Monday, 12 April 2010

Der Würger vom Tower / The Strangler of the Tower

While written by Erwin C. Dietrich and produced by his Urania Film company this 1966 krimi just about manages to successfully pass itself off as a Rialto/Edgar Wallace or CCC/Bryan Edgar Wallace entry thanks to the filmmakers’ careful study of the form.

We open in tried and tested fashion with establishing shots of London and a murder, committed by the titular Strangler of the Tower. That he’s played by man-mountain Adi Berber of Dead Eyes of London and others only adds to the ambience.

The twin poles of krimi London; I wasn't sure whether the murkiness of the image is down to the transfer or an accurate rendition of a London fog.

Otherwise, however, the film features a less familiar cast than most krimis. Only Berber is really familiar, with Kai Fisher’s distinctive red hair invisible given the black and white nature of the piece.

Berber's first appearance, revealed by his victim's lighter

This lack of familiar faces gives the film a somewhat different dynamic. We have to pay more attention to the performers and the dialogue rather than relying upon type-casting. There’s no immediate syllogism, that Eddi Arent equals comic relief; Klaus Kinski red herring / suspect, and Karin Dor ingénue in danger.

The issue here for the non-German speaker, in watching an unsubtitled copy such as this, is that the film is thus that bit less immediately accessible in narrative terms.

But if I wasn’t able to follow what appears to be a typically convoluted plot, it is clear that it has the right ingredients: an ingénue in danger; a mysterious criminal brotherhood with an underground lair; a plethora of suspects cum red herrings; a dogged Scotland Yard investigator, and so on.

The criminal fraternity and the damsel in distress

Indeed, there’s even a touch of self-referentiality insofar as one the characters – the one residing in the equally obligatory country house – is an avid krimi reader.

Visually the film is instantly accessible, with the time-honouored combination of stock footage of London alternating with studio back-lots and corresponding realist and expressionist idioms.

What’s largely lacking compared to the typical Alfred Vohrer or Harald Reinl entry, however, are those more imaginative, excessive and playful moments of pure cinema. The exceptions, such as the shooting of the action mirrored in a pair of glasses, do however suggest that director Hans Mehringer, whose only film this was, had enough of what it took. So too does the recurrent use of visual clues, such as a necklace and a pair of two-tone shoes.

The film’s use of Soho locations is worth noting insofar as the filmmakers make extensive use of The Paul Raymond Revue Bar, or a mock up of it, for the obligatory night-club scenes.


Walter Baumgartner and Hans Möckel’s scoring is also something distinctive, being in a straight crime jazz idiom that lacks the quirky touches characteristic of Peter Thomas or Martin Boettcher’s work.

Worth a look.

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