[This article contains a spoiler for the film Zimmer 13; you have been warned]
In an article first published in the US magazine Gorezone and later reprinted in The Video Watchdog Book, Tim Lucas explored the world of the West German Edgar Wallace krimi films of the 1960s, emphasising the cross-fertilisation between them and the Italian giallo of a few years later.
Feeling inspired, I decided to stick on Harald Reinl's 1964 krimi Room 13 / Zimmer 13 – one that Lucas didn't discuss; with his and my selections largely failing to intersect. (And, thus, also giving me a bunch of other titles to acquire, but that's another story.)
The first thing we see is a pair of black gloved hands playing with a straight razor, which is then used – albeit in a comparatively restrained fashion, insofar as its so fast we really don't see anything – on a passing woman.
So far, so giallo.
This impression continues as the credits unfold, with a series of brightly tinted still images that are reminiscent of silent cinema tinting – think Expressionist classics like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu – the solarised primary colour images of many a giallo trailer and the three pack Technicolor manipulations of Suspiria.
Unfortunately from then on the differences between the worlds of the two forms assert themselves more, through images of a London that looks curiously lost in time – think 1924 rather than 1964 – where the train rather than the plane is the epitome of modern transport and bowler hats instead of fedoras the headgear of choice.
We are then introduced to the curious case of Sir Robert Marney's missing razor and gangster Joe Legge, who threatens Sir Robert's daughter Denise unless he agrees to assist in his planned great train robbery. Understandably fearful, Sir Robert then calls in Johnny Grey for help. He's a private detective, thereby highlighting the distinction between the krimi's professional investigators, and the giallo's amateur sleuths; likewise, in the world of the krimi the gun is the preferred weapon of choice.
The crime / gangster and horror / maniac on the loose elements continue to sit uneasily side-by-side as the film story towards its denouement, though there are some interesting images, like that of the room at the mannequin filled room at the Highland Nightclub where one of the dancers is murdered and a pursuit through a bric-a-brac strewn room that manages to successfully evoke the heritage of M while simultaneously crying out for Blood and Black Lace style colour to push it towards neo-expressionism.
The identity of the killer turns out to be somewhat predictable and shouldn't pose the giallo fan any difficulties, with a curious evocation of the Freudian “primal scene” as explanation / justification for their psychosis. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words...