Nuit d’Or (1976)

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“My name is Marie, the arsonist, the lunatic. Meet me tonight at my mother’s. Signed, Michel”
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vt Die Nacht aus Gold; vt Golden Night
France, WG / 79 minutes / color / Eurofrance, U.G.C., Société Française de Production, F.R.3, Maran Dir: Serge Moati Pr: Philippe Dussart Scr: Françoise Verny, Serge Moati Cine: André Neau Cast: Bernard Blier, Klaus Kinski, Marie Dubois, Jean-Luc Bideau, Charles Vanel, Anny Duperey, Elisabeth Flickenschildt, Raymond Bussières, Valérie Pascale, Maurice Ronet, Catherine Arditi, Martine de Breteuil, Jean-Pierre Sentier, Fernand Guiot, Catherine Therouenne.

An offering that has a lot of the feel of a giallo—the borderline surrealism, the hyper-real color use, the sense that the movie’s reality is taking place inside a sort of bubble universe where the rules resemble but are not identical with the ones we’re accustomed to, the visual and narrative style, the grotesquery, etc.—but lacks both any gore to speak of and much by way of nudity/sex. In fact, it seems to tip a mocking hat at these giallo conventions in its early moments, when we see Commissaire Fernand Pidoux (Blier) indulging—as perforce do we—in a little trivial voyeurism, watching through binoculars as Continue reading

Rätsel der Roten Orchidee, Das (1962)

vt Secret of the Red Orchid; vt The Puzzle of the Red Orchid
West Germany / 82 minutes / bw / Constantin, Rialto Preben Philipsen Dir: Helmuth Ashley Pr: Horst Wendlandt Scr: Trygve Larsen Story: When the Gangs Came to London (1932) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Franz Lederle Cast: Christopher Lee, Adrian Hoven, Marisa Mell, Pinkas Braun, Christiane Nielsen, Eric Pohlmann, Fritz Rasp, Wolfgang Büttner, Herbert A.E. Böhme, Günther Jerschke, Sigrid von Richthofen, Hans Paetsch, Edgar Wenzel, Benno Gellenbeck, Kurt A. Jung, Klaus Kinski, Eddi Arent.

Red Orchid - 0 opener (Minelli & Steve)

Another of the Rialto/Constantin Edgar Wallace krimis, and as entertaining as any of them, albeit relatively lacking in the series’s hallmark bonkersness: while the plot reaches levels of implausibility that English-language cinema rarely achieves in thrillers outside the James Bond movies and their imitators (but see Operation Diplomat [1953]), it doesn’t have anyone disguising himself in a froglike mask, cunningly using an air pistol to fire poison-tipped darts whose flights are not feathers but plastic models of black widow spiders or prancing around in red monkish attire while brandishing a whip. But there’s plenty of other fun to be had here, not least being a plethora of tremendous, manifestly noir-influenced cinematography, with great exploitation of the black-and-white medium, in particular the use of shadows. In addition there are two noted UK thespians in leading roles, Lee and Pohlmann.

Red Orchid - 1 O'Connor's gang try to enjoy a nice game of poker

O’Connor and his gang try to enjoy a nice game of poker.

In Chicago in 1960 the gang boss O’Connor (uncredited) is playing poker with his buddies in a basement at the Plaza Hotel when a couple of gunmen burst in and mow everyone down. Seemingly the sole member of the gang to escape is Der Schöne Gunner Steve (Kinski), who was late getting to the game but did his best to phone through a warning to his boss. As they depart, the gunmen tell the pile of corpses that they’ve brought a message from rival gang boss Kerkie Minelli (Pohlmann).

Red Orchid - 2 Gunner Steve realizes what's about to go down at the Plaza Hotel

Gunner Steve (Klaus Kinski) realizes what’s about to go down at the Plaza Hotel.

Soon we see Kerkie Minelli being put aboard a ship by Chicago cop Captain Allerman (Lee). The Chicago PD hasn’t been able to get enough evidence against Minelli for the O’Connor murders, but they have enough else on him to Continue reading

Blaue Hand, Die (1967)

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.

