Films based on works by Edgar Wallace  

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"Even though there are countless film adaptations of Edgar Wallace novels worldwide, the crime films produced by the German company Rialto Film between 1959 and 1972 are the best-known of those, to the extent that they form their own subgenre known as Krimis (abbreviation for the German term "Kriminalfilm" (or "Kriminalroman"). Other Edgar Wallace adaptations in a similar style were made by the Germans Artur Brauner and Kurt Ulrich, and the British producer Harry Alan Towers." --Sholem Stein

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The Edgar Wallace movies are motion pictures based on the works of British novelist and playwright Edgar Wallace. They are a stock feature of European exploitation cinema.


Early history of the German Edgar Wallace movies

As early as the silent movie era, German film producers discovered that the novels of Edgar Wallace were easily adapted to the screen. The first German production of an Edgar Wallace story, Der große Unbekannte (The Unknown), was filmed in 1927. Wallace personally visited the production of the next movie Der rote Kreis (The Crimson Circle, 1929) in Berlin. The Crimson Circle was trade-shown in London in March 1929 in the Phonofilm sound-on-film system.

In 1931, Carl Lamarc adapted The Squeaker, one of Wallace's best known works, as the sound film Der Zinker. Adaptations of The Ringer (Der Hexer, 1932) by Lamarc and The Double (Der Doppelgänger, 1934) by E. W. Emo followed. (In the United States, The Feathered Serpent reached the screen as The Menace in 1932.) From 1934 to the mid-1950s, no German-language films based on works by Edgar Wallace were produced. Then, in the mid-1950s, the German film distributor Constantin Film began plans for a series of films. Due to the perceived unpopularity of the crime genre in Germany at that time, however, no film producer willing to take such a risk could be found.

The "Krimi" film movement

In 1959, the Danish company Rialto Film, with its producer Preben Philipsen produced Der Frosch mit der Maske (based on The Fellowship Of The Frog), targeting the German film market. The film turned out to be surprisingly successful and started a veritable fad of crime movies, known as Krimis (abbreviation for the German term "Kriminalfilm" (or "Kriminalroman")) which would last until significant changes in the direction of the German film industry in the early Seventies occurred. Rialto Film soon acquired the exclusive rights to nearly all the Wallace novels, founded a German subsidiary company and, unconcerned by the many copycat productions by others, moved towards the artistic and commercial peak of the series in the first half of the Sixties.

There would be 32 Rialto movies. Beginning with the fourth production Der grüne Bogenschütze (The Green Archer, 1960/61) all were under the artistic supervision of Horst Wendlandt and directed by Alfred Vohrer or Harald Reinl. These are the leading examples of the gernre. Following Der Bucklige von Soho (1966), all of Rialto's Krimis movies were in color. Additionally, the original novels were increasingly disregarded in favor of new stories based on motives from the stories. On one hand, this departure made them seem more up-to-date - on the other, the dramaturgy, presentation and content quality levels declined rapidly. From 1969 onwards, Rialto Film started four coproductions with Italian producers to minimize their costs. Audiences increasingly ignored the series, which ended with Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds in 1972.

Style in 1960s "Krimis" films

The typical Krimi movie of the Sixties contains a number of distinct stylistic traits, which not only made the films a true series, but - seen in context with other, similar German crime movies of that time - makes it a true film subgenre as well.

In particular, the two directors Harald Reinl (5 movies) and Alfred Vohrer (14 movies) made their mark. While Reinl preferred long dolly shots /pans and exterior shots, Vohrer's films are known for their slight overacting and their distinct zoom and editing styles.

