... aka: Monster of London City, The
Some movie villains have had way too much face time in our beloved genre. Count Dracula undoubtedly tops the list of over-filmed horror movie bad guys but if I stretched it out to a Top 10 there's no doubt Jack the Ripper would make the cut. I doubt the real-life Jack, whomever he was, had a clue that he'd become a posthumous film legend while he was out eviscerating hookers. The character has been a frequently subject of numerous films and TV shows over the years, starting way back in the silent era, where he'd pop up in such classics as WAXWORKS (1924), Hitchcock's THE LODGER (1927) and PANDORA'S BOX (1929). His popularity has never waned since then and we still get frequent "ripper" movies to this very day. If they aren't official "ripper" movies then they simple change the name of the character or make the psycho a copycat killer and go about business as usual. The Monster of London City is one of these and it also falls into the krimi subgenre. The krimni were black-and-white pulp crime films - often with a horror bent and almost always filmed in West Germany - that were very popular in Europe throughout the 60s. A majority of these were based on novels written by Edgar Wallace or, in this case, his son Bryan Edgar Wallace.
Instead of taking place in turn-of-the-century London, Monster bumps things up to present-day London. A street hooker is killed and "horribly mutilated." And then another is stabbed after getting into a fight with her pimp. Oh, wait a second. The second "murder" is actually just part of a popular stage play that's so shocking that a woman in the audience passes out while watching it. Members of Parliament want the plug pulled on the show and find it distasteful to be continuing while a ripper-like psycho is really on the loose. The play's star, Richard Sand (Hansjörg Felmy) and his long-time friend, doctor Michael (Dietmar Schönherr) go to meet with Parliament member Sir George Edwards (Fritz Tillmann), who's getting ready to introduce a theatre censorship bill to try to get the play and any other production with questionable material banned. Neither is able to convince Sir George to reconsider his actions. To further complicate matters, Sir George's niece Ann (Marianne Koch) is dating Michael but she's fallen in love with Richard. And the brutal murders continue. The press wants to connect the murders to the play, and they get their wish when one of the actresses - Evelyn Nichols (Gudrun Schmidt) - becomes a victim.
Nearly every male character is a suspect in the crimes. First up is Richard, a former drug addict who spent time in a sanitarium. He now suffers from mental and physical exhaustion from the stress of the play, has recurring nightmares that he murders his female costars in the play and just had a nervous breakdown. His best friend Michael is a doctor, so he knows a thing or two about cutting up bodies. He also knows quite a bit about the Jack the Ripper crimes. At least enough to advise Richard on the role. Mr. Maynor, the director of the play who also wrote it using a pseudonym, couldn't be more thrilled about the murders and sees it all as "fabulous publicity." He makes sure to encourage Richard to step up his game and be more brutal than usual on stage. Horrlick (Walter Pfeil), the stage manager and property master, has a prior conviction for stabbing a man and becomes even more of a suspect when someone substitutes a real knife for a prop knife, which Richard almost uses on one of the actresses. Even the upstanding Sir George, who keeps sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night dressed exactly like the killer in a top hat, trench coat and gloves, isn't about questioning.
Comic relief is injected into the works in the form of bumbling private eye Teddy Flynn (Peer Schmidt) and his jealous girlfriend Betty Ball (Chariklia Baxevanos), who are so poor they don't mind risking their lives trying to catch the killer just for the reward money. Betty manages to land a role in the play, then poses as a hooker. And of course, what would a mystery be without the obligatory police office; in this case Inspector Dorne (Hans Nielsen). A cute little girl who witnessed one of the murders ends up ratting out the killer and naturally it's the person the filmmakers spent the least amount of time trying to cast suspicion upon.
A passable hour-and-a-half of undemanding entertainment, this is technically well-made but offers up little of interest and is thus highly forgettable. It's nicely shot in black-and-white, the horror scenes are stylishly shot, it features some very brief nudity and the English-language dubbing is surprisingly good (the British voice actors used are well above average). Almost all of the violence takes place off-screen. A very decent widescreen print of the film is available through Retromedia.