Films based on works by Edgar Wallace
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Edgar Wallace was a British novelist and playwright and screenwriter whose works have been adapted for the screen numerous times.
- 1 British adaptations
- 2 German adaptations
- 3 Discography
- 4 References
- 5 External links
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His works were adapted for the screen as early as 1915, and continued to be adapted into the 1940s. In 1960, Anglo-Amalgamated started a series of 46 films entitled Edgar Wallace Mysteries which continued until 1965.
- The Four Just Men (1921)
Edgar Wallace Mysteries (1960-1965)
Harry Alan Towers
The crime films produced by the German company Rialto Film between 1959 and 1972 form their own subgenre known as Krimis (abbreviation for the German term Kriminalfilm (or Kriminalroman). Other Edgar Wallace adaptations in a similar style were made by the Germans Artur Brauner and Kurt Ulrich, and the British producer Harry Alan Towers.
Early history of the German Edgar Wallace movies
As early as the silent movie era, German film producers discovered that the novels of Edgar Wallace were easily adapted to the screen. The first German production of an Edgar Wallace story, Der große Unbekannte (The Unknown), was filmed in 1927. Wallace personally visited the production of the next movie Der rote Kreis (The Crimson Circle, 1929) in Berlin. The Crimson Circle was trade-shown in London in March 1929 in the Phonofilm sound-on-film system.
In 1931, Carl Lamarc adapted The Squeaker, one of Wallace's best known works, as the sound film Der Zinker. Adaptations of The Ringer (Der Hexer, 1932) by Lamarc and The Double (Der Doppelgänger, 1934) by E. W. Emo followed. (In the United States, The Feathered Serpent reached the screen as The Menace in 1932.) From 1934 to the mid-1950s, no German-language films based on works by Edgar Wallace were produced. Then, in the mid-1950s, the German film distributor Constantin Film began plans for a series of films. Due to the perceived unpopularity of the crime genre in Germany at that time, however, no film producer willing to take such a risk could be found.
The "Krimi" film movement
In 1959, the Danish company Rialto Film, with its producer Preben Philipsen produced Der Frosch mit der Maske (based on The Fellowship of the Frog), targeting the German film market. The film turned out to be surprisingly successful and started a veritable fad of crime movies, known as Krimis (abbreviation for the German term "Kriminalfilm" (or "Kriminalroman")) which would last until significant changes in the direction of the German film industry in the early Seventies occurred. Rialto Film soon acquired the exclusive rights to nearly all the Wallace novels, founded a German subsidiary company and, unconcerned by the many copycat productions by others, moved towards the artistic and commercial peak of the series in the first half of the Sixties.
There would be 32 Rialto movies. Beginning with the fourth production Der grüne Bogenschütze (The Green Archer, 1960/61) all were under the artistic supervision of Horst Wendlandt and directed by Alfred Vohrer or Harald Reinl. These are the leading examples of the gernre. Following Der Bucklige von Soho (1966), all of Rialto's Krimis movies were in color. Additionally, the original novels were increasingly disregarded in favour of new stories based on motives from the stories. On one hand, this departure made them seem more up-to-date – on the other, the dramaturgy, presentation and content quality levels declined rapidly. From 1969 onwards, Rialto Film started four coproductions with Italian producers to minimise their costs. Audiences increasingly ignored the series, which ended with Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds in 1972.
Style in 1960s "Krimis" films
The typical Krimi movie of the Sixties contains a number of distinct stylistic traits, which not only makes the films a true series, but – seen in context with other, similar German crime movies of that time – marks them as part of a true film subgenre as well.
In particular, the two directors Harald Reinl (5 movies) and Alfred Vohrer (14 movies) made their mark. While Reinl preferred long dolly shots /pans and exterior shots, Vohrer's films are known for their slight overacting and their distinct zoom and editing styles.
The titles, which are usually the German novel titles, were intended to evoke the typical image of an Edgar Wallace movie. Most titles mention the villain, like Der Frosch mit der Maske (literally "The Frog with the Mask"), Der Zinker ("The Cardsharp") and Der Hexer ("The Warlock"). More abstract titles usually feature the words Rätsel ("mystery" or "enigma") or Geheimnis ("secret"), for example Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee ("The Mystery of the Red Orchid") Das Rätsel des silbernen Dreiecks ("The Mystery of the Silver Triangle") and Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel ("The Secret of the Green Pin"), while others hint at the location of the story, for example Der Fälscher von London ("The Forger of London"), Der Bucklige von Soho ("The Hunchback of Soho") and Die Tote aus der Themse ("The Dead Girl in the Thames").
The repeated casting of the same actors, generally for similar roles, is typical for the sixties Wallace movies as well. Among the most popular investigators are Joachim Fuchsberger, Heinz Drache and Siegfried Lowitz. Shady characters were mostly played by Fritz Rasp, Pinkas Braun, Harry Wüstenhagen and especially Klaus Kinski, while comic relief was offered by Eddi Arent, Siegfried Schürenberg and later Hubert von Meyerinck, or even Chris Howland. Additionally, well-known film and stage actors like Elisabeth Flickenschildt, Gert Fröbe, Dieter Borsche, Lil Dagover and Rudolf Forster repeatedly acted in important guest roles.
The location of the story is, like in the novels, mostly London and its proximity, with the characters mostly moving through old castles, mansions or country houses – even if the real sets were generally in Germany. Seedy night clubs, asylums, dark basements as well as, especially in later movies, girl's colleges and of course Scotland Yard are popular main and side locations for Edgar Wallace movies.
