Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Der Würger vom Tower (1966)

(The title translates to something like "The Strangler of the Tower")

"London". Lady Wilkins is strangled by a creepy looking guy (Ady Berber, who specialized in that sort of role), and an incredibly valuable emerald belonging to her is stolen.

The Strangler is no stranger to Scotland Yard, whose Inspector Harvey (Hans Reiser) already didn't manage to catch the killer when he committed his last series of murders about a year ago. Nonetheless, the new Strangler case is his - and the case is getting more complicated by the minute. First, Lady Wilkins's daughter Jane tells the policeman that her mother probably didn't wear the original emerald when she was killed, and the real thing will probably just be lying around somewhere at home. Before Jane can bring the real deal to the Yard, though, she is kidnapped by the most darling secret society, a cult of white people dressing up like an inverted Ku Klux Klan and praying to Kali calling themselves the Brotherhood of Poetic Justice(!). They enjoy giving whippings, silly evil monkish singing and really, really want Lady Wilkins's emerald, as well as a handful of sister stones that are all in the hands of various shady rich people with whom Inspector Harvey will come into contact soon enough, too.

Obviously, a lot of the shady rich people will eventually turn up as strangled shady rich people before Harvey stumbles on the solution of the case.

The success of Rialto's Edgar Wallace Krimis resulted in a lot of minor German language production houses jumping on the band wagon and - while the Wallaces Edgar and Bryan were tied up with Rialto and Constantin Film - produced films who wanted to be Edgar Wallace Krimis pretty badly.

One of these production houses belonged to the Swiss Erwin C. Dietrich, who'd of course later go on to finance some of the sleaziest films not made in Italy or Japan, among them an astonishing number of Women in Prison movies.

Der Würger vom Tower (directed by a certain Hans Mehringer) did not already contain much of Dietrich's trademark sleaze. The sexual innuendo here is represented by two striptease scenes of a sort so tame they would have looked too harmless for a film of the 50s, and makes the type of coy sexiness I like to criticize about the Rialto Wallace films look downright daring.

Der Würger clearly demonstrates how classy and well done the Rialto movies were by giving a good example of what a real low budget production house would do with the same sort of material. In place of Harald Reinl's and Alfred Vohrer's artful compositions, Mehringer puts a point and shoot style that might from time to time hit atmospheric moments, but mostly just avoids anything that might look too interesting. In place of Rialto Film's lovingly crafted sets of their dream-London, Mehringer puts library footage and cardboard. In place of Peter Thomas's great and stiffly funky music, Mehringer puts some guy noodling around on an organ, with sting cues that tend to emphasize dialogue lines that don't need emphasis. The list goes on and on, really.

Still, if you can stomach that Der Würger tries to do everything what the Rialto Films did, but does it worse, and if your expectations of are adjusted accordingly, you might very well have your fun with the film. It is after all full of silly nonsense that's difficult to hate. From the secret society, to the idiocy of the police, to the awkwardness of its sleaze and its violence, Der Würger vom Tower is full of little bursts of pulpy joy that - at least in my case - produce a pavlovian reaction of enjoyment, even if the film producing them isn't any good looked at objectively.

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