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Monster of London City / Secret of the Red Orchid
Following semi-hot on the heels of Dark Sky's release of The College Girl Murders comes another Krimi (for those who don't know, a Krimi is basically a German murder mystery/crime thriller, usually based on an Edgar Wallace story) release (it's keen that these are finally starting to hit DVD in North America) with Retromedia's double dose of Edgar Wallace related goodness, The Monster Of London City/The Secret Of The Red Orchid double feature.
The Monster Of London City (1964):
A Jack The Ripper copycat murderer is prowling the streets of sixties London offing hookers left, right and center! Is it a coincidence then that a gory and goofy play based on the original Ripper's exploits is enjoying a tremendously successful run in a London theater at the same time? A well known actor named Richard Sand is playing the lead, and while he has had his well publicized battles with drug addiction in the past, and sure, maybe he's done a stint or two in an insane asylum in his time but he's about to get married to Ann Morlay (the sultry and shapely Marianne Koch who shows up in Sergio Leone's A Fistful Of Dollars and a few other Italian westerns of the same era) and he's hoping to clean up his act. That doesn't make him any less of a suspect in the ongoing murder investigation, however, and her dad, a prominent local politician, is none too happy about that. Scotland Yard is called in to check out the scene, but the murders continue and Sand is still very much a suspect…
A decent thriller with some nice, shadowy set pieces and cool murder scenes, The Monster Of London City is full of style and while it isn't the most suspenseful murder mystery ever committed to film, it's an entertaining romp none the less. The highlights of the film are definitely the kill scenes which are done with plenty of flair, the killer stalking his female victims underneath street lamps and through foggy streets as if of a period Hammer gothic. The biggest flaw in the film comes from the rather ineffective comic relief bits which are scattered throughout the movie with far too much regularity thanks to a pair of married amateur sleuths hoping to catch the killer before the cops.
Even with the dopey comic bits, The Monster Of London City has enough to recommend – a great free jazz score, a sexy female lead in the form of Koch, a cool Ripper-esque modus operandi for the killer and even some completely gratuitous female nudity in one scene. Worth noting is the fact that this one is based on a story that was written by Bryan Edgar Wallace (who helped write Dario Argento's Four Flies On Grey Velvet shortly before his death in 1971), Edgar Wallace's son who carried on writing crime stories in the tradition that his father had started.
The Secret Of The Red Orchid (1962):
Our second feature begins with a well executed (pun intended) gangland shooting and from there we find out that there are two rival criminal gangs who have moved to London from Chicago and are now out to blackmail a group of well to do English citizens in order to make some quick and easy money. Of course, when two gangs move in on the same racket there's sure to be some blood shed and before you know it, the bodies start pilling up and Scotland Yard has to move in on the scene to put a stop to all the killings. In order to help out with the investigation, Scotland Yard decides to enlist the help of one of the F.B.I.'s top agents, Captain Allerman (Christopher Lee of The Horror Of Dracula and The Lord Of The Rings) who seems to know all sorts of things about gangs and they way that they do business.
A few plot twists here and there keep the movie moving along at a decent pace, and we soon find out that Lee Allerman has dealt with some of these hoods before and in fact believed one of the gang leaders to be long dead before he resurfaced here, across the pond. He'll have to work very closely with Scotland Yard to stop these ruthless thugs before they take down all the old rich guys once and for all.
This second feature doesn't move along as quickly or benefit from the great camera work or creepy murder scenes that the first film on the disc had going for it, but don't let that make you write it off as it has a fantastic cast. Aside from the aforementioned Lee, Werner Herzog's muse Klaus Kinski (of Nosferatu) shows up here in a supporting roll does a young and very attractive Marisa Mell, best known for her leggy appearance in Mario Bava's Danger! Diabolik. Adrian Hoven of Jess Franco's Sadisterotica and Kiss Me Monster plays one of the Scotland Yard detectives. While a great cast is no substitute for a good story it at least makes this one watchable, which it probably wouldn't be otherwise thanks, once again, to some poorly executed comic relief scenes that aren't even remotely funny so much as they are just bad. But hey, you've got a handful of Euro-cult favorites in this one and a great opening scene as well as a few other cool bits and pieces scattered throughout. It's not a masterpiece, but you could do worse with your time.The DVD
The Monster Of London City is presented in a decent 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer while The Curse Of The Red Orchid hits DVD in a cropped fullframe transfer – both are black and white. Aside from the cropping on the second film, Retromedia has done a decent job on the visuals here. Contrast levels look good, print damage, while present in spots, is hardly over bearing and black levels stay pretty strong throughout. A few scenes are definitely on the grainy side but there's a nice level of detail present here. Some shimmering is noticeable, but it's not overpowering and for the most part these movies look fine.Sound:
Both movies are dubbed into English and presented in fairly clean Dolby Digital Mono tracks on this DVD. While there is some mild hiss in a few spots and the occasional fluctuation in levels, for the most part both films sound alright. The main problem is that both Klaus Kinski and Christopher Lee, who have such distinctive speaking voices, are dubbed in The Curse Of The Red Orchid. While there very likely isn't a track out there that has both of them on it (what with Kinski being German and Lee being English – ironically enough the IMDB states that in the German version, he did do his own voice work) it's still really odd to hear them this way, Lee especially. The movie does lose some of its charm because of this – it's almost like Lee isn't Lee and it's just plain odd in spots, especially as he's dubbed with an American accent.Extras:
The disc itself is barebones save for the movies and some basic menu screens, but inside the keepcase packaging is a reproduction of the German theatrical program for The Curse Of The Red Orchid and the back of the case has some basic synopsis pieces and information courtesy of Eric Hoffman.Final Thoughts:
Krimi fans ought to enjoy this double feature. Despite the horrendous dubbing job they sound alright and they look quite decent (even if one of them is obviously cropped), and Retromedia has a decent price point on this one. Recommended for seasoned fans of the genre, a solid rental for all other mystery buffs.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.