The titles, which are usually the German novel titles, were intended to evoke the typical image of an Edgar Wallace movie. Most titles mention the villain, like Der Frosch mit der Maske (literally "The Frog with the Mask"), Der Zinker ("The Cardsharp") and Der Hexer ("The Warlock"). More abstract titles usually feature the words Rätsel ("mystery" or "enigma") or Geheimnis ("secret"), for example Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee ("The Mystery of the Red Orchid") Das Rätsel des silbernen Dreiecks ("The Mystery of the Silver Triangle") and Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel ("The Secret of the Green Pin"), while others hint at the location of the story, for example Der Fälscher von London ("The Forger of London"), Der Bucklige von Soho ("The Hunchback of Soho") and Die Tote aus der Themse ("The Dead Girl in the Thames").

The repeated casting of the same actors, generally for similar roles, is typical for the sixties Wallace movies as well. Among the most popular investigators are Joachim Fuchsberger, Heinz Drache and Siegfried Lowitz. Shady characters were mostly played by Fritz Rasp, Pinkas Braun, Harry Wüstenhagen and especially Klaus Kinski, while comic relief was offered by Eddi Arent, Siegfried Schürenberg and later Hubert von Meyerinck, or even Chris Howland. Additionally, well-known film and stage actors like Elisabeth Flickenschildt, Gert Fröbe, Dieter Borsche, Lil Dagover and Rudolf Forster repeatedly acted in important guest roles.

The location of the story is, like in the novels, mostly London and its proximity, with the characters mostly moving through old castles, mansions or country houses - even if the real sets were generally in Germany. Seedy night clubs, asylums, dark basements as well as, especially in later movies, girl's colleges and of course Scotland Yard are popular main and side locations for Edgar Wallace movies.

The story are very similar across the series as well. The plot is most often centered around one inventively masked main villain. In contrast to thrillers, the most important technique of creating suspense is the "whodunit". This means that it is generally unknown who the villain really is until the very end of the movie. The motivations for the crimes is mostly greed, revenge, legacy hunting, and, especially in later movies, white slavery and drug trade.

Not unlike the later Italian subgenre of Giallo, the Wallace Krimi movies still heavily center around the work of the police or a private investigator. Another typical feature is the heroine, who has to be protected from the schemes and misdeed of the villain by the Scotland Yard inspector. This theme is repeated in virtually all Krimis movies, and it is not uncommon for the two protagonists to be happily in love at the conclusion of the story.

To make the movies even more recognizable besides the typical introduction (usually a murder is committed before the film's title sequence), the title sequence was in color from around 1961 onwards, even if the rest of the film was in black and white. There are only two exceptions. Also, in 1962 the voiceover "Hallo, hier spricht Edgar Wallace" ("Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking") was added to the beginning of the title sequence. A very distinct trait is the score by Martin Böttcher and especially by Peter Thomas. Three of the four late German-Italian coproductions are even scored by Ennio Morricone. Little is known about the composer Keith Papworth, who scored Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen, except that he died in March 1992. Template:Listen

Other Edgar Wallace movies and influences on other works

In the wake of the Edgar Wallace movies, the Krimi genre became a staple of the German filmmaking scene, which also featured some mostly less successful and definitely shorter-lived series based on the works of other authors. Especially notable are the Artur Brauner-produced Doktor Mabuse and Bryan Edgar Wallace (Wallace's son, also a crime novelist) movies such as Der Henker von London and Das Phantom Von Soho, and some Louis Weinert-Wilton adaptations. Also, the Jerry Cotton and Kommissar X movie series and Father Brown series are stylistically closely related to the Wallace movies and fall within the Krimi genre.

Besides the German adaptations, there is a lesser-known, but larger series of Wallace-based films for the English cinema, which also repeatedly featured the same actors and Bernard Ebbinghouse, Ron Goodwin and Francis Chagrin as composers.

The movies are still very well known in Germany today, and there are frequent reruns of them on television - even if a large part of their appeal is their high camp factor. Since the Edgar Wallace style is a stock motive of German filmmaking, there are numerous parodies and spoofs, most recently the 2004 movie Der WiXXer (approximately "The Wanker", a parody of Der Hexer) and its 2007 sequel Neues vom WiXXer (a parody of Neues vom Hexer), making fun of the now clichéed conventions of the genre. A third film, Triple WiXX, is currently in production.

