There have been rumors of a ghost haunting the abbey next to Chelford manor. The ghost is called the Black Abbott. The rumor says he is guarding a treasure hidden somewhere on the grounds. Now there has been a murder in the abbey. Mr. Smooth (Kurd Pieritz), the man next door was found stabbed in the back. Scotland Yard is called. Detective Puddler (Charles Regnier) and his assistant Horatio Smith (Eddi Arent) are called in to investigate.
Chelford Manor is the home of Lord Harry Chelford (Dieter Borsche). Harry is the last of the Chelfords. Word is the family is cursed with a hereditary disease that renders the afflicted insane. Supposedly that was what his mother Lady Chelford (Alice Treff) suffered from. Harry is watched carefully by his cousin and steward of the manor Dick Alford (Joachim Fuchsberger). To try to maintain the family heritage Harry is engaged to Leslie Gine (Grit Boettcher). Leslie’s brother Arthur Gine is the family attorney.
When Detective Puddler arrives he recognized the family butler Thomas Fortuna (Klaus Kinski) as a former inmate of Dartmoor prison. While investigating the murder Puddler finds out all kinds of hidden secrets about the Chelford household. Arthur embezzled from the Chelford estate and is being blackmailed by his clerk, Fabian Gilder (Werner Peters). Gilder wants Arthur to have Leslie break her engagement with Harry and marry him. Harry’s former secretary Mary Wenner (Eva Ingeborg Scholz) wants to be Lady Chelford and thinks finding the treasure may give her an edge.
Mary decides to go in league with Gilder to find the treasure. They find some scrolls that are a map of the abbey. The Black Abbot shows up and they flee in terror but return to find the scrolls gone. Harry, having found the scrolls, tries to piece together where the treasure is. Everyone ends up slinking around the grounds of the manor and abbey for various reasons, mostly looking for the supposed treasure. More people end up dead, not all of them by the Black Abbot. Lord Chelford, now fully in the grip of insanity, hatches his own plans looking for the treasure. Puddler and Smith have their hands full trying to keep everyone in check and determining who killed who. In addition there seems to be more than one Black Abbot haunting the Fossoway Abbey.
“The Black Abbot” AKA “Der Schwarze Abt” was released in 1963 and was directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb. It is a West German mystery film and a krimi. It is loosely based on Edgar Wallace’s 1926 novel “The Black Abbot” and is the thirteenth film based on his works.
As krimis go this one had the requisite plot variances but when you look at the general theme of the film you’ll find that greed is the main idea. Just about everyone is either blackmailing everyone else or snooping around looking for treasure. These busy mysteries with lots of characters and various suspects provide some unintentional humor. The intentional humor is supposed to be provided by Eddi Arent as Horatio Smith. Eddi has a tendency to be the comic relief in krimis. Joachim Fuchsberger, on the other hand, usually plays the hero. Contrast him with Klaus Kinski, who is quite often whatever slimy character is needed.
The murder before the beginning credits is another krimi thing. Then there is a lot of talking and character establishment. Things don’t really get popping until the last half hour but the story was decent and the gothic atmosphere good. Altogether it was an entertaining krimi.
Schloss Herdringen Castle in Arnsberg, Germany was used as Chelford Manor. The castle was built between 1844 and 1853 by architect Ernst Friedrich Zwirner. The castle is in the gothic revival style.