vt Creature with the Blue Hand
West Germany, Denmark / 87 minutes / color / Rialto, Preben Philipsen, Constantin Dir: Alfred Vohrer Pr: Horst Wendlandt Scr: Alex Berg (i.e., Herbert Reinecker) Story: The Blue Hand, or Beyond Recall (1925) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ernst W. Kalinke Cast: Harald Leipnitz, Klaus Kinski, Siegfried Schürenberg, Carl Lange, Ilse Steppat, Diana Körner, Hermann Lenschau, Gudrun Genest, Albert Bessler, Richard Haller, Ilse Pagé, Fred Haltiner, Peter Parten, Thomas Danneberg, Heinz Spitzner, Karin Kenklies.
But is he?
We open with a court scene in which David Donald “Dave” Emerson (Kinski), son of the third Earl of Emerson, is being sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the estate gardener, Amory (Haller)—a sentence commuted, because of his diagnosed unsoundness of mind, to indeterminate detention in the mental facility run by Dr. Albert Mangrove (Lange). But Dave’s not long there before someone slips a key into his cell; using it, he’s able to make his escape and flee the few miles home to Gentry Hall through the spookily foggy woods. Once there, he goes to the room of his identical twin Richard (also Kinski); finding him absent, Dave purloins a set of his clothes so that he can pass as his brother.
Also in Gentry Hall are Dave’s other brothers Robert (Parten) and Charles (Danneberg) and the youngest sibling, Myrna (Körner), none of whom can believe that Dave is really guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. More enigmatic on the matter are the ex-stripper stepmother of the five young people, the current Lady Emerson (Steppat), and the family butler Anthony (Bessler). We find out later that the Earl of Emerson, about to be arrested some years ago for extensive embezzlement, deserted his second wife and the children when the marriage was mere months old and fled to the US, where Scotland Yard lost track of him.
Lady Emerson (Ilse Steppat) seems consumed by growing dread.
Scotland Yard is called in now because of Dave’s escape from the asylum—not only that, he appears to have impetuously strangled Nurse Agnes Dairen (Kenklies) en route to freedom. Also, the warder who pursued Dave from the asylum is found dead inside one of the suits of armor that crowd the corridors of Castle Gentry, his heart punctured by a curious pattern of five stab-wounds. Inspector Craig (Leipnitz) and his boss Sir John (Schürenberg) soon become, like the siblings, convinced that Dave is innocent. What they don’t know yet (but we do) is that the warder was murdered by a bizarre robed and hooded figure wielding a blue metal gauntlet that has retractable blades in place of fingers—shades of Marvel’s Wolverine, but only very faint ones.
Nurse Dairen (Karin Kenklies) meets her fate.
The cops still think that Dave must be a very disturbed person, because they discover that the decor of his bedroom includes a couple of hanged mannequins, another grotesquely stabbed in the back, etc. This weirdness is never properly explained, for Dave soon hands himself in to Craig and Sir John and they discover him to be a perfectly rational fellow who’s as keen as anyone to find out what’s been going on.
Inspector Craig (Harald Leipnitz) encounters the hanging mannequins.
Myrna is lured by a phonecall from someone claiming to be Dave to a restaurant nearby called Petit Maxim. On arrival she finds it deserted—the joint apparently jumps at night but it’s currently daytime—and is terrified by a squawking parrot. A whispering voice, pretending to be Dave’s, lures her toward the shadows. In reality this is Mangrove’s sidekick Reynolds (Haltiner), who unleashes upon her the hooded, gauntleted monstrosity that we’ve come to know as The Blue Hand. Myrna’s brother Robert, suspicious of the whole setup, has followed her here. He battles The Blue Hand but is killed for his pains. Myrna escapes to reach home. This is the most effectively suspenseful sequence in the movie, probably because Körner manages to portray Myrna at this stage as such a very vulnerable young woman; she displays more inner steel later.
Myrna’s a bit shook up. The plan emerges that she should spend some time in the police hospital, both to recover her mental well-being and for safekeeping. But fake cops turn up to take her there, and instead she finds herself at Mangrove’s sanitarium. He wants her to sign a legal document of some kind—we never quite learn what it is—and, when she refuses, sticks her in Cell #9. That’s the cell, common to all English mental institutions, that has a tankful of rats in it. Just in case you might think this is a bit of a ripoff from Orwell’s 1984 (1949), the cell in this movie has the additional facility for introducing bunches of squirming venomous snakes, as we and Myrna in due course find out.
Inspector Craig (Harald Leipnitz) and Myrna Emerson (Diana Körner), perplexed by the rush of events.
Meanwhile the sanitarium’s Nurse Harris (Genest) has approached Craig and Sir John to tell them that the dead Nurse Dairen, her best friend, had become distrustful of Mangrove’s behavior and kept a diary detailing her suspicions. Harris eventually finds the incriminating documents in Mangrove’s office; to silence her, Mangrove pulls what looks like a boa constrictor out of his wall safe and uses it to terrorize the unfortunate nurse into stark insanity . . . It seems a somewhat unreliable gambit, but in this instance it works.
There’s more, oh, much, much more. Brother Charles is murdered by The Blue Hand while practicing at the organ. Mangrove offers Craig a doped whisky, and master Scotland Yard detective Craig accepts it without noticing that, unusually for Scotch, it has a frothy head. The castle has secret passages with skeletons in them. The family lawyer, Lionel Douglas (Lenschau), is in unholy alliance with Lady Emerson. The third Earl may or may not be dead. Craig is able to fight off, all at once, not only four burly sanitarium orderlies armed with cattle-prods but also a gun-toting Mangrove. Mangrove has been committing people to his sanitarium for fees paid by families who find it convenient to have one of their number locked away, usually for reasons of inheritance. Yet Mangrove is not actually the boss in this enterprise. Can the Earl really still be alive? Who is the real criminal kingpin behind all the fraudulent committals and the latest Blue Hand atrocities? And why?
In the latter part of the movie there’s so much frenzied plotting that, although it seems these questions are finally answered, within moments of the final credits you realize you’re just as befuddled by them as you ever were. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that the movie ends very abruptly, with the butler Anthony—who has, predictably, turned out to be more than he seems—suddenly producing a plug for the next in the series, Der Mönch mit der Peitsche (1967).
It says something about the long Rialto/Constantin series of krimis loosely based on works by Edgar Wallace that this offering, determinedly super-daft as it is, comes across as almost routine by comparison with some of the others. As with those others, this is cheesy but tremendous fun; it’s easy to understand why the movies are so addictive to some, and why they’ve become such cult favorites. The character of Sir John appears in a dozen of the series entries, always played by Schürenberg, while his curvaceous, flirtatious secretary, Miss Mabel Finley (Pagé), is another recurring character. Kinski had numerous roles in the series.
“Mad? Mad? Who? Me? Me? Mad? Bwhahahaha!” Monocled psychiatrist Dr. Albert Mangrove (Carl Lange).
As far as I can make out, this was Körner’s sole appearance in the Wallace movies; it was only her second outing in what proved to be a long screen career—she’s still (at least as recently as 2014) doing TV work. She perhaps takes the acting laurels here although there are stalwart supporting performances from Genest as the timid yet determined Nurse Harris and Bessler as the stately butler.
On Amazon.com: The Bloody Dead / Creature with the Blue Hand [DVD twofer]
This is a contribution to the 1967 signup at Rich Westwood’s Past Offences blog.