Intrigued by the Blood and Black Lace style spiked glove mentioned by Tim Lucas, I decided to seek out this Rialto krimi on DVD, going for the Region One disc from Image Entertainment. It is presents two different versions of the film, the 'original' Creature with the Blue Hand and the alternate The Bloody Dead. With the latter attempting – pretty unsuccessfully, it has to be said – to integrate some new footage that features none of the original cast or locations, the following remarks are based on The Creature with the Blue Hand.
The first thing that strikes one is how the film's distributors, Independent International Pictures Corp, have sought to downplay the Edgar Wallace aspect. When the familiar twelve shots ring out the image freezes before the letters EDGAR WALLACE have a chance to appear in the bullet holes on screen, while the “Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking” voice-over is conspicuously absent.
The name Edgar Wallace fails to materialise in the letters
Though likewise lacking the usual establishing shots of London the story is unmistakably Wallace, with country houses replete with dark passages and darker secrets; intrigues among the aristocracy; an inheritance; and an imperilled ingénue in need of rescue by the stalwart Scotland Yard detective.
The story opens in a courtroom, as David Emerson is found guilty of murder, but is sent to the asylum rather than gaol on account of the testimony of Dr Mangrove. David, however, continues to protest that he has been framed.
Kinski as Richard (top) and David (above)
At Mangrove's asylum an unidentified benefactor then gives him the key to his cell and a rope ladder over the wall.
We also get some nice blue and orange lighting effects, suggesting that director Alfred Vohrer had doubly learnt from Bava's Blood and Black Lace and that the krimi's change from monochrome to colour was not all for the worst.
A Man Escaped
David makes his way to the family mansion – conveniently located a mere four miles from the asylum – and disguises himself as his identical twin brother, Richard. Needless to say, from this point on the plot gets hopelessly convoluted; so much so that there is really no point in trying to summarise it except to say that little is as it seems. (“You can't always tell a murderer just by his looks, Sir John,” as Dr Mangrove remarks during a tour of the asylum.)
Director Vohrer can be relied upon to provide something of visual interest
The lack of a strong representative of Scotland Yard hurts the film somewhat, with Harld Leipnitz failing to convey the authority of a Joachim Fuchsberger or Heinz Drache and also generating little chemistry with Diana Körner as the vague love-interest figure.
It could also be argued, however, that this is not really the fault of Leipnitz and Körner and instead down more to the dual role given Kinsk, with the inevitable consequence of letting him dominate the film more than usual; not in itself necessarily a bad thing, but certainly one that gives the film a different dynamic to krimis in which he only has a cameo role.
The Hooded Claw
The versatile Martin Bottcher, whose work on both the Winnetou westerns and the krimi suggests him to be something akin to the German Ennio Morricone, provides an effective, if comparatively light and breezy score; the sense that nothing is to be taken too seriously suggested by the title theme opening to Bach's Tocatta and Fugue before segueing into a crime-jazz beat.
What Sir John saw: the most gratuitous randomly inserted strip routine ever?
The film also features some doll and mannequin motifs
The Cabinet of Dr Mangrove?
Image have clearly put considerable effort into this disc with a commentary on The Bloody Dead amongst other things. It is just a shame that most of it seems to have gone into the 'wrong' version of the film from the krimi fan's perspective, with the Creature version both panned and scanned and the worse looking.