1 February 2005 | k_t_t2001
A lesser entry in the Edgar Wallace series
Edgar Wallace was a popular British author of crime thrillers during the 1920s. Though Wallace himself died in 1932 ( while working on the screenplay for King Kong ) the popularity of his work spawned a number of films based on his novels. Of particular note is a series of German adaptations by Rialto Films, beginning in 1959 and continuing until 1971, that presented the material with a stylish mix of humor and thrills. While this approach led to some very entertaining films, such as DER HEXER, ZIMMER 13, or ROOM 13, is unfortunately one of the poorer entries, being a very predictable and pedestrian affair.
The disappointment begins almost immediately. While the ominous sounding title suggests some significant mystery, ( What, Where, is Room 13? ) it is very quickly revealed that room 13 is about as mysterious as room 222. Ten minutes into the film we learn that room 13 is simply the number of a room in the Highlow nightclub where gangster Joe Legge is planning his next heist. The film attempts to present this theft, a train robbery, as a minutely planned Mission: Impossible style caper, but in fact the whole business essentially consists of pulling the train onto a siding and unloading it.
On the side of the angels is Johnny Gray, played by Wallace series regular Joachim Fuchsberger. Gray is supposedly the greatest private detective in London, which would suggest a marked drop in standards since Sherlock Holmes' day. Gray is brought into the affair by Sir Robert Marney. Legge is threatening that unpleasant things will happen to Marney's daughter, Denise, unless Sir Robert provides some unspecified assistance with his planned robbery, and Gray is hired to protect her. What follows is rather uninspired business with Johnny Gray doing much running around but not much detecting. Often it seems the only progress that Gray actually makes toward solving the case, is when the heavy handed ineptitude of the thieves pushes him toward the solution.
The only actual mystery in the film, is the hidden identity of a maniac who likes to slice women's throats with a straight razor. This subplot seems almost like an afterthought, tacked loosely to the main narrative. Actually it isn't even really much of a mystery, as the film's complete lack of subtlety makes the identity of the killer blatantly obvious very early in the film.
The only real bright spot in the entire production is Eddi Aren't. Aren't is usually on hand in the Rialto Wallace films to provide comedy relief and in ZIMMER 13, he has his work cut out for him. As Higgins, a brilliant, if somewhat odd, police scientist, who is madly in love with his lab mannequin, Emily, Aren't is by far the most interesting thing in the movie. Unfortunately, Aren't alone simply isn't enough, and in the end ZIMMER 13, with its night club setting and hip private detective, feels very much like a less than inspired episode of PETER GUNN.
For fans of the Edgar Wallace mystery thrillers, ZIMMER 13 is available on DVD as part of the Edgar Wallace Collection from Tobis Home Entertainment. This impressive series presents pristine copies of all thirty-three of the Rialto Wallace films in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. Happily, the majority of the DVDs releases in this series feature both German and English audio and subtitle options.