The Mad Executioners (1963)
aka….. Der Henker von London
From the pen of Bryan Edgar Wallace comes this screen adaptation of his novel White Carpet by way of screenwriter Robert A. Stemmle. It’s the joining of the vigilante genre and the mad doctor features minus Boris Karloff. Might I add it’s kind of fun.
Think Magnum Force combined with The Star Chamber. A dash of Giallo featuring Karloff or Bela during his Monogram days.
In the damp underground of catacombs beneath a cemetery, a kangaroo court featuring men in hooded robes conduct a trial where the penalty is death by hanging . The defendant is promptly gagged and hanged from London Bridge over the river Thames. We are soon to find out that he is the third such victim that has Scotland Yard baffled.
Chief Inspector Wolfgang Preiss has assigned young officer Hansjorg Felmy to the case that sees another hanging shortly thereafter of a man who claimed insurance money over his brother’s supposed accidental death in which a body was never recovered. The hooded figures expose the man to his deceit and promptly hang him from an insurance billboard advertisement. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek at times in this black and white chiller.
The police are in a dilemma. Crime is down and the hooded cult are taking out criminals that have escaped the law. Still they are murderers and Preiss wants results. Felmy believes that there may be someone working for the Yard involved in the kangaroo court proceedings. It might even be the retired judge Sir Francis who happens to be the father of his girl, Maria Perschy.
Running parallel to this case that has the Yard baffled is another more gruesome set of murders where young women are found beheaded. One of the victims turns out to be Detective Felmy’s sister. He wants the case and transfers from the vigilante killings to find the madman of these heinous crimes. Perschy wants to help and along with her lover, serves as bait to the fiend on the loose.
Sure there’s a lot going on here in this dubbed German film with the England setting. Did I mention there’s a reporter who continually shows up in various disguises as he attempts to help the police solve the crimes while offering comedy relief? For a bit I thought the film might be losing it’s way but the two crime cases intersect to bring both problems to satisfying results and of course the unveiling of the lead hooded figure may come as a surprise at the payoff.
This black and white effort does well mixing a gothic chill to the underground proceedings when the hooded figures are on screen casting their votes as to the guilt of the men before them. Night scenes of fog shrouded horse and carriages coming and going only serve as a bonus to the overall effect.
Still it’s a modern day mystery that I suppose takes place at the time of the film’s release in the mid sixties. The team from this film including writer Stemmle and it’s director Edwin Zbonek would also adapt another Wallace story for 1964’s Monster of London City. That feature also had leading actor Felmy starring.
Retromedia put this out on DVD a few years back with some ultra cool cover art if you care to look for it.