Der Bucklige von Soho (1966)

This was the first of the 1960s Edgar Wallace CCC krimis in full (gorgeously garish) colour. It makes the usual references to earlier films: major scenes are set in Mekka, the eponymous Inn on the Thames, and Scotland Yard's blimpish Sir John (Siegfried Schürenberg) - alternately called 'Archie', which suggests he's the same character as the 'Sir Archie' of the first few entries - fields press questions about why the Inspector who handled the 'Hexer' case isn't assigned to the current crimes (though anyone who saw that film will remember the Hexer got away with it). It's a plot we've seen before too: Wanda Merville (Monika Peitsch) shows up in England to claim an inheritance but is kidnapped by baddies and replaced by a scheming imposter (Uta Levka) because the rest of her nasty family want to keep hold of the fortune (essentially the set-up of the previous entry, The Sinister Monk). This time, the girls are tyrannised not in a private school but a supposed charitable institution for ex-offenders run as a slave-driving laundry. This hellhole is another impressive set, with big grinding wheels and machines, plus an inexplicable torture room involving an acetylene torch / laser beam device. The laundry turns over its graduates to Mekka for use as bar-girls in lace leotards and black bikinis. Having taken an unprecedented baddie role in The Sinister Monk, regular comic relief Eddi Arent is given what was usually the Klaus Kinski part, as a nasty bogus priest who helps run the evil institution. Newcomer Gunther Stoll's Inspector Hopkins plods along in place of the usual heroes Joachim Fuchsberger or Heinz Drache, while Pinkas Braun is again a nasty gangster working for bogus respectable types, a disgraced general (Hubert von Meyerinck) who restages the Battle of Tobruk with toy tanks in the basement and his supposedly daffy wife (Agnes Windeck).

The film opens with a bikini girl chased by the eponymous hunchback, who also commits several murders and loiters around doing minion chores for the villains before a knife in the back reveals that the hump is fake and he's actually a convicted strangler the General took out of army prison because he thought a pet psycho might come in useful. Some early clues, about the dead girls' detergent-abraded hands and Levka's refusal to take off her long gloves, go nowhere; the same might be said of Levka (the nurse from Scream and Scream Again) herself and other interesting and attractive female characters (Biggi Freyer's duplicitous secretary and Suzanne Roquette's blonde perjurer, who ironically suffers for telling the truth) who threaten to be more important to the plot than they turn out to be when the strangling starts. Directed by Alfred Vohrer.

First published in this form here.

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