Every Saturday in August, Brennan Klein will be subbing in for Summer of Blood by exploring a German krimi film from the 1960's.

We're approaching the end of our overview of the German krimi cycle, and as anyone who reads Summer of Blood surely knows by now, the tail end of a subgenre's boom is when things tend to go a bit off the rails. The late 80's are when you start to get films like either the lunatic rock 'n roll driller killer thriller Slumber Party Massacre II or the utterly drab retread that is Cheerleader Camp. Luckily this 1967 feature, hailing from a year about one off from the krimi's ultimate demise, is a stalwart member of the former category. We're covering Die Blaue Hand (The Creature with the Blue Hand), and at the risk of rendering the rest of my entire review superfluous, I'll tell you up front that this one stars Klaus Kinski as twin brothers.

As if you needed more plot than that, I'll run through the rest of the setup. Dave Emerson (Kinski) is a member of a large aristocratic family in Britain ruled by the steely Lady Emerson (Ilse Steppat). The only other members that you really need to know are Dave's twin brother Richard (Kinski), and their lovely younger sister Myrna (Diana Körner). There's always a lovely relative hiding in the wings somewhere in these movies. Dave has been sent to an insane asylum following the murder of their gardener, even though he insists he's innocent. He escapes the clutches of the cruel Dr. Mangrove (Carl Lange) and swaps places with Richard at their country estate, but right as he arrives at home the murder begins anew. A killer in a hood with a single eyehole is stalking the grounds stabbing people to death using the arm from a suit of armor, painted blue and modded out with razor sharp claws at the tip. It's... difficult to describe, just take a look:

I think we've found Freddy Krueger's favorite old movie.

On the case is Inspektor Craig (Harald Leipnitz), a detective with - who else - the Scotland Yard. While it's readily apparent to anyone with a brain stem that Dr. Mangrove is up to no good, that still doesn't necessarily mean he's a murderer, and as the bodies begin to pile up, so do the suspects.

Wow, where to begin... Creature with the Blue Hand is a dazzling experience, stuffing as much as humanly possible into its lightning brisk 74 minutes (it's longer in the American cut - with gore inserts - titled The Bloody Dead, but good luck finding it). I think it's appropriate to start at the beginning, don't you? The opening scene jumps right into the fray, with Kinski screaming "I'm not guilty!' into the camera as the title card appears in bloody splashes across the frame, bullet sound effects accompanying each one. Cue the lively credits laid over with jazzy 60's crime movie music (I'm not entirely convinced they don't just use the same exact track for every one of these movies).

Blue Hand is a sugar rush from this moment on. While every beat of the thing is played dead serious, before too long it basically becomes a live action Looney Tunes cartoon. Think I'm kidding? Within minutes of the opening credits, Dr. Mangrove is telephoned with some shocking news and his monocle pops out, Lady Emerson sits at home contemplating life through a wine glass so big it would be rejected as a sight gag on Cougar Town for being too unrealistic, and an inmate we see on a tour of the asylum is just a lady who thinks she's a stripper. She takes off her clothes and puts them back on all day, just so every now and again we can get a brief whiff of nudity to keep the more hot-blooded audience members on their toes. And I shan't spoil the exact circumstances of this, but the entire film seems to have been made so it could end on a hilarious one-liner that smash cuts into the closing credits.

But as silly as it can be, Creature with the Blue Hand is quite deft as a piece of filmmaking as well. It strikes a perfect balance between its slasher and crime elements, avoiding the boring murderous repetition of Phantom of Soho or the too-tropey crime plot of Fellowship of the Frog. The kills aren't bloody in the slightest, but the horror is staged so well that you don't even mind (a scene where the Blue Hand rips through a curtain while creeping into Myrna's bedroom is spine-chilling), and the whodunit element is engaging and embraces the more uproarious end of the cliché spectrum. To this end, the crooked asylum gives us a lot to work with, including a cell filled with live rats and a venemous snake hidden in a safe behind a painting. You know, standard hospital issue stuff.

Director Alfred Vohrer had already cut his teeth on quite a few krimi films (including The Inn on the River, The SqueakerThe Indian Scarf, Mark of the Tortoise, and aren't you so mad I didn't include The Squeaker on my to-do list this month?), so he just lets loose and embraces his instincts. The production design of the Emerson estate is an excellently baroque haunted-looking piece, filled to the brim with suits of armor and dusty chandeliers, and he continues the krimi love affair with spooky silhouettes cast upon walls with aplomb. In perhaps my favorite scene, the aftermath of an appearance by the Blue Hand is punctuated by a laughing parrot, almost as if nature itself is mocking the foolishness of man. It's... great.

I can't help but find that this review is coming across a bit scatterbrained, but there's just so much to pull from here. I'm like a kid in a candy store, overwhelmed with choice and wanting to toss everything into the cart. But I must leave something to the movie itself, because I highly highly highly recommend you give it a look. If I was in charge of midnight programming at a revival theater, Creature with the Blue Hand would immediately land on my shortlist for movies that demand being watched with a lively, joke-ready crowd. It's an absolute blast of cornball charm, couched in some actual talented filmmaking that helps it all go down real smooth.

Body Count: 6; 4 by the titular hand, 1 by strangulation, 1 by snake bite


Brennan Klein is a writer and podcaster who talks horror movies every chance he gets. You can find his other work on his Dread Central column applying film school theory to silly horror movies, and his blog Popcorn Culture where among other movie reviews, he is running through every slasher film of the 1980’s. Also check out his podcasts, Scream 101, where he and a non-horror nerd co-host tackle horror franchises, and Attack of the Queerwolf!, an LGBTQ discussion of horror classics that he produces for the Blumhouse Podcast Network.