The story are very similar across the series as well. The plot is most often centred around one inventively masked main villain. In contrast to thrillers, the most important technique of creating suspense is the "whodunit". This means that it is generally unknown who the villain really is until the very end of the movie. The motivations for the crimes are mostly greed, revenge, legacy hunting, and, especially in later movies, white slavery and drug trade.
Not unlike the later Italian subgenre of Giallo, the Wallace Krimi movies heavily center around the work of the police or a private investigator. Another typical feature is the heroine, who has to be protected from the schemes and misdeeds of the villain by the Scotland Yard inspector. This theme is repeated in virtually all Krimi movies, and it is not uncommon for the two protagonists to be happily in love at the conclusion of the story.
To make the movies even more recognisable besides the typical introduction (usually a murder is committed before the film's title sequence), the title sequence was in color from around 1961 onwards, even if the rest of the film was in black and white. There are only two exceptions. Also, in 1962 the voiceover "Hallo, hier spricht Edgar Wallace" ("Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking") was added to the beginning of the title sequence. A very distinct trait is the score by Martin Böttcher and especially by Peter Thomas. Three of the four late German-Italian coproductions are even scored by Ennio Morricone. Little is known about the composer Keith Papworth, who scored Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen, except that he died in March 1992.
The opening voiceover of the Rialto Edgar Wallace films from 1962 onwards – 23 KB
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Other Edgar Wallace movies and influences on other works
In the wake of the Edgar Wallace movies, the Krimi genre became a staple of the German filmmaking scene, which also featured some mostly less successful and definitely shorter-lived series based on the works of other authors. Especially notable are the Artur Brauner-produced Doktor Mabuse and Bryan Edgar Wallace (Wallace's son, also a crime novelist) movies such as Der Henker von London (de) and Das Phantom von Soho (de), and some Louis Weinert-Wilton adaptations. Also, the Jerry Cotton and Kommissar X movie series and Father Brown series are stylistically closely related to the Wallace movies and fall within the Krimi genre.
The movies are still very well known in Germany today, and there are frequent reruns of them on television – even if a large part of their appeal is their high camp factor. Since the Edgar Wallace style is a stock motive of German filmmaking, there are numerous parodies and spoofs, most recently the 2004 movie Der WiXXer (approximately "The Wanker", a parody of Der Hexer) and its 2007 sequel Neues vom WiXXer (a parody of Neues vom Hexer), making fun of the now clichéed conventions of the genre. A third film, Triple WiXX, is currently in production.
Filmography (1959 to 1972)
All Edgar Wallace films by Rialto Film, unless noted otherwise.
Bryan Edgar Wallace movies
Seeking the success of Rialto Film's Edgar Wallace movies, CCC Film bought the rights to the written works by Edgar's son, Bryan. The stories were all but re-written once they were adapted into movies, but they were still dubbed "B. Edgar Wallace Movies" in the hope that the well-known name would attract a larger audience. The following are CCC Film productions unless otherwise noted.
- Secret of the Black Trunk (de: Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Koffer) (1961)
- The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle (de) (de: Der Würger von Schloss Blackmoor) (1963)
- The Mad Executioners (de: Der Henker von London) (1963)
- The Phantom of Soho (de: Das Phantom von Soho) (1964)
- The Monster of London City (de: Das Ungeheuer von London City) (1964)
- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (de: Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Handschuhe) (1970, in co-production with Seda Spettacoli, Rome)
- The Dead Are Alive (de: Das Geheimnis des gelben Grabes) (1972, in co-production mit Mondial Tefi, Rome, and Inex Film, Belgrade) aka The Etruscan Kills Again
- The Death Avenger of Soho (de: Der Todesrächer von Soho) (1972, Production of Telecine Filmproduktion and Fernsehproduktion in co-production with Fenix Films, Madrid)
(CDs predominately featuring the musical scores of Wallace movies)
- "Kriminalfilmmusik von Martin Böttcher" – Rough Trade, BSC 307.6518.2
- "Kriminalfilmmusik Martin Böttcher Vol. 2" – Prudence, BSC 398.6534.2
- "Peter Thomas Kriminalfilmmusik" – Prudence, BSC 398.6533.2
- "Kriminalfilmmusik No. 4" – Prudence, BSC 398.6560.2
- "Peter Thomas Film Musik" – Polydor, 517,096-2 (1 CD)
- "Peter Thomas Film Musik" – Polydor, 845,872–2 (2 CDs)
- Florian Pauer: "Die Edgar Wallace-Filme", 1982, Goldmann Verlag, ISBN 3-442-10216-2 (German)
- Christos Tses: "Der Hexer, der Zinker und andere Mörder", 2002, Klartext-Verlag, ISBN 3-89861-080-2 (German)
- Joachim Kramp: "Das Edgar Wallace Lexikon", 2004, Verlag Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, ISBN 3-89602-508-2 (German)
- Georg Seeßlen: Die deutschen Edgar Wallace-Filme in: Mord im Kino. Geschichte und Mythologie des Detektiv-Films. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1981, ISBN 3-499-17396-4 (German)
- Official website of Rialto Film
- wallace-online.de, German fansite (German)
- The German Edgar Wallace movies at deutscher-tonfilm.de (German)
- This article incorporates information from the German Wikipedia.