Filmography (1959 to 1972)

All Edgar Wallace films by Rialto Film, unless noted otherwise.

Year Title English (novel) title Produced by Director
1959 Der Frosch mit der MaskeThe Fellowship of the Frog Harald Reinl
1960 Der rote KreisThe Crimson Circle Jürgen Roland
Der RächerThe Avenger Kurt Ulrich-Film Karl Anton
Die Bande des Schreckens The Terrible People Harald Reinl
1961 Der grüne Bogenschütze The Green Archer Jürgen Roland
Die toten Augen von London The Dark Eyes of London Alfred Vohrer
Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen The Devil's Daffodil Ákos Ráthonyi
Der Fälscher von London The Forger Harald Reinl
Die seltsame Gräfin The Strange Countess Josef von Báky
1962 Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee The Puzzle of the Red Orchid Helmut Ashley
Die Tür mit den sieben Schlössern The Door with Seven Locks Alfred Vohrer
Das Gasthaus an der Themse The Inn on the River Alfred Vohrer
1963 Der Fluch der gelben Schlange The Yellow Snake CCC-Film Franz Josef Gottlieb
Der ZinkerThe Squeaker Alfred Vohrer
Der schwarze Abt The Black Abbot Franz Josef Gottlieb
Das indische TuchThe Indian Scarf Alfred Vohrer
Zimmer 13Room 13 Harald Reinl
Death Drums Along the River Sanders of the River Constantin Film Lawrence Huntington
1964 Die Gruft mit dem Rätselschloß The Curse of the Hidden Vault Franz Josef Gottlieb
Der HexerThe Ringer / The Gaunt Stranger Alfred Vohrer
Das Verrätertor The Traitor's Gate Freddie Francis
1965 Neues vom Hexer Again the Ringer Alfred Vohrer
Der unheimliche Mönch The Terror Harald Reinl
1966 Der Bucklige von Soho Alfred Vohrer
Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne Cyril Frankel
1967 Die blaue Hand The Blue Hand Alfred Vohrer
Der Mönch mit der Peitsche Alfred Vohrer
1968 Der Hund von Blackwood Castle Alfred Vohrer
Im Banne des Unheimlichen The Hands of Power Alfred Vohrer
Der Gorilla von Soho Alfred Vohrer
1969 Der Mann mit dem Glasauge Alfred Vohrer
Das Gesicht im Dunkeln (aka Double Face) Riccardo Freda
1971 Der Teufel kam aus Akasava The Devil Came from Akasava CCC-Film Jesus Franco
Die Tote aus der Themse The Dead One in the Thames River Harald Philipp
1972 Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel (aka What Have You Done to Solange?) The Clue of the New Pin Massimo Dallamano
Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds (aka Seven Bloodstained Orchids) Umberto Lenzi

Bryan Edgar Wallace movies

Seeking the success of Rialto Film's Edgar Wallace movies, CCC Film bought the rights to the written works by Edgar's son, Bryan. The stories were all but re-written once they were adapted into movies, but they were still dubbed "B. Edgar Wallace Movies" in the hope that the well-known name would attract a larger audience. The following are CCC Film productions unless otherwise noted.


(CDs predominately featuring the musical scores of Wallace movies)

  • "Kriminalfilmmusik von Martin Böttcher" - Rough Trade, BSC 307.6518.2
  • "Kriminalfilmmusik Martin Böttcher Vol. 2" - Prudence, BSC 398.6534.2
  • "Peter Thomas Kriminalfilmmusik" - Prudence, BSC 398.6533.2
  • "Kriminalfilmmusik No. 4" - Prudence, BSC 398.6560.2
  • "Peter Thomas Film Musik" - Polydor, 517 096-2 (1 CD)
  • "Peter Thomas Film Musik" - Polydor, 845 872-2 (2 CDs)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Films based on works by Edgar Wallace" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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