DEAD EYES OF LONDON (1961) Reviews and overview of ‘Krimi’ thriller

 

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‘A city of fear becomes a city of death!’

Dead Eyes of London is a 1961 West German ‘krimi’ (crime) film with horror elements directed by Alfred Vohrer from a screenplay written by Egon Eis [as Trygve Larsen] with additional dialogue by Wolfgang Lukschy. The Rialto production stars Joachim Fuchsberger (What Have You Done to Solange?; The College-Girl Murders), Karin Baal (What Have You Done to Solange?), Dieter Borsche and features Klaus Kinski in one of his earlier roles.

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The film is based on the 1924 novel The Dark Eyes of London by Edgar Wallace which had been previously adapted into the 1939 British film The Dark Eyes of London, aka The Human Monster, introducing a number of horror elements that had not been in the original book. The British film had been released in Germany and proved popular. The German film is closer to being a remake of the 1939 film rather than a close adaptation of Wallace’s novel.

The Dead Eyes of London was the first Edgar Wallace film to be directed by Alfred Vohrer who directed thirteen more in the krimi genre.

A series of murders of wealthy, heavily insured men leads Scotland Yard investigators to a group of blind men with a mysterious “reverend” leader…

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Reviews:

“Heinz Funk’s idiosyncratic score aptly echoes a cast of equally idiosyncratic characters, including Eddi Arent as a knitting Scotland Yard sergeant, and so-slimy-he-leaves-a-trail (and also wears-his-sunglasses-at-night) Klaus Kinski. It’s outlandishly violent and spiked with queer humor (a mouthy water-pick view, a killer boob tube, a voyeuristic crucifix, a blowtorch-wielding priest, and a skull with smokey treat treasures).” Alfred Eaker

“Colorful characters (like a Scotland Yard sergeant (Eddi Arent) who happily knits), a lot of violence uniquely played out (such as a death through an elevator shaft, a TV that fires bullets and a skull used as a cigarette dispenser). Meanwhile, Beethoven’s 5th symphony is played to accompany all the deaths by torture and mayhem, there’s a spicy sense of humor and a convoluted plot.” Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews

” … a mildly entertaining crime thriller with splashes of horror thrown in to awaken the more easily bored members of the audience. A lot of talk bogs down the film’s first half, and for a while the plot is a chore to follow, but once the puzzle pieces begin coming together, it transforms into a compulsively watchable krimi.” DVD Drive-In

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” …the movie is worthwhile enough to merit a second look to figure out certain points of the story, as it is packed with interesting and offbeat characters (the Scotland Yard sergeant who knits, for example) and memorable moments (I love where Judd keeps his cigarettes). The death scenes are very memorable, and it may be a while before you peek through any holes in the walls after seeing this one.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

Dead Eyes of London is a relatively violent Wallace production for its time. We see a torture chamber complete with specially designed drowning tanks and attacks by Bunsen burner. We also have smoky gambling joints, a happy hooker with strong Eastern European accent, a death through an elevator shaft, a TV set that shoots bullets and a skull that doubles as a cigarette dispenser…” Hallo, Hier Spricht…

” …Kinski wears “stylish” shades that reflect a poker table and the face of his interlocutor in a scene that antedates the kidnapper’s legendary reflecting shades in Akira Kurosawa’s High & Low. Vohrer uses a lot of pans, even when they seem useless, and matching cuts that insist a little clunky on certain visual motives, thus creating a sort of Argento-like parallel world, that is equally unsettling but a lot more innocent.” Sporadic Scintillations

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” …like most of its ilk, Dead Eyes of London suffers from a slow pace as much of the police procedural stuff is rather dull.  What makes the film slightly better than its genre counterparts is a strong sense of atmosphere.  The scenes where the killer blindly searches for his prey are well done and there is an effective elevator murder as well.” The Video Vacuum

“As quickly paced as it all is improbable, the humor in the film is actually still funny nowadays, if often only due to how out-of-date it is. The blocking of the fight scenes is pretty cheesy, too, but the murders definitely still carry a punch. And, if Vohrer isn’t yet the most fancy with the camera, he does have a good understanding of composition, the use of close-ups and shadows.” A Wasted Life

“It is a bit slow to start, to be sure; however, the audience is soon rewarded with a genuinely chilling horror film with all of the suspense one might expect from an English mystery… a form that the nation seems to have mastered along with the sitcom. There are a number of standout performances, haunting imagery, and enough complexity to keep you guessing through to the end.” Where the Long Tail Ends

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Choice dialogue:

Sergeant ‘Sunny’ Harvey: “According to statistics, there are as many as forty days of fog in every single year.”

Cast and characters:

Joachim Fuchsberger … Inspektor Larry Holt
Karin Baal … Nora Ward
Dieter Borsche … Reverend Paul Dearborn
Wolfgang Lukschy … Stephen Judd
Eddi Arent … Sergeant ‘Sunny’ Harvey
Anneli Sauli … Fanny Weldon (as Ann Savo)
Bobby Todd … Lew Norris
Franz Schafheitlin … Sir John
Ady Berber … Jacob “Der blinde Jack” Farrell (as Adi Berber)
Harry Wüstenhagen … Fred “Flimmer-Fred” (German version) / Flicker-Fred (English version)
Rudolf Fenner … Matthew “Matt” Blake
Hans Paetsch … Gordon Stuart
Ida Ehre … Ella Ward
Fritz Schröder-Jahn … Sir John Archibald
Klaus Kinski … Edgar Strauss

Filming locations:

Hamburg, Germany

Technical details:

99 minutes
Black and white | Colour (opening credits)
Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1
Audio: Mono (Klangfilm Eurocord-Magnetocord)

Original title:

Die Toten Augen von London

MOVIES and MANIA rating: