Thursday, March 22, 2012

In short: Der Grüne Bogenschütze (1961)

aka The Green Archer

While his boss is away, the secretary (Harry Wüstenhagen) of nasty rich guy Abel Bellamy (Gert Fröbe) is earning a bit of extra money by letting tourists have a tour of Bellamy's mansion. One of the guests, clearly up to no good, is shot by someone dressing up as the Green Archer whose legend is somehow connected with Bellamy's house. This being an Edgar Wallace adaptation, the Green Archer will go on to kill more people for mysterious reasons, but the larger part of the movie concerns the attempts of Bellamy's niece Valerie (Karin Dor) to find out what happened to her disappeared mother (spoiler: Bellamy has kidnapped her and hidden her in his house for years), while her uncle and his cronies - one of them going by the delightful name of Coldharbour Smith (Stanislav Ledinek) - try to get rid of her. Fortunately, disguise-mad Inspector Featherstone of Scotland Yard (Klausjürgen Wussow), his assistant, Sergeant Higgins (Wolfgang Völz), and comedic relief reporter Spike Holland (Eddi Arent), are there to save pretty young women. The Archer is really more of a guest in the movie named after him.

And there you already have my main problem with Der Grüne Bogenschütze. Although the film includes many of the sensational pulpy delights one has come to expect from any film that is part of Rialto's Edgar Wallace cycle, it does not seem to be all that interested in them. All the death traps, hidden passages, masked killers, metatextual humour and overly complicated evil plans are there and accounted for, yet the film spends just as much time on showing us scenes of cops searching various premises as on them, either not knowing what's so fun about the krimi, or wilfully ignoring it.

I blame director Jürgen Roland whose second and fortunately last Wallace film this is. At the time when Der Grüne Bogenschütze was made, Roland already had a few years of experience as a journalist and as director of German TV police procedurals - a career path he'd continue on for decades - and it's clear that his strengths lie in the sedate semi-realism of those pieces and not the excited and excitable thrill(or at least sight gag)-a-minute-joys and the glorious artificiality Alfred Vohrer and Harald Reinl brought to their Wallace films. Unfortunately, that rather static and sedate semi-realist style is of little use when adapting a Wallace plot, resulting in a movie that just doesn't feel at all secure in what it actually wants to be, a more conventional mystery or the pulp explosion all its single elements would promise it to be.

I could imagine Roland's rather bland style that works hard at making the awesome mundane and the Wallace-ness of the plot rubbing against each other and producing interesting sparks, some sort of grim and gritty version of Wallace reality. The film at hand, however, is as far from anything that interesting as possible. Instead, the film (or Roland) seems rather embarrassed by its own pulpier side yet has not much of an idea how to remove it, and so just circles around the silliness and the excitement the plot's set-up promises, ending up not showing much of interest at all.

If not for some rather entertaining acting, especially by Gert Fröbe and Karin Dor, there'd just be nothing much to keep one watching at all.


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