Tuesday 4 October 2011

Der Henker von London / The Mad Executioners

The main weakness of this adaptation of Bryan Edgar Wallace's The White Carpet is that it's really two stories in one, both having enough in them to make a single film.

The Mad Executioners title refers to a group of hooded figures who try, judge and hang those who would otherwise have evaded justice. As the noose they use comes from the Black Museum, it is highly likely that someone within Scotland Yard is party to this conspiracy. Worse, some in the the underworld quickly see the potential for establishing their own copycat courts within their gangs.

The court

A Phantom Carriage

Meanwhile, a mad scientist carrying out experiments into trying to keep heads alive sans bodies by connecting them up to mechanical lungs and hearts. His modus operandi is to abducts young women, take what he needs and then dump the rest across London.

While the narratives do intersect somewhat on account of the sister of one of the investigators falling victim to the madman and the female heroine then going undercover in a bid to ensnare him, its notable that this latter scene does not actually provide the climax to the film as it would undoubtedly have done so had it been a single narrative.

Modern art is equated with madness, this painting being done by an artist under the influence of opium

Despite being produced by Artur Brauner's normally frugal CCC the film looks to had a decent amount of money spent on it, with some particularly impressive sets for the executioners' base and the mad scientist's home-cum-laboratory.

Edwin Zbonek's direction likewise pleases, as does Richard Angst's crisp black and white widescreen cinematography. One scene sees them present an otherwise tedious bar-room musical number in a long take that performs a 360 degree circuit of the set.

The performances are variable. Dieter Borsche is nicely sinister and driven as the mad scientist, whereas Chris Howland's investigative reporter Gabby Pennypacker is more annoying than funny in the Eddi Arent type comic relief role. Maria Perschy makes for an engaging female lead on account of being a bit more active and less of a screaming victim type than usual, with the sparring between her and Borsche as he tries to drug her drink and she tries to avoid this another delight.

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