Edgar Wallace Krimi: The Man with the Glass Eye / Der Mann mit dem Glasauge (1969, Alfred Vohrer)

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Alfred Vohrer’s final foray into the Edgar Wallace territory is once again headlined by Horst Tappert (Der Gorilla Von Soho, Der Teufel Kam Aus Akasava) and offers more bone-headed jokes, talky police procedural scenes and insanely over-the-top fisticuffs in the vein of the previous year’s Der Gorilla Von Soho. The massively popular series was running out of steam by the end of the ´60s with Vohrer´s previous Edgar Wallace film, the colourful and silly Der Gorilla Von Soho (itself a remake of the 1961 black-and-white Krimi Die Toten Augen von London/ Dead Eyes of London) not performing nearly as well as expected. The audiences were disappointed with the latest Wallace films, and one can see why: while the colours are at their most eye-popping and the pacing faster than ever, the plot twists feel tired and the whole over-emphasis on sex – and sexist jokes – cheapens the already thin stories. Darker and more explicit takes on the Edgar Wallace stories would come in the form of Italian co-productions, such as Riccardo Freda’s underrated Double Face/Das Gesicht im Dunkeln with Klaus Kinski and Margaret Lee, Massimo Dallamano’s celebrated What Have You Done to Solange/Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel (with Fabio Testi and Cristina Galbo) and Umberto Lenzi’s breezy Seven Blood-Stained Orchids/Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds with Antonio Sabato and Uschi Glas. These violent and intense films dispense with the bubbly and farcical atmosphere of the German films in favour of suspense and graphic murder sequences and would signal the end of the big screen Krimi. 1972 would also see Jess Franco direct a Bryan Edgar Wallace film for Arthur Brauner’s CCC-Film, Der Todesrächer von Soho, a flawed if stylistically interesting film that failed to make much impact.

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Horst Tappert simply doesn’t exactly shine as inspector Perkins. Neither charismatic nor agile in the action scenes, one wonders how he went on to become such a darling with the public in his homeland. Ewa Strömberg (Im Banne des Unheimlichen / The Zombie Walks, Der Teufel Kam Aus Akasava) pops up in a cameo as a kidnapped drug-addicted beauty.

General gullibility and superficiality aside, Der Mann mit dem Glasauge/The Man with the Glass Eye offers excellent colour cinematography with some pleasantly elaborate lighting schemes and a couple of amusingly exaggerated action scenes. With all the interiors blatantly filmed in a studio, the filmmakers had every opportunity to create suitably atmospheric lighting. The framing and mise en scene are somewhat lacking though, with the flm’s many dialogue scenes unimaginatively filmed in medium shot. Alfred Vohrer fans have come to expect some crazy gimmicks from his Krimis, and veteran director doesn’t disappoint this time, either: apart from the obligatory secret passageway in the villain’s den we get a coffin with a false bottom and a remote-controlled machine gun mounted into the wall. The filmmakers wisely limit the exterior scenes to just a few shots, with wintry Spandau and Hamburg (and a sole New Scotland Yard stock shot re-used from the older films) standing in for Soho.

PicMonkey Collage

The scheming and blackmail going on behind-the-scenes of the cabaret, coupled with a knife-throwing assassin invite comparisons with the 1966 Harry Alan Towers-produced Circus of Fear featuring Christopher Lee and a score of Krimi actors (Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski) and may have been derived from the same Edgar Wallace novel as Der Mann mit dem Glasauge.

Saddled with a humdrum Horst Tappert and a woefully over-acting supporting cast, Der Mann mit dem Glasauge nevertheless has a garish opening credits sequence, superb Peter Thomas score and some minor visionary moments going for it.  Not the best Edgar Wallace film around, Der Mann mit dem Glasauge will amuse the more forgiving viewer, while Krimi purists may want to stick with their black-and-white Heinz Drache films.

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