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Director: Harald Reinl
Cast: Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Dor, Werner Peters, Carl Lange, Eleonora Rossi Drago
Length: 92 min
Rating: FSK: 16
Label: Alive AG
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: German: DTS-HD MA 2.0, English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: German (optional)
They say you can never have too much of a good thing, and filmmakers in West Germany certainly applied this idea when it came to Krimi films. Based on the German for criminal, these were essentially crime thrillers, sometimes with a horrific twist. The series of films was initially born from a Dutch owned company Rialto who released their first entry into the genre in 1959 with The Fellowship of the Frog (Face of the Frog). This inspired a whole horde of related films—based on the work of writer Edgar Wallace—that carried on right into the early seventies. Germany already had a long-standing tradition with cinematic adaptations of Wallace’s work, and the material proved popular with sparse post-war cinema audiences who wanted something light and entertaining. Such was the draw of these types of films, feeding into an obvious National passion for pulp thrillers, that the industry was soon able to get itself back on track—although sadly never above pre-war status. However the Krimi genre was a key player in re-establishing Germany as a cinematic voice after the Second World War, becoming a huge part of the industry’s bread and butter that kept its economy afloat for some time.
Obviously with such a winning formula other production companies wanted to get in on the act. Cue the production behind Der Teppich des Grauens (1962); a cross-continental union between German, Italian and Spanish companies. With Rialto owning the rights to most of the Edgar Wallace material, other companies had to look farther afield. So it was that the work of obscure German writer Louis Weinert-Wilton was used; a writer little known outside his native land. Four films were made based around Weinert-Wilton’s books—not all by the same production company. Der Teppich des Grauens was to be the first.
Now this slightly obscure entry into the Krimi vaults hits Blu-ray for the very first time, courtesy of German label, Alive AG, in a beautifully restored, English-friendly version.
Once you have got past the realization that the only remotely horrific thing about The Carpet of Horror (the English translation for Der Teppich des Grauens) is the extremely misleading title—no horror, and carpets play a very small part in the proceedings—what you are left with is a fairly entertaining, although somewhat convoluted crime thriller.
The crux of the plot revolves around a crime syndicate and an unknown murderer—presented as a standard shadowy gloved killer (an influence heavily used in the Italian giallo genre later on). This is a murderer with a twist, however; instead of getting their leather clad hands dirty with blood, this shady character uses an innovative method to dispatch their victims—using biological warfare of sorts. With a handy little ball, which resembles one of those fancy bath bombs you put in the tub, the killer doesn’t even have to get in touching distance of their victims. Once thrown into an area a noxious gas is omitted from the seemingly innocent looking powdery ball. This is where the carpet comes in, apparently reacting with the chemical when it hits the floor and thus encouraging a formation of poisonous gas. Under the circumstances the poor victim can do nothing but choke out their last breaths in what looks like an extremely uncomfortable death. Viewers are treated to a few of these and they are all acted out with a heavy dose of sinister camp and, in a couple of instances, hammy melodrama—all adding to the entertainment value of course.
Bundle in an elusive crime lord, secret service agents, bumbling cops, an heiress, a twee love angle and some cockney gangsters—along with some fabulously staged punch-up scenes and terrible Mockney accents on the English dub track—and you have the essence of Der Teppich des Grauens. The plot does get bogged down from time to time, especially with the sheer amount of players involved, and copious red herrings thrown around, but the reveal is nevertheless worth the wait—if only to revel in the stupidity of the final moments, and the unintentional comedy value it holds.
Buying into the whole Krimi tradition the film utilizes a number of names associated with the Rialto series of films. Director Harald Reinl, for instance, made a respectable contribution to the genre. Here Reinl takes the lead and makes the best of what he has. This is evident especially in his handling of the night-time scenes which he manages to instill with a certain amount of creepy atmosphere. The choice of chiaroscuro lighting gives some of these moments a uniquely Gothic feel. At other times, due to the heavy emphasis on organised crime headed by an arch villain, the director summons an energy that feels not unlike the Dr. Mabuse films of Fritz Lang.
Krimi regular Joachim Fuchsberger steps in as heroic lead Harry Rafold, a character that plays out as the standard heroic lead associated with this type of film. The same can be said for former Bond Girl Karin Dor as the heiress and female lead, Ann Learner (the actress was married to director Reinl at the time this film was made). Dor makes for a beautiful presence on screen, but provides a rather one-dimensional character that appears to be there to just go with the flow and fall in love with the hero in the process. Dor took on a number of these roles—the actress being to the Krimi what Edwige Fenech was to the giallo (just without Fenech’s trademark nudity)—and was another familiar face obviously used to establish this film as a contender alongside the Rialto originals. Interestingly, the choice of sidekick for Fuchberger’s character Rafold, Bob, is played by a black actor Pierre Besari in this instance. Given the time and place the film was made, and the fact that a huge deal is not made over Besari’s racial background, this could be considered quite forward-thinking. That’s not to say there are not a few awkward moments to be found. For instance when the character is seen dressed up in clothes like a bell hop, and the several references that are made to the character’s status of servant to the main hero certainly date the piece. Final mention with regards to the cast has to go to Eleonora Rossi Drago as Mabel Hughes, who provides a much needed hint of the sultry femme fatale, but sadly does not get nearly enough scenes—it has to be said her performance certainly does liven things up a much needed notch.
Der Teppich des Grauens looks quite good on Blu-ray, especially when you consider its status as a relatively obscure film. The quality of the print is most evident in the night time scenes which present as clear and well lit, allowing the viewer to really absorb the delights of light and shadow, and the marvelous sense of Gothic atmosphere this creates. Film grain is present, but is light. Close-ups on faces and other details remain clear, strongly defined and free from the artificial waxy look that a heavy hand on the DNR can produce. Contrast is a little inconsistent, as is the sharpness of some of the shots. But this seems to stem from the low-budget source material, rather than the transfer process to BD. In all, this seems like a faithfully reproduced image.
In line with the quality of the print, the audio here is presented as clear and no distortion was detected, especially on the higher and lower vocal registers. The soundtrack comes well mixed and is free from crackles and hiss.
The only extras included on this release from Alive AG is a booklet, written in German, with background information on the film’s production, and about two dozen German trailers from vintage crime thrillers that are rather entertaining in and of themselves, when taken as a whole.
Although Der Teppich des Grauens perhaps does not hit the highs of the Rialto Krimi work, it is nevertheless a fun and entertaining piece, worth seeking out for those who enjoy a classic crime thriller. The plot does tend to get bogged down from time to time, but the innovative use of a poisoner as the main villain, the little moments of unintentional camp comedy, and overall bizarre reveal to top things off, make this a piece worth seeking out. Alive AG has done a fabulous job on this release providing a faithful and quality upgrade to Blu-ray and making this lesser known title available to the wider audience.