The Hand of Power (1968)

Country: Germany
Original Title: Im Banne des Unheimlichen
AKA: The Zombie Walks
Director: Alfred Vohrer
Starring: Joachim Fuchsberger, Siw (Siv) Mattson, Wolfgang Kieling, Pinkas Braun, Claude Farell, Peter Mosbacher, Siegfried Rauch, Lillemor ‘Lill’ Lindfors
Music: Peter Thomas
“The Space of Today” Performed by Lillemor ‘Lill’ Lindfors
Based on the novel, ‘The Hand Of Power’ by Edgar Wallace

Im Banne des Unheimlichen (or The Hand Of Power, as I’ll call it because I don’t speak German), is another adaptation of an Edgar Wallace novel, and although I cannot find any reference to it, I’d guess that The Hand Of Power is a follow up to The College Girl Murders (1967), which was also directed by Alfred Vohrer, and starred Joachim Fuschsberger as Inspector Higgins of Scotland Yard.

When watching a lot of the Edgar Wallace Krimi’s the first thing you have to get over, is that although they are German movies, with a German cast, they are set in England. It can be rather off-putting watching characters scamper around London and the English countryside speaking German. It just seems a little out of place, but I suppose no more than watching a Spaghetti Western in it’s original Italian.

The film itself is a great deal of fun, and it really seems to be trying to be ‘out there’ in a swinging sixties way. The colours are pumped up to psychedelic levels, and even one of the characters is green? Don’t ask! There one bizarre scene in a Mexican restaurant, where there are pigeons flying around inside the establishment. One of them even lands and nests in one of the waitress’s hair, as she walks past. It has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but shows how ‘wild’ this production is.

The film opens in rural England, outside London, at a funeral service for Sir Oliver. Apparently he was a great benefactor to the area, often donating money to the hospital and the church. As the service begins to wind up, and the pallbearers begin to carry the coffin from the church, evil maniacal laughter emanates from the coffin. The bearers drop the coffin in shock. The laughing voice is Sir Oliver’s. A reporter from the London Star newspaper, Peggy Ward (Siw Mattson) was covering the funeral and writes up a story about a ‘laughing corpse’.

Sir Oliver’s Brother, Sir Cecil (Wolfgang Kieling) is now in charge of the Estate, but believes his brother has risen from the dead and is out to get him. His suspicions are confirmed when his lawyer turns up dead. The perpetrator was a man in a skeleton mask, with a black cloak. He kills the lawyer with a scorpion ring, the tail injecting a deadly poison.

Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Inspector Higgins (Joachim Fuchsberger) is assigned the case. Unfortunately for Higgins as the clues and list of suspects grow, so do the pile of corpses at the hands of out skeletal murderer.

Fuchsberger is great at this kind of role, and seems to have a bit more fun with it than usual. In the few films I have seen him in, he always plays a distinguished authority figure but this time he gets to leer at young girls in mini-skirts and has plenty of by-play with Siw Mattson…on a few occasions, their characters have to revive each other with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

One of the highlights for me is when Sabrina (Lillemor ‘Lill’ Lindfors), a professional entertainer in a nightclub, performs the song, “The Space of today”. It is great sixties entertainment.

The thing about Krimis is that they have dated. When they were made, they were supposed to be a little bit scary, but these days, they are pretty tame. Sure there is violence and death but you’d probably see a lot worse on any one of the crime shows on TV these days. Nowdays, you’d call Krimi’s ‘Horror-Lite’, but that does not take away from the fun to be had watching them.

There’s also great whodunit aspect to this story, which I missed completely. I guess I should have seen it coming, but, well, maybe I was a little bit tired. The clues are there, as are the red herrings, but I think an astute viewer can guess the identity of the killer. I am pleased to say that this is not one of those films, where they unmask the killer, and it’s somebody we have never seen before.

All in all, The Hand Of Power is a pleasant ninety minute diversion, particularly if you love sixties cinema.

Here’s the trailer, uploaded to Youtube by RialtoFilms

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