“The blind monster and his master.”
Inspector Larry Holt (Joachim Fuchsberger), from Scotland Yard, is investigating the death of the latest body fished out of the Thames. The victim appears to have drowned. The autopsy shows no other signs of trauma. It appears the death was either an accident or suicide.
Inspector Holt, however, doesn’t buy it. He thinks all the victims were murdered. They all were wealthy older men from abroad and with sizable insurance policies, all with a company called “The Greenwich Assurance Company”. The latest victim has on him a message left in Braille. Holt suspects that the drownings are the work of a band of murderers known as “The Blind Killers of London”.
Nora Ward (Karin Baal) who is proficient in reading Braille is brought in to assist Holt and his partner, Sergeant Inspector S “Sunny” Harvey (Eddi Arent). When the case leads to the “Home for the Blind” run by Reverend Paul Dearborn (Dieter Borsche), Nora goes undercover at the home. But something in her past puts her front and center in a complicated scheme of blackmail, insurance fraud and murder.
“The Dead Eyes of London” was released in 1961 and was directed by Alfred Vohrer. The original story was written by Edgar Wallace. It was made into a British movie staring Bela Lugosi in 1939 which was released in the US in 1940 under the title “The Human Monster”. This West German production has the same underlying plot but is far more complicated than the 1939 film.
It is also what is known as a krimi. A krimi film is a West German crime thriller that was made popular in the 60’s. It is a sub-genre that influenced the Italian Gialli. Many of Edgar Wallace’s stories were turned into Krimi films. Actually dozens of them. The term krimi refers to Kriminalfilm (or Kriminalroman, a type of novel) translated as criminal or crime film.
The strange thing about krimis is that the sub-genre focuses mostly on British crime stories. To make the story stranger, most of the Edgar Wallace stories were produced for the West German audience by the Danish company Rialto Film. Rialto bought the rights to 32 of Wallace’s stories in the late 50’s. These 32 stories comprise the heart of the krimi genre. Over the next decade Rialto produced all of them. Critics hated them, the German masses loved them. “The Dead Eyes of London” is one of those films.
I found the film to be quite charming. It's the West German/Danish interpretation of what a British gumshoe is suppose to be like. Actually it’s more the West German/Danish interpretation that inspectors from Scotland Yard are supposed to act like American gumshoes. Either way it’s adorable. It did, however, get rather complicated plot wise so keeping up with everything going on could be a little difficult. Some may find it a little long winded due to the extra characters and red herrings but if you can get into it there is plenty of fog shrouded, gothic atmosphere as well as light comic relief moments from the “Mary Poppins” style sidekick. It is a typical Krimi combination of genres including thriller/noir/gothic/mystery/crime and whatever other nuance comes along. Maybe not for everyone but if you like soft-boiled detective mysteries it might strike your fancy.