Thursday, July 26, 2012

REVIEW: The Indian Scarf

The Indian Scarf
Director: Alfred Vohrer
Year 1963

The Indian Scarf is another wonderful cinematic Krimi adaption based on the Edgar Wallace novel of the same name. Directed by genre veteran Alfred Vohrer, the film displays some outstanding atmospheric shots combined with an eclectic cast of characters that transform this movie into an engaging whodunit story in which bodies literally begin to pile up as a mad killer stalks the visitors of a luxurious estate. With an enjoyable combination of horror, comedy, and intrigue, The Indian Scarf does a tremendous job in juggling all of these varying elements in order to deliver a Krimi entry that seems inspirational material for future sub-genres such as the Italian giallo movies and 80’s slasher flicks.

The film begins with the murder of Lord Edward Lebanon, a wealthy man, who violently leaves this world by the hands of a gloved killer armed with an Indian scarf. After the millionaire’s untimely death, his greedy relatives are called to the estate to witness the reading of the will, each foaming at the mouth in anticipation over receiving a hefty inheritance. To their dismay, they come to find that there is a stipulation that requires them to spend a week in the castle together in order for them to receive their money. With bad blood abound and long standing feuds reaching unbearable levels, the simple act of staying on the castle grounds for a week becomes a struggle for survival, for there is a murderer in their midst. One by one, family members begin dropping like flies, as the bulk of the inheritance finds fewer people to divvy up between. Is the killer one of them acting out an opportunistic plot, or is there something far more sinister and strange going on with this rash of killings? In true Krimi fashion, The Indian Scarf is an intricately played out murder mystery that always keeps the audience guessing as it narrows down the playing field in the most entertaining of ways.

Heinz Drache plays the role of Frank Tanner, the executor of Lord Edward Lebanon’s estate and reader of the will. Heinz Drache is no stranger to the Krimi genre, having starred in a number of excellent entries in which he did some rather admiral work, and in this entry he proves he’s a master of the genre. Having recently seen his performance in Der Hexer, playing the role of James W. Wesby, I have to say that he is an enjoyable actor that really brings a sense of respectability to the various characters that he undertakes. In this film, Heinz takes on the form of a detective so to speak, as he tries desperately to figure out who the real killer is within the group. The position of trying to wrangle all of these characters together and pick apart their personal grudges is a massive undertaking, and the story takes so many twists and turns that you often find yourself wondering if Heinz’s Frank Tanner is behind the murders, so the fact that Drache was able to sustain such a memorable and established character is a great example of his pull and validity as an actor.

The rest of the ensemble cast is a sight to behold, filled with such interesting vagrants as a dubious priest named Reverend Hastings played by Alexander Engel, a drugged up artist named Peter Ross played by Klaus Kinski, a venomous widower named Emily Lebanon played by Elisabeth Flickenschildt, a large monster of a man named Chiko played by Ady Berber, and an unusually silly butler named Richard Maria Bonwit played by the always entertaining Eddi Arent. Eddi especially carries a great deal of the film with his strange wit and unorthodox approach to the dire material. Eddi Arent was usually type-cast in these Krimi entries as the comic relief. Mostly his sole purpose in these films was to lighten the mood of the piece and bring about a sense of fun to the mostly dismal proceedings. When I was first introduced to his work, I felt the contrast of his performance quite shocking and unusual, but the inclusion of his presence in these types of films makes for an obtuse concoction that adds a delightful sense of fun into the mix. In The Indian Scarf, Eddi milks this unorthodox formula for all it’s worth, giving some exceptionally hilarious performances that seem like a toned down version of Tim Curry’s portrayal of the madcap butler from Clue. Eddi Arent and the rest of the cast do a remarkable job in filling out their respective roles, and their execution allows the film to feel lived in and tremendously diverse.

Like most Krimi entries, The Indian Scarf has a great abundance of atmosphere and tonal ambiguity, as it flaunts its delicate balance of horror and comedy. With the main plot of the film showcasing a group of people being murdered, one after the other, you would think that the movie would be a strictly down trodden affair, but it is played out in such a tongue and cheek manner that it begins to turn into a fun murder mystery, albeit one that has a twisted sense of humor. This is clearly represented by the character of Richard Maria Bonwit, played by Eddie Arent. Each time a family member bites the dust, Eddi’s butler character quietly begins taking away one place setting at the dinner table, simply and calmly informing the rest of the surviving guests that another person has been murdered. His nonchalant delivery of these lines is priceless in their emotionally void resonance and the reaction by the rest of the cast is unusual to say the least. The unconventional tone that is established in these scenes is perfectly blended against the film’s black comedic undertones, making for a Krimi entry that feels deliciously evil and overwhelmingly fun.

Another aspect of the production that I felt was rather endearing was the implementation of the killer and his method of strangulation as his primary form of dealing out death. The movie felt eerily like a prototype version of an Italian giallo or an 80’s era slasher flick, with its point of view shots and excessive body count. Often at times I had the impression that I was watching a lost gem from one of the aforementioned sub-genres, though one that was under the influence of laughing gas or some other kind of loopy mind altering blend. The gothic imagery that the filmmakers bombard onto the audience and the placement of the characters within this mysterious mansion filled with secrets and hidden passageways, give the film the impression of being in the same ilk as other features that prominently display their antagonist as a masked killer who stalks the entire cast until only a few remain. I thoroughly enjoyed this extraordinarily obscure take on the genre and the cast of backstabbers and opportunistic vagabonds are a joy to see interact.

The Indian Scarf is an extremely enjoyable Krimi film that governs over a slew of interesting characters, while maintaining to keep all of them relevant and prevalent to the storyline. With the abundance of roles to fill within the movie, each player brings their own unique brand of acting to the table and a choice few go above and beyond the call of duty in order to deliver a string of highly memorable performances. Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, and Klaus Kinski especially allow their characters to shine within this topsy turvy world filled with mystery and murder, and their presence in this film is beyond palpable to the overall feel of this devilish Krimi entry.

The mixture of horror tinged atmosphere and comedy infused situations, is superbly executed, resulting in a hybrid that is both thrilling and entertaining to the last drop. The simplistic plot of a murder mystery combined with the wild array of characters that inhabit this fictional world is the perfect recipe for a fantastic Krimi film, and the concept that this all happens within the grounds of a beautifully gothic mansion estate is icing on the cake. The Indian Scarf pulls out all the punches when it comes to delivering a production that is both off the rails crazy and unpredictable, yet in this madness it is still able to rest nicely within the confines of the genre. That is an accomplishment that is easier said than done, but The Indian Scarf achieves this amazing feat with flying colors. If you’re looking for a Krimi film that blends the traditional contrasting concepts of the genre into an ideal mixture of pure entertainment, then look no further. The Indian Scarf is the…..

Someone help! My ascot is on too tight!

You say it was death by ascot? Puzzling indeed.


And so the League of Extraordinarily Weird Gentlemen was born.

Is it hot in here or is it just my kickass goatee?

Straighten your glasses mister or so help me god I'll have you shot!

Well hello there you little pervert.

Eddi likes what he sees.

You call this art Kinski? Looks like Mr. Belvedere.

After reading The Neverending Story,
little Edward longed for a luck-dragon of his own.

These pair of breasts are a real looker!

You just keep smiling at that porthole weirdo.

Eddi Arent you silly.

Will you stop blowing smoke in my face! I've got my own smoke to inhale.

It's ok little Edward. The scary horse won't get you now.

Little Edward you weirdo!

Go for the crotch Fido!

See what happens when you leave banana peels lying around you stupid shit!

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