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Die Blaue Hand (1967)

A typically wild 1960s German Edgar Wallace adaptation. Dave Emerson (Klaus Kinski), scion of an aristocratic family, is sent to an insane asylum when convicted of the murder of a gardener. With the help of someone mysterious, Dave escapes and makes his way back to the family seat, Grayson Hall, where a hooded killer is using a legendary armoured glove, which can extrude claws, to kill various family members. Dave impersonates Richard, his missing twin brother, and convinces Scotland Yard's Inspector Craig (Harald Leipnitz) that he's been framed. The escapee even manages to be included in the official investigation along with the pompous superior Sir John (Siegfried Schürenberg), which winds up pointing the finger of guilt at most of the surviving Emersons. Though the supposedly dead gardener (Tor Johnson-look Richard Haller) turns out to be the Blue Hand, the 'diabolical mastermind' is revealed as Dave's twin. Since Richard is also played by Kinski (without a big mad scene), this is the only time in the series that the perennial red herring turns out to be the guilty party.

There's a sub-plot about an insane asylum which serves the same plot function as the girls' schools, reformatories, laundry and nunnery of earlier krimis – imprisoning and imperilling innocent women. The monocled director (Karl Lange) has a sideline in locking away inconvenient sane people and driving them mad, throwing the heroine (Diana Körner) in with a cellarful of loons, then subjecting her to a room with rats and snakes. Thankfully, the trenchcoated Craig and the rest of the police stage 'Plan M, a raid on the asylum' and rescue the girl before she cracks. Grayson Hall (no relation to the Dark Shadows actress) has the usual secret passageways, equipped with dangling skeletons and wax fake corpses, with access via a penny-in-the-slot device (a nice touch).

Director Alfred Vohrer, borrowing Bava lighting tricks (though the more you see these things, the more you realise giallo licks originate in krimi), stages smart bits of business with dangling mannequins and the lurking killer, but the supporting cast are such a collection of skulking stereotypes it's impossible to care which are guilty and which get killed. The butler (Albert Bessler), who turns out to be the ex-husband of the scheming Lady Emerson (Ilse Steppat), has a long-winded bit of German humour at the fade-out in which he admits he's been losing his respect for the aristocracy because 'they've been getting out of hand'. With Eddi Arent gone from the scene, Bessler also gets the comical wink at the audience – the German version signs off with the butler announcing the next film in the series, The Monk with the Whip. The Bloody Dead, a 1987 video variation, is juiced up with gore inserts, including new mutilation scenes set in the asylum – they don't help much, and both American variants are shorter than the German. It has a jazzy, exciting cool score from Martin Böttcher.
KIM NEWMAN

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