10 August 2015 | Bunuel1976
THE DEVIL'S DAFFODIL (Akos von Rathony, 1961) ***
I have still barely scraped the surface of the popular "Krimi" thrillers made in Germany between the late 1950s and the early 1970s; this one – atypically, a British co-production filmed simultaneously (on location in London) in both languages – is, however, easily among the better entries that I have come across. The reasons for this are mainly due to an above-average cast that includes regulars Joachim Fuchsberger and Klaus Kinski, along with the likes of Christopher Lee, Marius Goring, Albert Lieven and Walter Gotell, and the striking monochrome cinematography by the renowned Desmond Dickinson (though the credit titles are appealingly displayed in red).
The expected murder sequences are reasonably well-staged (though an old-wheelchair-bound-woman-falling-downstairs bit is entirely gratuitous!) – one of them, occurring at night in the busy Piccadilly Circus area, is especially evocative of a classic Hitchcockian set-piece; eroticism, another gene requisite, is briefly touched upon here in a titillating nightclub act. By the way, the film was only the second effort I have watched from this director, and the result is certainly a more substantial achievement than CAVE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964) – its chief liability being the unconvincing screams from the various female victims/damsels-in-distress throughout!
The complex Edgar Wallace (from whose extensive work and that of his son, Bryan Edgar, all these flicks were derived) plot involves the ostensibly harmless importing of the titular flower serving as a front for heroin smuggling; twists relating to the identity of two of its principal characters are belatedly, yet effectively, incorporated into the fray. On the trail of the culprits are airline investigator Fuchsberger and Oriental sleuth Lee (coming across like a more ruthless Charlie Chan – complete with a steady flow of aphorisms, at one point causing a woman particularly unreceptive to his genial wit exclaiming "Sod off, Confucius!" to his face).
Actually, it is amusing to note how the film plays havoc with nationalities – where Germans are not only made to pass off as English, but the only true Brit on hand (albeit speaking in fluent German for the duration) is saddled with an Asian countenance! As for Kinski, he surprisingly plays it cool for the most part – with his signature intensity only emerging at the climax. Interestingly, too, Goring, Lee and Lieven would be reteamed for next year's similarly-titled British espionage thriller THE DEVIL'S AGENT (a recent viewing in my continuing marathon of Lee movies). Incidentally, I recall coming across a small poster of this in an old film scrapbook of my Dad's many years ago under its British moniker...since it was later retitled DAFFODIL KILLER for U.S. consumption.