Directors: Edwin Zbonek, Helmut Ashley
Retromedia/Image Entertainment

Retromedia Entertainment (who earlier paired DARK EYES OF LONDON with THE GHOST) presents this double bill of German-made "Krimi" (Deutschland's lingo for crime thriller) movies, one based on a novel by Edgar Wallace ("King Kong") and the other one comes from the pen of his lesser-known son, Bryan Edgar Wallace. Like a number of other early 1960s thrillers based on the work of the Wallaces (THE MAD EXECUTIONERS, THE PHANTOM OF SOHO, THE STANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE), this was dubbed into English and shown repeatedly on late-night TV in the U.S.

THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY: In London in the present time of 1964, prostitutes are being found viciously murdered in the same style of the infamous “Jack the Ripper” many years earlier. At the same time, a successful “grand guignol” style play about the Ripper is enjoying a nice run, with famous stage actor Richard Sand (Hansjörg Felmy) in the lead. It is later revealed that Sand is a former drug addict who spent time in a sanitarium, which doesn’t help matters when he’s the main suspect and engaged to the beautiful Ann Morlay (Marianne Koch, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS), niece of Sir George (Fritz Tillmann), one of the members of parliament who wants the play shut down. The murders continue, with the Scotland Yard police on trail of a number of suspects, and the city is in a state of panic and fear, wanting the real modern-day Ripper brought to justice.

Based on a novel by the younger Wallace, THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY ("Das Ungeheuer von London City") is not a favorite among Krimi enthusiasts, but that’s not to say it’s not a total disappointment. The murders are very stylish, with the Ripper stalking ladies of the evening in dark street corners, sometimes utilizing some very effective shadowy imagery. It’s a very busy thriller to say the least, with lively characters and a simple but engaging plot, with the killings being pretty violent for the early 1960s, and there’s even brief glimpses of bare breasts and buttocks in check. Like a number of other Krimis of the period, comic relief is also on hand, here in the form of a bumbling husband and wife private detective team who get into all sorts of crazy predicaments to capture Saucy Jack: The wife secures the lead in the play and nearly gets stabbed by a real knife which was thought to be a rubber prop in one of the more memorable bits. The music by Martin Böttcher (who scored so many of these, including CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND and THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS) is properly jazzy and over the top.

Based on Edgar Wallace’s When the Gangs Came to London, THE SECRET OF THE RED ORCHID (“Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee”) is a tale of two rivaling American crime gangs who wreak havoc in London to blackmail wealthy men out of loads of cash. Murders are committed, and Scotland Yard brings in a top FBI man to head an investigation. But never mind the rather mundane plot, because you have Christopher Lee, Adrian Hoven (star of CAVE OF THE LIVING DEAD and producer of MARK OF THE DEVIL), Marisa Mell (DANGER: DIABOLIK) and Klaus Kinski all in the same film! Here’s a nostalgic slice of pulp which contains deliveries of exploding flowers, a comic butler whose presence causes death for his various employers, a sleazy looking Kinski as a Chicago gangster (!) and dapper Lee as an FBI captain! Like in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE, Lee had his voice dubbed by another actor (sounding completely flat and nothing like him), although he originally spoke his lines in German for the homeland version. Lee and Kinski had previously starred together in another Krimi, THE DEVIL'S DAFFODIL. Austrian-born director Helmut Ashley was a former cinematographer whose career goes back to the 1940s.

THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY is presented in its original 2.35:1 “Ultrascope” aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The transfer delivers a very handsome presentation, and the black and white film looks quite sharp with a good level of detail. Only some minor blemishes come in the form of some light print lines and some flickering in darker scenes, but otherwise, it looks great and is the fully uncut German version. Transferred from a clean full frame source, THE SECRET OF THE RED ORCHID also looks good and clocks in at the correct running time. The black and white image is fairly sharp, with some hints of fine grain, and even though it’s slightly cropped, the compositions never look too badly compromised. The English-dubbed audio on both titles is fine. There are no extras on the disc, but there’s a collectible 4-page glossy reproduction of the original German program for RED ORCHID, and the back cover has liner notes by Eric Hoffman. Recommended! (George R. Reis)