are quite entertaining as well. The Monster of London City (Das Ungeheuer von London City) is not a great krimi but it’s worth a look.

Like many of these krimis this one is actually based on a book by Wallace’s son, Bryan Edgar Wallace. I haven’t read any of his books so I don’t know how they compare with his father’s but one can’t help suspecting that producers just wanted the Wallace name.

In 1960s London a play based on the criminal career of Jack the Ripper is packing the crowds in. The play gains a great deal of notoriety from the fact that the beginning of its run coincided with the first of a series of real-life Jack the Ripper-style murders.

For no really obvious reason the actor who plays Jack in the play, Richard Sand (Hansjörg Felmy), becomes a suspect. He’s in love with Ann (Marianne Koch), who lives with her uncle and guardian who happens to be a member of parliament. Ann had been going out with Richard’s best friend Michael (Dietmar Schönherr), a doctor. Ann has some suspicions of her own - her uncle seems to be living something of a secret life, disappearing at night on mysterious errands hat seem to coincide with the murders.

The Scotland Yard detective in charge of the investigation and Ann’s uncle the MP have one thing in common - they both violently disapprove of the play and blame it for the murders. The producer of the play isn’t worried as the murders have been great publicity and have boosted the box-office. Richard is starting the feel the pressure however and talks of abandoning the role. Meanwhile the murders just keep happening.

As is usual with these krimis the plot hangs together rather precariously but the shaky plots are part of the fun. Of course there has to be comic relief, in this instance in the form of a bungling private detective and his girlfriend. The comic relief is annoying but thankfully not overly intrusive.

The acting is solid enough without reaching any great heights. The Jack the Ripper make-up is overdone but adds to the weirdness (and a good krimi always has at least some weirdness).

Edwin Zbonek does a competent job as director. The most impressive scenes are the murders - they’re done with a great deal of visual flair and very impressive use of ominous shadows. And fog. Always fog.

These German Edgar Wallace krimis have a particular flavour all their own. They’re almost always set in London but filmed entirely in Germany so it’s a kind of imaginary London which gives them a slightly surreal quality. This is London, Germany. They’re also (at least the early ones) shot in a wonderfully atmospheric black-and-white style that owes a good deal to both gothic and film noir.

There are some brief moments of nudity. The violence is moderately graphic for its era.

Retromedia’s DVD presentation preserves the correct Cinemascope (or the German equivalent of Cinemascope) aspect ratio. Only the English dubbed version is included. The dubbing isn’t very good but it does add to the amusement value. One day I’m going to have to track down some of the German DVD releases of these films.

Not one of the best krimis but still an enjoyable enough movie if you’re a fan of this genre, which I most certainly am.

1 comment:

John Connor said...

Although I love the Rialto adaptions, I actually prefer the CCC ones as they are slightly more gritty and sleazy, courtesy of showman Artur Brauner.