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Der Rächer

The Avenger

West Germany 1960
produced by
Kurt Ulrich, Heinz Willeg for Kurt Ulrich Filmproduktion
directed by Karl Anton
starring Heinz Drache, Ingrid van Bergen, Benno Sterzenbach, Ina Duscha, Ludwig Linkmann, Siegfried Schürenberg, Klaus Kinski, Rainer Brandt, Friedrich Schoenfelder, Al Hoosmann, Maria Litto, Franz-Otto Krüger, Rainer Penkert, Albert Bessler, Asikin Nazir
screenplay by Gustav Kampendonk, Rudolph Cartier, based on the novel by Edgar Wallace, music by Peter Sandloff

Edgar Wallace made in Germany

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A serial killer dugbbed the Headhunter is roaming the streets of London, decapitating his victims and leaving their heads in a box with some warning attached to it. And since the last victim of the Headhunter has been the uncle of a bit player at a film production, Ruth Sanders (Ina Duscha), Secret Service agent Brixan (Heinz Drache) tracks her down to the mansion of Lord Longvale (Ludwig Linkmann) to investigate - and witness her being promoted to lead status after the film's star Stella Mendoza (Ingrid van Bergen) throws yet another scene. At another mansion they're shooting at, mansion owner Sir Gregory (Benno Sterzenbach) desparately tries to get into Ruth's panties, and makes himself very suspicious in the process. Other suspects are Stella Mendoza of course, who will stop at nothing to get her role back, the film's star Reggie (Rainer Brandt), who's pretty much Stella's trusted sidekick, weird script supervisor Lorenz Voss (Klaus Kinski), and even the film's director Jackson (Friedrich Schoenfelder), who comes across as a bit too helpful. Early on, everything seems to point into Sir Gregory's direction, he owns swords sharp enough to cut off a head as cleanly as the Headhunter does, he has a creepy servant/slave, Bhag (Al Hoosmann), a half-animal he brought from Malaysia, he keeps a Malaysian dancer (Maria Litto) locked up in his attic, he agrees to help Stella Mendoza get her role back, he tries to rape Ruth, and so on and so forth - until he eventually is made captive by the Headhunter himself. Eventually Brixan figures out that the Headhunter is actually none other than eccentric Lord Longvale, a descendent of a famed executioner from the Spanish revolution, who has picked up dishing out punishment to those he sees unfit. And he uses a massive system of abandoned mines in the region to move from one place to the other unseen. Of course, Brixan eventually falls into one of Lord Longvale's trap, and in the finale, Longvale tries to behead Ruth with an actual guillotine, but Bhag, always loyal to his master Sir Gregory, utterly kills Longvale and saves the day.

Siegfried Schürenberg can be seen as head of the Secret Service, basically a more serious version of his later beloved Edgar Wallace character Sir John.

 

To cash in on the success production company Rialto had with their early Edgar Wallace adaptations, producer Kurt Ulrich was quick to adapt the one book of the writer he owned the rights to, The Avenger - and had it turned into an at best ok krimi. Basically, it just fails to live up to the standards of Rialto's early output that was notoriously high on atmosphere, featured a bit of humour to lighten up the mood (later Rialto movies actually tended to come across as outright comedies), and was driven by suspense, also to often hide the narrative shortcomings of its source material. This film at hand seems to be much more just going through the motions, driven by a very functional directorial effort and at best standard characters. Now that's not to say this is a bad movie in the true sense of the word, it just feels a tad empty and in fact uninteresting.

 

What's interesting here though is that many actors who would later appear in Rialto's Edgar Wallace adaptations would get their first taste of Edgar Wallace in this one, and especially Klaus Kinski, Heinz Drache and Siegfried Schürenberg would later become cornerstones of Rialto's series.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD