Thursday, June 7, 2012

REVIEW: Zimmer 13

Zimmer 13
Director: Harald Reinl
Year 1964
Zimmer 13, AKA Room 13, is a moody Krimi film that spends a great deal of time relying on its gothic and crime infused themes, while unraveling out a caper filled with blackmail, kidnapping, and murder. The tone of the film is dark, emphasizing the seedy underbelly of this cinematic criminal world, and the filmmakers only sprinkle a few comedic pinches every now and then so as not to drown the audience in its overwhelmingly dire atmosphere. With its beautifully haunting black and white photography and its mystery laced narrative, Zimmer 13 is a Krimi with exceptional quality.
The film begins with infamous gangster Joe Legge, blackmailing a respectable London man named Sir Robert Marney, in order for him to help out with a train heist that he’s planning. The reluctant Sir Robert refuses the proposal forcing Legge to threaten to kill Marney’s daughter unless he gives some unspecified help when the time comes. Fearing for his daughter’s safety, Marney enlists the help of a private detective named Johnny Gray, London’s top man. With the stage set and the players presented, all the clues of this mad caper begin to point to a nightclub called Highlow, where a rash of girls have been recently murdered by an unknown serial-killer. Do the train heist and the string of murders have an underlying connection; is the murderer among them; and what the hell is the mysterious Room 13 that the title is referring to? All of these question and more are answered in this excellent Krimi entry that has atmosphere to spare and enough entertainment value to fill a room…. Possibly Room 13. Mwahahaha! 

Joachim Fuchsberger plays the role of Johnny Gray, the private detective with a soft spot for the ladies. Joachim is a regular in the Krimi world, and his go at the role of Johnny Gray is serious and straight forward. He’s far more focused in this entry then in Der Hexer, where he played more of a comedic role in the film rather than a hard-boiled detective up against some insurmountable odds. Either way you slice it, I enjoy anything that Joachim puts out and his approach to Johnny Gray in Zimmer 13 is a well-rounded performance that hits all the right notes to compliment the already excellent atmosphere the film establishes. In the film, Johnny Gray falls for the beautiful daughter of Sir Robert Marney and their courtship and pairing is inspiring, making it puzzling that the film kind of ends on a cold note between the two with Johnny showing little to no emotion when their lives swirl wildly out of control and their relationship unpredictably becomes severed. Be that as it may, the chemistry between the two is remarkably portrayed making their bitter destiny all the more tragic.
As mentioned above, one of the other central roles of the film aside from the character of Johnny Gray, is the daughter of Sir Robert Marney, Denise, played by the enchanting Karin Dor. I’ve only recently been aware of this wonderfully intoxicating actress after seeing her perform in the wild Eurospy, Upperseven, where she absolutely stole the limelight from her male counterpart every time she graced the screen. Karin does much the same thing in Zimmer 13, as she demands the viewers attention each time she hauntingly stares off into the distance pondering what horrible things will happen to her character as the film progresses. What is nice about this movie is that it is split right down the middle in giving each main character the screen time they deserve. Both Johnny Gray and Denise Marney are given ample opportunity to hook the audience into their lives, forcing them to give a damn on whether they live or die. Karin does an exceptional job with her character and the black and white imagery compliments her beauty in all the right places.

Aside from the two main players of the piece, Johnny Gray and Denise Marney, the film is filled with a vast cast of memorable characters. Some like Sir Robert Marney, played by Walter Rilla, or Joe Legge, played by Richard Haussler, are inherently in step with the tone and feel of the narrative. They’re personalities gel perfectly with the dire situations that they find themselves in, but there are a few minor characters that stand out like a sore thumb because of the total contrast of their personality to the film’s overbearing tone. One in particular is the role of Dr. Higgins, played by Eddi Arent, who brings a heavy dose of comedy to his character, which in the end, feels wholly out of place, yet highly entertaining. Higgins is a scientist for Scotland Yard, and he is basically the Krimi version of Q from the James Bond series, except that he has an unhealthy obsession with a mannequin named Emily. Say what? Yeah the concept is really out there and excruciatingly out of place within this narrative, but I really enjoyed the inclusion of his character, even if he did kind of derail the atmospheric tone from time to time.

Even with the existence of such an odd and comedic infused character as Higgins, the film can’t help being extremely atmospheric and unabashedly dark in its portrayal of this sinister crime filled caper. This gothic/noir blend is beautifully imagined, taking the iconic imagery from both genres and blending it into one breathtaking amalgam that just looks absolutely exquisite. The locations also add to the atmosphere of the piece, with one in particular exuding a creepy presence that captures the tone of the film perfectly and that would be the entrance to Sir Robert Marney’s mansion. The long drive up to the estate is lined with rows upon rows of lifeless trees that sway terrifyingly in the cold autumn breeze, mimicking the doom that lies in waiting at the end of the movie for our cast of characters. I really couldn’t get enough of that location and I thought that it was a brilliantly placed moment when introducing us to it very early on in the film. If there’s one thing to take away from this Krimi entry, it’s that it succeeds beautifully in creating some wonderful imagery that compliments the overall theme perfectly.

Zimmer 13 is a substantially well made Krimi, that has a few missteps here and there, but nothing that derails the film from being highly entertaining. The atmosphere and tone is top notch, and the locations of the Marney estate and the Highlow nightclub compliment the mood beautifully. As with most Krimi films, the attention to gothic and noir injected imagery is rampantly apparent, and with Zimmer 13 we get that in abundance. The haunting visuals of this movie are simply outstanding and they help maintain that sense of awe and fear that never lets up.

With the inclusion of an outstanding cast, including Joachim Fuchsberger and Karin Dor, the film gives us a mass of characters that really chew up the scenery and push the narrative along, even if it becomes confusing as things get more complicated. The decision to include a comedic relief character into the mix is not a very inspiring one, but in the sake of entertainment Eddi Arent knocks the performance out of the park as he made me laugh a number of times despite the dire situations that were taking place around him. On the whole, Zimmer 13 is an obscure case, where despite its flaws the film still manages to work as an entertaining piece of crime/thriller cinema. Check this gem out and you’ll be cheering that it’s…...

Stand back man or I'll cut ya!

It's the grumpy man stare-down contest.

Is it tea time yet?

No I don't want to sign up for a credit card... I'm about to have SEX!

Good, Bad, I'm the guy with the gun.

Nice ass.

Nice posse.... full of jack asses.

I don't like your hat very much. What do you think of that?

Higgins you pervert.

It's Higgins! The Breast Inspector!

Did I forget to turn the iron off?

Damn that's a sweet ass!

You really do look stupid in that hat.

Screw you buddy! The hat stays on!

Psst..... I farted.

Where the shit is the bathroom? I've got a turtle head poking out!

I want to know who put this weird crystal thing in my room.

Talk about a rude welcome.

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