Sunday, December 11, 2011

In short: Der Hexer (1964)

aka The Mysterious Magician

aka The Wizard

aka The Ringer

A group of human traffickers of the usual societal make-up in an Edgar Wallace adaptation - a lawyer, a fake priest, etc. - using a very Edgar Wallace human trafficking plan with the usual home for criminal young women and a home-made submarine make a capital mistake when they kill the sister of Arthur Milton, the vigilante known as "Der Hexer" (I'd translate that as "The Warlock", clearly not "The Wizard"). Once Milton hears of his sister's death, he and his wife (Margot Trooger) fly in from their exile in Australia, and they're not just coming for the burial.

Inspector Higgins (Joachim Fuchsberger) does his damndest to catch the traffickers and the vigilante, but even with the help of retired Inspector Warren (Siegfried Lowitz, unconvincingly aged by dying his hair white), Higgins is always one step behind the gangsters and two steps behind Milton who goes about avenging his sister with some enthusiasm. Things would be easier for the two Inspectors if they at least knew how Milton looked, but as it stands, he could be anyone, like, for example, the kleptomaniac comic relief butler (Eddi Arent) or the Australian writer James Wesby (Heinz Drache) with his tendency for always being exactly where Higgins or The Warlock are.

Alfred Vohrer's Der Hexer has always been a favourite among German fans of the Rialto Wallace cycle, yet I can't help but disagree with them emphatically. Sure, the film is decently made on a technical level (though it is not difficult for a movie to look better than your average German movie of this era), and concerns itself with some of the plot elements many of the Wallace films obsess about - the home for difficult young women lead by a shady or fake priest, a genius vigilante, mysterious people from equally mysterious Australia. However, the film is also inordinately in love with particularly unfunny comedy that is disrupting the film as soon as some of its pulp action threatens to become actually fun. Apart from the usual antics by Schürenberg and Arent (that are actually funny in some of the other films, but not here), there's also a lot of humour of the unpleasant "aren't women dumb? - but look at their legs!" type. The film wastes way too much time on jokes about Higgins's brain-dead girlfriend stereotype that haven't been funny when they were invented back in the stone age, and sure weren't funny anymore in 1964.

As I already mentioned, Der Hexer isn't too bad visually, but Vohrer never achieves the creative mix of the stiff German melodrama, weird pop stylings, noir influence and home-made Gothic he does best. There are a few scenes of good, dynamically edited pulp action, and the camera sure isn't nailed down, yet that's as far as Der Hexer ever comes. This aspect of the movie is just too routine to make it worth wading through the "humour" for.


No comments: