Country: WEST GERMANY/DENMARK
Der Frosch mit der Maske
Face of the Frog
I’ve felt for quite some time certain dissatisfaction with the amount of column inches afforded to the Edgar Wallace krimi cycle within cult circles. This particular series of films has become one of the major losers in discussions of cult film. It becomes all the more surprising when one considers its close proximity to the Italian giallo. Whilst popular Italian cycles have enjoyed fetishistic attention (I myself am a party to this) others have been bizarrely written out of history. Of course part of the problem lies in the area of distribution, but of the forty titles that make up the Rialto produced Edgar Wallace series (the so called ‘official’ cycle), all have enjoyed legitimate DVD releases. When one goes beyond the Rialto films, one discovers a number of cash-ins based on the work of his son Bryan Edgar Wallace, and numerous films that weren’t based on either Wallace, but instead imitated the conventions of the Rialto films. These titles are much harder to track down, but then what else is a film scholar supposed to do? It’s important to remember that the term krimi in German simply refers to any film featuring elements of crime, murder, and detection; therefore the Wallace films do not have ownership of it. But what they do have is a style and mood all of their own, and hopefully over the coming months we can explore it together.
Sadly one of the major failings of Fellowship of the Frog is that for a film with such a slight running time it has far too many supporting characters and subplots. In addition too the Scotland Yard investigation we also have an amateur investigation from gentleman sleuth Richard Gordon (Joachim Fuchsberger) who is ably assisted by his well spoken butler (Eddi Aren’t). Muddying the waters even further are the Bennett family, all three members of the family are given subplots…the least successful of which features Ray (Walter Wilz) and his relationship with femme fatale Lolita, and how he becomes an unwitting stooge for The Frog. This plot strand fails because Wilz is unable to make Ray a sympathetic character. The Frog’s fascination with Ella (Elfie von Kalckreuth) is one of the more fanciful aspects of the plot; it just doesn’t ring true that a criminal mastermind such as this would risk everything because of an infantile schoolboy crush. But the most ill thought out plot point has to be the one that centres on the mythical character of Harry Lime. In addition to all these elements we also have sundry kidnappings, numerous murders, and numerous seductions. You’ll struggle to find a busier 87 minute movie anywhere.
© Shaun Anderson 2012