Director: Harald Reinl

This German-made "Krimi" (the German lingo for crime thriller) is one of many efforts based on a novel by Bryan Edgar Wallace, son of the better-known Edgar Wallace ("King Kong"). Like a number of other early 60s thrillers based on his work (THE MAD EXECUTIONERS, THE PHANTOM OF SOHO, THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY), this was dubbed into English and shown repeatedly on late-night TV in the U.S.

Set in England, Lucius Clark (Rudolf Fernau) is an older man living in Blackmoor Castle. At a dinner party, he announces that he is soon to be knighted, but later that evening, he is visited by a man in dark hood. The mysterious stranger accuses Lucius of stealing some valuable diamonds and claims he is avenging the death of a man named Charles Manning. Since Lucius refuses to tell where the diamonds are, the masked "strangler" goes on a wild killing spree, while the police are now on the hunt for a nine-fingered murderer.

Even if your not familiar with any of these Wallace mysteries which are similar to the "Dr. Mabuse" series, THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE is an entertaining, black & white entry with elements interchangeable with the horror genre. Aside from the masked menace and the adequately gothic castle, there are a several beheadings, resulting in severed heads with the letter "M" marked on the forehead (one of the heads is delivered in a parcel package!). The music by Oskar Sala is ahead of its time in its electronic weirdness, as he utilized the instrument he helped develop--the trautonium, a forerunner to the synthesizer (Sala and his trautonium were also employed for Hitchcock's THE BIRDS).

Among the cast of characters is the lovely Karen Dor, who was a fixture in European thrillers and horror films, and was also a Bond girl in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. As the eccentric diamond-cutting butler, Dieter Eppler is best known to monster fans as the lead bloodsucker in the Italian-made SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES (1962). Stephan Schwartz, who appears as a young boy in the film, is now known for dubbing Tom Cruise's voice in American films for the German market! Ironically, director Reinl was stabbed to death by his wife while in his late 70s.

Alpha's DVD presentation of THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE is pretty decent, and therefore an easily recommended purchase that won't put you back too many bucks. Probably taken from a 16mm print source, the black and white image is a little soft and fuzzy, but overall very clean and bright and easy to watch. Its original hard-matted 1.66:1 aspect ratio has been zoomed into to fill a full screen, but the cropping is not too bad, only lopping off important information on several occasions. The English-dubbed audio has its limitations, but is adequate. (George R. Reis)