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Kinski Watch XVIII - Das Verrätertor (1964, Freddie Francis)


It is interesting to survey the critical response to Das Verrätertor, the first installment of the Edgar Wallace series directed by a british director and shot entirely on location in London. Some laud the film as a zany and fast-paced thriller, while other characterize it as boring and by-the-numbers Edgar Wallace fare. Both sides are right to some extent. While something like actual suspense is never achieved in Das Verrätertor, it is a rather well-structured film (which can't be said about a lot of Wallace adaptations) and has some impressive sequences. It's pure camp, of course, and most characters are cartoonish beyond belief but that's to be expected from the Edgar Wallace movies.

Das Verrätertor is not a typical murder mystery and that might be one reason why it didn't really caught on with audiences at the box office. The film follows a bunch of criminals, lead by the greedy businessman Trayne, who prepare and execute a nifty plan to steal the crown jewels from the impenetrable London Tower. The plot, while rather pedestrian by today's caper movie standards, breezes by rather nicely, and Francis, a horror and suspense veteran, knows his way around a camera. Kinski assumes his usual role as a deranged killer and brings an impressive physicality to his otherwise unremarkable role.

There is one memorable scene in which Kinski's shooting someone is intercut with a surprisingly explicit striptease. The editing is crisp and Kinski's deadpan performance brings just the right amount of menace and mystery to the table. In another scene, the crooks rehearse the robbery in a room that has been built out just like the London Tower - in true Ocean's 11 form. The script emphasizes process more than anything else, which gets us a lot of scenes of the bandits observing and studying their target but unfortunately not a lot of suspense.

In another instance of world cinema name calling bloopers, Trayne calls Kinski's character "Kinski!" instead of "Kane", which is odd because the film was shot in English and later dubbed in German. Did he call him Kinski in the original or was the mistake made in the voice-over studios? In any event, it's one of those weird moments when one is instantaneously taken out of the movie and the grand illusion that is created when suspension of disbelief and film craft meet is broken.

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