Blaue Hand - 0 opener

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 Continue reading

Geheimnis der Schwarzen Witwe, Das (1963)

vt The Secret of the Black Widow
WG, Spain / 96 minutes / bw / Germania Dir: F.J. Gottlieb Pr: Alfons Carcasona Scr: Rolf Becker, Alexandra Becker, F.J. Gottlieb Cine: Gottfried Pacheco Cast: O.W. Fischer, Karin Dor, Doris Kirchner, Werner Peters, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Claude Farell, Gabriel Lopart (i.e., Gabriel Llopart), José Maria Caffarel, Anton Casas, Felix Dafauce, Fernando Sancho, Cris Huerta, Belina.

Geheimnis - 2 other opener

A dozen years ago, in 1951, Professor Alfons Avery led an expedition to Mexico in search of Aztec treasure. Because of what was claimed to be a fatal encounter with a black widow spider, he never returned from that expedition. His companions did, however, and with the proceeds from the treasure they were able to set up London Sensations, which has become the most successful newspaper in all England. Now, however, someone is murdering the companions, cunningly using an air pistol to fire poison-tipped darts whose flights are not feathers but plastic models of black widow spiders.

After Morten (uncredited) and Robins (uncredited) are gunned down in this unorthodox fashion, the other Continue reading

Circus of Fear (1966)

vt Das Rätsel des Silbernen Dreieck; vt Scotland Yard auf Heißer Spur; vt Circus of Terror; vt Psycho-Circus

UK, WG / 91 minutes / color / Circus, Proudweeks, Warner-Pathé, Constantin, AIP Dir: John Moxey (i.e., John Llewellyn Moxey) (UK), Werner Jacobs (WG) Pr: Harry Alan Towers Scr: Peter Welbeck (i.e., Harry Alan Towers) Story: see below Cine: Ernest Steward, John von Kotze Cast: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Maddern, Lawrence James, Tom Bowman, Skip Martin, Maurice Kaufmann, Dennis Blakely.

Circus of Fear - Klaus Kinski as creepy crook Manfred Hart

Klaus Kinski as creepy crook Manfred Hart.

This is usually listed as being based upon The Three Just Men (1926) by Edgar Wallace, but has nothing to do with that novel. It was filmed in color, although most of the copies released to the US (as Psycho-Circus) were in black-and-white.

Circus of Fear - descent from Tower Bridge

The daring descent from Tower Bridge to the waiting boat.

A mysterious criminal mastermind organizes an armored-van heist on London’s Tower Bridge, the gang escaping along the Thames via speedboat. When one of the van guards puts up a fight, he’s shot by his erstwhile colleague, corrupted guard Mason (Maddern). Gang leader Jackson (Bowman) is all for offing Mason, who has turned a simple robbery into a murder case, but the boss, on the phone, issues different instructions: Mason must bring the loot from the heist to The Old Farm, near Windsor. When Mason gets there he finds the place is the winter quarters for Barberini’s Worldwide Circus. He doesn’t have time to discover much more, though, because Continue reading

Case of the Frightened Lady, The (1940)

vt The Frightened Lady; vt The Scarf Murder Mystery

UK / 80 minutes / bw / Pennant, British Lion Dir: George King Pr: S.W. Smith Scr: Edward Dryhurst Story: The Case of the Frightened Lady (1931 play) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Hone Glendinning Cast: Marius Goring, Penelope Dudley Ward, Helen Haye, Felix Aylmer, George Merritt, Ronald Shiner, Patrick Barr, Roy Emerton, George Hayes, John Warwick, Elizabeth Scott, Torin Thatcher.

In a decaying country pile, Mark’s Priory, live the last of the ancient Lebanon lineage, the widowed Lady Lebanon (Haye), her pianist/composer son William “Willie”, Lord Lebanon (Goring), and the latter’s second cousin, Isla Crane (Dudley Ward), who works as Lady Lebanon’s secretary.

There are many peculiarities about the household. For one, the servants are barred from entering the main portion of the house after 8pm, at which time the two sinister footmen Gilder (Emerton) and Brooks (Hayes) take over. For another, the room in which the late Lord Lebanon spent his last years of illness and eventually died is kept permanently locked. A frequent visitor from London is the sinister physician Dr. Lester Charles Amersham (Aylmer), who seems to have some hold over Lady Lebanon and certainly has been extracting large sums of money from her. And someone has just put a bolt on the outside of the bedroom door of Isla Crane—who’s in consequence the (understandably) frightened lady of the title.

The frightened lady . . . with pursuing shadow . . .

Lady Lebanon is urgently intent that her son marry Isla pronto in order to continue the line. Unfortunately for her plans, Continue reading