25 December 2018 | Coventry
German serial killers are the meanest and most disturbing.
There's nothing as intense and disturbing as German-produced serial killer films, especially when they are inspired by raw, macabre factual cases, like "M" (Peter Kürten), "The Tenderness of Wolves" (Fritz Haarmann) and "Angst" (Werner Kniesek). Okay, admittedly, that last one is 100% Austrian, but also and truly one of the most harrowingly realistic thrillers ever made. "The Devil Strikes at Night" is another masterpiece that fits into this category, as it's based on serial murderer Bruno Lüdke and very accurately depicts the period and the circumstances of his arrest in Berlin during the summer of 1944. Mario Adorf, still in one of the earliest roles of his rich career, impressively portrays the strong and potent but mentally disabled Lüdke. He breaks through the cork of a wine bottle with the tip of one finger, but he also occasionally feels the incontrollable urge to strangle young women, like the Hamburg waitress Lucy Hansen. Her lover, Willi Keun, is wrongfully arrested for the murder and sentenced to death, but you don't really care since he's a Nazi commander and a sleazy pervert. Commissioner Axel Kersten, however, does believe in justice and connects the murder to several ones that took place before the war. He unmasks Lüdke, but this isn't good news for SS-Gruppenfuhrer Rossdorf because he doesn't like the idea of a handicapped Aryan being able to remain below the radar in their superior Third Reich. Master director Robert Siodmak ("The Spiral Staircase") returns to Germany to portray his native country how it really was during World War II: corrupt, ugly, hypocrite and completely devoid of honest and honorable men! It's not a very exciting or action-packed thriller, but it's hugely atmospheric, depressing and wonderfully shot by Georg Krause. My inner horror fanatic is somewhat disappointed that a killer suspected of 51 murders is only seen strangling one victim, but Siodmak opted to put all his energy into the drawing of Lüdke as an atypical serial murderer and the slow but certain extirpation of Nazism.