Dead Eyes of London (Die Toten Augen von London) / The Ghost (Lo Spettro) (1961/1963)
"It certainly looks as though the Blind Killers of London are at work again."- Inspector Larry Holt (Joachim Fuchsberger)
Stars: Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Baal, Dieter Borsche, Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Leonard Elliott
Other Stars: Wolfgang Lukschy, Eddi Arent, Anneli Sauli, Klaus Kinski, Ady Berber, Harriet Medin
Director: Alfred Vohrer, Riccardo Freda
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, gore)
Run Time: 03h:13m:43s
Release Date: 2004-05-11
DVD ReviewOne of the joys of the drive-in experience was the double feature, frequently made up of two outlandish imports, cheaply dubbed and quickly forgotten. Retromedia here recreates one of these mind-rotting double features of the 1960s, which combines a German crime picture from 1961 with an Italian Eurohorror, and oddly enough both have turned out to be minor classics of their subgenres.
Dead Eyes of London is one of the West German cycle known as the krimi, a series of lurid murder mysteries loosely based on the writings of Edgar Wallace. Already made into a film starring Bela Lugosi back in 1940 (under the name The Human Monster in the US), the story centers on a series of bizarre murders of wealthy men, all of whom have recently purchased insurance policies. The trail of Inspector Holt (Joachim Fuchsberger) leads him into some unexpected places, including a home for the blind, a blackmail ring, elaborate death traps, and even a flamethrower. Assisted in his investigations by Braille expert Nora Ward (Karin Baal), the Scotland Yard inspector has his hands full trying to untangle this complicated web.
Even though it's very complex, the story hangs together fairly well despite its many and varied elements. Perhaps the best aspect is the character of Blind Jack, played by Ady Berber, a white-eyed Tor Johnson clone covered with atavistic body hair. He's visually arresting and highly creepy, not to mention exceedingly dangerous. The plot contains a ton of twists and turns, at least some of which are sure to be surprising. Eddi Arent makes for some entertaining comic relief as Holt's sidekick, Sunny Harvey, combining a dead aim with a penchant for knitting and other effeminate traits. Director Alfred Vohrer would go on to direct numerous other krimi films, but he has a distinctive and eye-catching style already. Odd angles and forced zooms emphasize the off-kilter nature of the plot and keep a visual interest to the proceedings at all times. Interestingly, the black-gloved killer motif that would later become a fixture of the Italian gialli gets an early workout here.
The co-feature (and since it's in color, probably the headliner of the double bill) is The Ghost, directed by Riccardo Freda (under the name Richard Hampton). A followup of sorts to Freda's The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, it not only features further adventures of mad Dr. Hichcock, but also stars Barbara Steele and supporting actress Harriet Medin from that film. Dr. Hichcock (Leonard Elliott) has been experimenting with curare and has managed to paralyze himself. His physician, Dr. Charles Livingston (Peter Baldwin) is treating him with yet more poisons. Hichcock is understandably jealous over his wife Margaret (Barbara Steele) and the handsome doctor, and his suspicions are confirmed a shade too late when they neglect to administer his antidote. With Hichcock safely in the grave all would appear to be well, except that mysterious occurrences around the house give rise to suspicions that Hichcock may still be with them in some form after all.
Steele's always fun to watch in these Italian horrors, even though she's dubbed worse than usual here. Elliott makes for a credibly deranged Hichcock, and Harriet Medin's oddball role as the housekeeper/channeler of the dead is a hoot. Freda's direction is highly atmospheric, with quite a few set pieces that are mildly unnerving. Those looking for gore will be disappointed until the finale, which is surprisingly cruel and bloody for an Italian picture of this vintage (though the Italians would certainly make up for lost time in later years).
Though the two films have little to do with each other beyond being cheaply-dubbed imports, they're nonetheless quite entertaining in their own right. Pull up a tub of popcorn and take yourself back 40 years with this fun offering.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The widescreen picture is presented in nonanamorphic format on both features. Though as European they probably were intended for 1.66:1 projection, they almost assuredly were shot safe for American aspect ratios such as featured here, and any cropping is hardly significant. Both films are quite soft and lacking in fine detail, though The Ghost has a surprising amount of texture information for a nonanamorphic transfer. Color is good on that film as well. Dead Eyes of London is in a bit rougher condition, and the black levels are weak and on occasion the whites are blown out. It's not first-rate, but a definite step up from Retromedia's frequent use of wretched TV prints.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: While The Ghost is presented in 2.0 mono, there are a few scenes in Dead Eyes of London that feature a processed-sounding surround effect. Both tracks feature substantial hiss and noise throughout, and Dead Eyes has a prominent buzz and rattle on occasion that I found quite irritating. Fidelity is quite low, and the sloppy dubbing job doesn't help much.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
- Movie program reproduction
- Still gallery
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsAn entertaining double feature, though the transfers leave quite a bit to be desired. At least they're widescreen, which is a step up for Retromedia.
Mark Zimmer 2004-05-11