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.

British adaptations[edit]

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.

Silent films[edit]

Sound films[edit]

Edgar Wallace Mysteries (1960-1965)[edit]

Harry Alan Towers[edit]

Harry Alan Towers produced a series of films the early 1960s in international co-productions with Germany:


German adaptations[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Other Edgar Wallace movies and influences on other works[edit]

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 clichéd conventions of the genre. A third film, Triple WiXX, is currently in production.

Filmography (1959 to 1972)[edit]

All Edgar Wallace films by Rialto Film, unless noted otherwise.[2]

Year Title English (novel) title Produced by Director
1959 Der Frosch mit der Maske The Fellowship of the Frog Harald Reinl
1960 Der rote Kreis The Crimson Circle Jürgen Roland
Der Rächer The Avenger Kurt Ulrich-Film Karl Anton
Die Bande des Schreckens The Terrible People Harald Reinl
1961 Der grüne Bogenschütze The Green Archer Jürgen Roland
Die toten Augen von London The Dark Eyes of London Alfred Vohrer
Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen The Devil's Daffodil Ákos Ráthonyi
Der Fälscher von London The Forger Harald Reinl
Die seltsame Gräfin The Strange Countess Josef von Báky
1962 Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee Secret of the Red Orchid Helmut Ashley
Die Tür mit den sieben Schlössern The Door with Seven Locks Alfred Vohrer
Das Gasthaus an der Themse The Inn on the River Alfred Vohrer
1963 Der Fluch der gelben Schlange The Yellow Snake CCC-Film Franz Josef Gottlieb
Der Zinker The Squeaker Alfred Vohrer
Der schwarze Abt The Black Abbot Franz Josef Gottlieb
Das indische Tuch The Indian Scarf Alfred Vohrer
Zimmer 13 (de) Room 13 Harald Reinl
Death Drums Along the River Sanders of the River Constantin Film Lawrence Huntington
1964 Die Gruft mit dem Rätselschloß The Curse of the Hidden Vault Franz Josef Gottlieb
Der Hexer The Ringer / The Gaunt Stranger / The Mysterious Magician Alfred Vohrer
Das Verrätertor The Traitor's Gate Freddie Francis
1965 Neues vom Hexer Again the Ringer Alfred Vohrer
Der unheimliche Mönch The Terror / The Sinister Monk Harald Reinl
1966 Der Bucklige von Soho (de) The Hunchback of Soho Alfred Vohrer
Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne (Mystery of the White Nun) The Trygon Factor Cyril Frankel
Circus of Fear Circus of Terror; Das Rätsel des silbernen Dreieck John Llewellyn Moxey
1967 Die blaue Hand Creature with the Blue Hand Alfred Vohrer
Der Mönch mit der Peitsche (de) (a.k.a. The College Girl Murders) The Monk with the Whip Alfred Vohrer
1968 Der Hund von Blackwood Castle (de) The Monster of Blackwood Castle Alfred Vohrer
Im Banne des Unheimlichen The Hands of Power Alfred Vohrer
Der Gorilla von Soho (de) (a.k.a. The Gorilla Gang) The Gorilla of Soho Alfred Vohrer
1969 Der Mann mit dem Glasauge (de) The Man With the Glass Eye Alfred Vohrer
Das Gesicht im Dunkeln Double Face Riccardo Freda
1971 The Devil Came from Akasava Keepers of the Stone CCC-Film Jesus Franco
Die Tote aus der Themse The Dead Body in the River Thames Harald Philipp
The Bloodstained Butterfly German working title: Edgar Wallace's Mystery of the Black Rose Duccio Tessari
1972 Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel (a.k.a. What Have You Done to Solange?) The Clue of the New Pin Massimo Dallamano
Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds (a.k.a. Seven Bloodstained Orchids) Puzzle of the Silver Half Moons Umberto Lenzi

Bryan Edgar Wallace movies[edit]

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.[3]


(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)


  1. ^ The Mind of Mr. J.G. Reeder at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 14 December 2015
  2. ^ Kramp, Joachim (2001). Hallo—Hier spricht Edgar Wallace! (German). Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf. ISBN 3-89602-368-3. 
  3. ^ Dillmann-Kühn, Claudia (1990). Artur Brauner und die CCC (German). Deutsches Filmmuseum. pp. 240–290. ISBN 3-88799-034-X. 
  • 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)

External links[edit]