Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In short: Der Teppich des Grauens (1962)

aka The Carpet of Horror

The secretive - he's the type who only communicates with his minions via wall-projected text, like an old-fashioned teacher gone mad and invisible - leader of a criminal organization that has moved from India to London mercilessly kills traitors and supposed traitors with a peculiar nerve gas that's damnably difficult to treat.

Among the victims is the uncle of sweet, good-natured, nauseatingly innocent Ann Learner (Karin Dor). Being practically a saint, Ann did not know of her uncle's involvement in EVIL, which does not hinder Scotland Yard in form of the incompetent Inspector Burns (Julio Infiesta) and the mean-spirited, incompetent and frighteningly square-jawed Inspector Webster (Marco Guglielmi), from suspecting her in her uncle's murder. Fortunately, a rather stalkerish, yet clearly romantic lead-featured character named Harry Raffold (of course Joachim Fuchsberger), has taken an interest in Ann and protects her from the Yard and the expected attacks and kidnapping attempts of various evil-doers of various quarrelling factions of the gang her uncle worked for. But is Harry - who unfortunately only comes with his racist caricature servant/assistant Bob (Pierre Besari) - really a good guy, or part of the gang too? (Hint: he's played by Joachim Fuchsberger, not Klaus Kinski.)

Only time and a series of shady characters (among them Krimi mainstay Carl Lange as suspicious Colonel and Eleonora Rossi Drago as suspicious and Fuchsberger-adoring boarding house owner) will tell.

After that synopsis, you just might be surprised to hear that Der Teppich is not based on a novel by Edgar Wallace, but on one written by Louis Weinert-Wilton; though Weinert-Wilton's book was published as part of the same paperback line as the Wallace books. This is one of the numerous attempts of companies not Rialto Film - in this case Rialto's distributor Constantin Film with some Italian help - to also get at some of that sweet Krimi-money, and because Rialto had Wallace's works all tied up, those other companies adapted books of a comparable style to those of Wallace. Or at least turned these books into films very much in the style of the Wallace adaptations.

Because the German film industry never was all that big, some of the usual names of the Wallace krimis appear here too: there's Joachim Fuchsberger giving his usual energetic and often charming leading man performance, Karin Dor being pretty and very decorative when being kidnapped yet also being utterly bland and without any chemistry with her supposed love interest, and Carl Lange looking suspicious. The direction falls to Harald Reinl, one of the two big directors of the Wallace films, and he keeps to his style: much less comic relief and irony than in an Alfred Vohrer movie leaves even more room for moody scenes full of noir-inspired shadow-play that meet not spectacular yet enthusiastic and fun action scenes in a slightly more mannered (it's a German movie, after all) serial style, in a combination I find pretty much irresistible, seeing as it mixes the visual cues of two of the three movie genres black and white film was made for.

The film's script suffers a little from a typical krimi problems in that its more emotional scenes belong to the sort of hollow melodrama that, instead of being an emotional intensifier for the film's pulp action and noir leanings, always ends up feeling limp and unconvincing, reminding me of the horrors of the German Heimatfilm instead of the glories of Douglas Sirk.

Fortunately, there are three scenes of Fuchsberger fake-punching people and shadowy people looking shadowy in shadowy rooms for one of Karin Dor and Fuchsberger suddenly feeling the urge to marry (or worse), so while Der Teppich isn't quite up there with Reinl's best films, it's still pretty darn entertaining.


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