Sunday, May 29, 2016

Der Teppich des Grauens (1962)

aka The Carpet of Horror

A mysterious mastermind and his gang have returned from a merry time of evil-doing in India (which must still be a British colony in this film’s version of 1962, or at least very much sounds as if its were) to continue their work in London. However, the gang’s professional success is threatened by a pack of documents that details the membership of their little group and discloses the otherwise identity of our mastermind, which is unknown to anyone but Henchman #1. Obviously, not only the side of the Law is interested in these documents, so soon there’s a bit of a thinning out of the ranks of evil necessary. The mastermind – who really could have used some sort of nom de plume like The Monitor or something comparably Marvel silver age in tone – doesn’t just shoot his enemies. Instead, he throws cute little gas balls with a mysterious Indian poison onto the clean carpets of people, not just killing but also producing the film’s ever so slightly exaggerated title by MAKING TINY STAINS ON THE CARPET! The Horror!

While the police are shuffling their feet, amateur sleuth Harry Raffold/Raffles – depending on whether you believe what the end titles say or what the German parts of the cast actually say - (Joachim Fuchsberger) and his black comic relief butler Sam (Lorenzo Robledo) – who is as painful to watch as you imagine – are on the case too. When he’s not punching out bad guys, sneaking around, or following mysterious hints into the luxury bed and breakfast of one Mabel Hughes – whose name our dear early 60s Germans inevitably and rather hilariously pronounce as “Mabel Huge” –, he finds the time to romance the niece (Karin Dor, as boring and kidnap-prone as ever) of a dead gang member.

Because the Edgar Wallace rights were in the velvet grasp of Rialto, other companies, not the least among them Artur Brauner’s Constantin Film who were also distributing the Wallace films for Rialto, were buying up whatever vaguely comparable other writers’ books they could to then ignore for their scripts, to create their own Rialto style krimis. The directors, the actors and various crew members of the Rialto films were up for grabs too (a Fuchsberger’s got to eat, after all), so there’s a more than respectable number of non-Wallace krimis to go around. This one is based on a novel by Louis Weinert-Wilton, directed by rather important early Rialto director Harald Reinl, features Wallace mainstays Fuchsberger and (alas) Dor, but surprises by filling out the rest of the cast with Italian and Spanish actors. This is a German/Italian/Spanish co-production (with Eugenio Martín as one of the co-writers!), after all, and while you certainly don’t see much of a difference in style – this looks and feels like your typical Reinl Wallace – the krimi world really must have needed a horrible black “comic relief” guy from Spain replacing Eddi Arent.

Otherwise, this is a solid example of middle-of-the-road krimi filmmaking, with not quite as much direct insanity as some of the Wallace films offered, too few bowler hats (what is this, the real UK?), and alas way too much of the Fuchsberger/Dor romance stuff that as usual with this combination ranks among the least passionate romance subplots imaginable. I blame Dor, of course, who might have been very pretty but lacked any ability to project emotions, at least at this point and place in time.

However – and fortunately – most of the film consists of Reinl’s typically enthusiastic nearly-serial-style but lacking the intensity action, so many very mysterious side characters (of mystery!), stupid deaths, and a plot that’s much more complicated than it has any right to be are the main concern of the day. Add to this fine, moody photography by Godofredo Pacheco, and you have a fun little 90 minutes of solid and dependable krimi.

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