Das Indische Tuch (1963)

aka The Indian Scarf
Article 2858 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-5-2009
Posting Date: 6-10-2009
Directed by Alfred Vohrer
Featuring Heinz Drache, Corny Collins, Klaus Kinski
Country: West Germany

Several heirs gather at the castle of Lord Lebanon for the reading of the will. They discover they must spend a week in the castle before they discover the terms of the inheritance. However, someone is strangling the heirs one by one using Indian scarves as weapons…

I have to admit that this krimi (based on a work by Edgar Wallace, the greatest writer of the century, but don’t take my word on it) really caught me off guard; I’ve seen enough of these that I thought I’d know what to expect, but this one surprised me. First of all, despite the fact that I listed the German title above, my copy of the movie was not in German; it was dubbed into English, but retained the original German credits. Furthermore, the print was excellent, and letterboxed as well. But the biggest surprise is the plot itself; rather than the usually hard-to-follow labyrinthine stories that I’ve come to expect from the genre, this is nothing more nor less than an ‘old dark house’ mystery. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, it’s a parody of the ‘old dark house’ mystery, and, for my money, one of the funniest takes I’ve seen on that hoary old chestnut. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the characters are well-defined, and the butler (who is followed around by a serving cart that seems to move of its own accord and who has to undertake the thankless task of removing the table settings of each guest who dies during the length of the movie) is a scream. The trappings are all there; secret passages, red herrings, murders, people stranded with no way to get home due to a storm, etc). It even has a fairly outrageous variation on the old “painting with removable eyes so the killer can spy on people through them” trick that makes for one of the high points of the film. Throw in a couple of self-referential jokes, and you have perhaps the most light-hearted and fun Edgar Wallace romp of the era. And it’s nice to see Klaus Kinski get a decent part in one of these as well.

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