Welcome to the wonderfully twisted world of the krimi—perhaps the least explored avenue of the horror genre. The krimi films (the name taken from the term taschenkrimi—German for “pocket crime novel”) were made in West Germany—starting with Fellowship of the Frog in 1959—and adapted from the novels of prolific Brit thriller writer Edgar Wallace, who died in Hollywood in 1932 while working on King Kong. The truly odd thing about them is that they’re all set in England—conveyed via stock shots of Tower Bridge, pictures of Queen Elizabeth on the walls, the chimes of Big Ben on the soundtrack and sometimes by giving the hero an MG to drive (usually with the steering wheel on the wrong side). And yet they’re impossibly German in tone and execution. While seeming tame today, they were over-the-top at the time. The word “lurid” comes to mind.
The 1962 The Door With Seven Locks is perhaps the best example of the series and my personal favorite. (I wrote an essay on it for the British Film Institute’s book on European horror movies last year.) In terms of story, it’s a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Wallace’s 1926 novel, but in typical krimi fashion, embellishments are made. These range from the merely upped violence of always handy machine guns to the fantasticated addition of a mad scientist with a subterranean lab and the dream of grafting a man’s head onto the body of an ape. (The scientist exists in the book, but in much milder form.) Other touches (the most bizarre chair you’re ever likely to see) are often just odd—including the comedy bits for Eddi Arent, who was apparently popular in West Germany. Maybe they’re little more than curios, but they’re trashy fun curios.