Written by Herbert Reinecker
Based on the novel The Blue Hand, by Edgar Wallace (1925)
Directed by Alfred Vohrer
Starring Harald Leipnitz, Klaus Kinski, Carl Lange, Ilse Steppat, Diana Korner
Released April 28, 1967 (West Germany)
RT 87 min.
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Classic Horrors rating = 6 (out of 10)
We’ve all seen comedies spoofing dramatic revelations in movies that are accompanied by musical “stingers,” but I don’t recall ever seeing one of the actual movies from which these humorous bits were derived… until now. The finale of Creature with the Blue Hand (1967) is so full of shocking announcements and stingers that it turns what at times could have been a suspenseful thriller into a movie as funny as those that spoof it.
It may be unintentionally funny, but it’s also fun. I had a really good time watching it. As you might expect from a movie based on an Edgar Wallace crime novel, Creature with the Blue Hand is a twisted tale full of exaggerated character types and unbelievable scenarios. The plot revolves around twin brothers, Dave and Richard Emerson (Klaus Kinski), one of whom is sentenced to an asylum for a crime he didn’t commit, and that’s before the opening credits roll.
It’s very much a product of its time. When said credits begin, they’re accompanied by a swinging melody, baby, and feature pictures of scenes yet to come. When an unknown accomplice slips him a key to his cell, Dave puts on a white coat, assaults a nurse, and escapes, all with the prominent presence of the jazzy score. When he learns of the escape, the administrator of the asylum, Dr. Albert Mangrove (Carl Lange), opens his eyes so wide that his monocle pops out.
Inspector Craig from Scotland Yard (Harald Leipnitz) arrives and, unlike in most Euro-horror movies I’ve been watching lately, he actually performs an investigation. In fact, if not the main character of Creature with the Blue Hand, he at least has the most screen time. (Kinski disappears for a large part of the movie.) This earns him that final scene’s question/declaration, “Are you ready for a synopsis of the case?” Cue the stingers.
This isn’t strictly a horror movie, but has some characteristics of horror such as its gothic setting, stormy weather, and mysterious killer. The title promises something monstrous, but the “creature” is just a man who uses a blue metal glove with knives that pop out of the end of its fingers. It’s from armour that stands in the big, spooky estate of the Emersons, led by the family matriarch, Lady Emerson (Ilse Steppat).
The mystery is threefold. First, we experience an unknown person killing family members one by one. Then, we see the person responsible. Then, we learn there’s a mysterious “boss” calling the shots. With the very word, “boss,” Creature with the Blue Hand becomes a hard-boiled crime story, interrupted occasionally by signature sleaze, such as Inspector Craig peeping on a resident of the asylum who fancies herself a stripper… and likes to practice her craft.
The butler, Anthony (Alobert Bessler), is played for the patsy, but at least he has a good sense of humor about it. Lady Emerson asks, “Since when are you so edgy, Anthony?” He replies, “Since I came to this house, m’lady.” When Lady Emerson admits she can’t even tell her twins apart, you know it’s going to be a big plot point. Therefore, one twist is naturally predictable. It’s a good one, although familiar, and other unexpected ones are still to come.
The only thing missing up to this point is a good old fashioned kidnapping so the evil mastermind can chew some scenery. This development arrives when one of the Emerson “children,” Myra (Diana Korner) is abducted and threatened with torture to force her to sign some “papers.” That’s a big clue for what’s really happening. She becomes a “trump card” for the middle man/woman to play against his “boss.”
This sequence of scenes represents the overall fun of Creature with the Blue Hand. As she’s strapped to a table, the villain says, “I don’t hold conversations with people who are hysterical. Here, I’ll give you something to sleep.” Director Alfred Vohrer and cinematographer Ernst W. Kalinke use interesting camera angles and movements to represent Myra’s upside-down point of view. And the villain gleefully proclaims, “I have outwitted them all!”
At times, the shenanigans remind me of a Fu Manchu movie. Myra is moved into a cell where a hatch in the wall opens and snakes pour onto the floor. Then, a partition in a long glass case moves forward to push what might be hundreds of mice into the cell. All that’s missing are spiders for a creepy trifecta. Inspector Craig then gets to play action here, singlehandedly battling four of the villain’s lackeys.
Secret passages… rooms full of skeletons… “diabolical masterminds”… and “the most ruthless criminal of all”… Creature with the Blue Hand is full of them all. It’s no wonder composer Martin Bottcher is kept busy, because a movie like this doesn’t quite work unless you have that additional musical element to emphasize how sordid it all is. To make sure you don’t take it too seriously, the movie ends with a bad pun, and you end savoring it with a big smile.