An aristocratic, sociopathic strangler, Cravatte(Patrick O'Neal, evoking the spirit of Vincent Price with his quietly mad psychopath and demented eyes)in Baltimore(..who removes his handcuffed hand, which was locked to a steel wheel, with an ax after escaping from a train into the sea below a bridge)hides out in New Orleans under a different name, choosing a stunning streetwalker to assist(..unknown to her;she thinks it's a blackmailing scam)him in a series of vengeful crimes retaliating on the key figures who planned to send the killer to the gallows. The true motivation, besides his insanity, that provides him with the desire to kill is the loss of his hand for which he blames the ones who caught him, for being "responsible" for his trauma.
The detective team of the debonair, sophisticated sleuth Anthony Draco(Cesare Danova, with his Italian looks and charm)and his protégé, the cerebral criminologist Harold Blount(the delightful, incredibly likable, unflappable Wilfrid Hyde-White), along with side-kick dwarf assistant Pepe(José René Ruiz),will join forces with local law enforcers Inspector Matthew Strudwick(Philip Bourneuf),at first resisting them as mere amateurs until they help capture the killer at the insistence of Cravatte's blustery, cigar chomping Mrs. Perryman(Jeanette Nolan,chewing scenery as a wealthy multi-married voice of authority, whose monetary contributions and prestigious name certainly carry an influence), and Sgt. Jim Albertson(Wayne Rogers). What makes this Holmes/Watson type sleuthing team so unique is, when they aren't helping their peers solve crimes, that they run a wax museum whose exhibits are based on notorious murderers, their victims & devices.
If you want a proper description of what the film looks and feels like, imagine if William Castle directed a Hammer film. Baltimore is akin to the fog-infested, cobble-stone streets of London . With macabre humor, some lurid elements regarding Cravatte's dwelling places and selection of "adventuress" women, the deranged methods for which the killer does in his victims(..Cravatte uses an assortment of weapons, such as a meat cleaver, surgical knife, and gun, hooked on to a device he ordered connecting to where his missing hand use to be) , the House of Wax setting which never gets old, and a spirited cast who add extra fun to the sordid atmosphere of the premise. For a film made for a television audience, this is a good looking production....great sets, costumes, use of shadow, and professional camera-work. Director Hy Averback might be looked at as a hack, because his film seems so similar to other directors and companies churning out these type of films at the time but his smörgåsbord of ideas and styles impressed the hell out of me. I think a lot of horror aficionado/buffs will have fun with this one.
I think some might penalize this for not being too original. The "House of Wax" setting, which I've always been a fan of, really provides some very amusing bits not to mention the final showdown between our hero and the killer, especially in how Cravatte meets his end. But, the setting has been used before. The killer's affliction, by his own hand, and how he murders folks, has been seen before..the idea of a hook-handed killer doesn't exactly seem fresh, even at that time in 1966. And, many might find the two gimmicks of the "fear flash" and "horror horn", which were all the rage back then, rather hokey. I dunno..I find these gimmicks an amusing part of a cinema from yesteryear. While the story is indeed a wicked one, it's still a film made with a television's audience in mind, so sadly the violent elements are tame, off-screen stuff. Marie Windsor, as a brothel's Madame who lends her place to Cravatte as a hideout because he pays well, and Tony Curtis as a card-playing client in the Red Light District, have small roles.