A gang of criminals led by a shadowy figure called The Frog have been robbing the homes of the wealthy. Where ever they go they leave a decal of a frog. All the members have a tattoo of a frog burned onto their wrist. The leader of the gang is always disguised. He is dressed in back and wears a black hood with goggle like bug eyes that give him the appearance of a frog. Inspector Hedge/Elk (Siegfried Lowitz) has been having a hard time finding any clues as to who the Frog really is. To add to his troubles an amateur detective named Richard Gordon (Joachim Fuchsberger) has been running his own investigation with the help of his butler James (Eddi Arent). Elk has no choice but to allow Richard to play detective since he is the American nephew of the very well placed Sir Archibald (Ernest Fritz Furbringer).
Hedge/Elk tries having a man, Inspector Higgins/Genter (Werner Hedman), infiltrate the gang. The newcomer is shown pictures of Ray Bennett (Walter Wilz) and his sister, Ella (Elfie von Kalckreuth). He wants any man seen with Ella killed. When Higgins tries to arrest the Frog he is killed with poison gas and dumped in the country. Footprints at the site lead Richard to John Bennet (Carl Lange). Richard gives the man a ride home and meets his children Ray and Ella. Richard is charmed by Ella unaware that she is being watched by the Frog. Richard is almost killed by one of his minions while walking with her. The would-be killer is given to the police along with the pictures of the Bennet children that he had in his possession. The police know that the Bennets are being targeted by the Frog but they don’t know why.
When Ray gets fired by his boss, Ezra Maitland (Fritz Rasp), he is soon hired by a woman named Lolita (Eva Pfug) who sings at an underworld nightclub named Lolita. The nightclub is actually owned by Maitland and is a front for underworld activity run by the Frog. Ray gets caught up in Lolita’s spell and is framed for murder. Richard begins to think that the Frog is really an evil criminal named Harry Lime. Lime was believed to have died but the body was mutilated and only identified by his papers. Something Robert finds very convenient. Still Robert has no idea if it is true or not and none of this tells him why the Bennets are on the Frog’s radar. Only time will tell.
“Face of the Frog” AKA “Der Frosch mit der Maske” was released in 1959 and was directed by Harald Reinl. It is a West German and Danish crime film known as a krimi. The movie was loosely based on the story “The Fellowship of the Frog” written by Edgar Wallace in 1925. It is also the first in a line of krimi films made primarily in the sixties and seventies. Other versions of the story were done by the U.S. as a serial called “Mark of the Frog” in 1928 that is considered lost and by the UK as “The Frog” in 1937.
There are lots of suspects and a few red herrings to go around. The plot is rather complex and sometimes a little hard to follow but the story is still pretty interesting and there are a couple twists and turns, at least one of which is an OMG moment.
Part of the fun of these krimi films is the fact that a lot of them take place in London. The Germans loved them and went all out trying to copy what England looked like in the sixties and getting a few things wrong. It’s the mistakes that add an interesting touch to the films. “Face of the Frog” established the sub genre but it was refined in subsequent films making the German style British mysteries a fun and entertaining genus of crime thriller.