Films based on works by Edgar Wallace

Edgar Wallace (1875–1932) was a British novelist and playwright and screenwriter whose works have been adapted for the screen on many occasions.

British adaptations

His works were adapted for the silent screen as early as 1915, and continued to be adapted by British filmmakers into the 1940s. Anglo-Amalgamated released a series of 47 features entitled Edgar Wallace Mysteries which ran from 1960 to 1965.

Silent films

  • The Man Who Bought London (1916)
  • The Green Terror (1919)
  • Pallard the Punter (1919)
  • The River of Stars (1921)
  • The Four Just Men (1921)
  • Melody of Death (1922)
  • The Diamond Man (1924)
  • The Green Archer (1925)
  • Mark of the Frog (1928)
  • The Terrible People (1928)
  • Valley of the Ghosts (1928)
  • The Forger (1928)
  • The Terror (1928)
  • The Ringer (1928)
  • The Man Who Changed his Name (1928)
  • The Flying Squad (1929)
  • The Crimson Circle (1929)
  • The Clue of the New Pin (1929)[1]

Sound films

British television series

Edgar Wallace Mysteries (1960–1965)

This was a series of British second features, produced at Merton Park Studios for the Anglo-Amalgamated production company. There were 47 films in the series, all released between 1960 and 1965.

Harry Alan Towers

Harry Alan Towers produced three Edgar Wallace films in the early 1960s in international co-productions with Germany:

German adaptations; the Krimis

The crime films produced by the German company Rialto Film between 1959 and 1972 form their own subgenre known as Krimis (abbreviation for the German term Kriminalfilm (or Kriminalroman). Other Edgar Wallace adaptations in a similar style were made by the Germans Artur Brauner and Kurt Ulrich and the British producer Harry Alan Towers.

Early history of the German Edgar Wallace movies

As early as the silent movie era, German film producers discovered that the novels of Edgar Wallace were easily adapted to the screen. The first German production of an Edgar Wallace story, Der große Unbekannte (The Unknown), was filmed in 1927. Wallace personally visited the production of the next movie Der rote Kreis (The Crimson Circle, 1929) in Berlin. The Crimson Circle was trade-shown in London in March 1929 in the Phonofilm sound-on-film system.

In 1931, Carl Lamarc adapted The Squeaker, one of Wallace's best known works, as the sound film Der Zinker. Adaptations of The Ringer (Der Hexer, 1932) by Lamarc and The Double (Der Doppelgänger, 1934) by E. W. Emo followed. (In the United States, The Feathered Serpent reached the screen as The Menace in 1932.) From 1934 to the mid-1950s, no German-language films based on works by Edgar Wallace were produced. Then, in the mid-1950s, the German film distributor Constantin Film began plans for a series of films. Due to the perceived unpopularity of the crime genre in Germany at that time, however, no film producer willing to take such a risk could be found.

The 1960s German "Krimi" film movement

In 1959, the Danish company Rialto Film, with its producer Preben Philipsen produced Der Frosch mit der Maske (based on The Fellowship of the Frog), targeting the German film market. The film turned out to be surprisingly successful and started a veritable fad of crime movies, known as Krimis (abbreviation for the German term "Kriminalfilm" or "Kriminalroman") which lasted until significant changes in the direction of the German film industry in the early 1970s occurred. Rialto soon acquired the exclusive rights to nearly all the Wallace novels, founded a German subsidiary company and, unconcerned by the many copycat productions by others, moved towards the artistic and commercial peak of the series in the first half of the Sixties.

There were 32 Rialto movies. Beginning with the fourth production Der grüne Bogenschütze (The Green Archer, 1960/61) all were under the artistic supervision of Horst Wendlandt and directed by Alfred Vohrer or Harald Reinl. These are the leading examples of the genre. Following Der Bucklige von Soho (1966), all of Rialto's Krimis movies were in color. Additionally, the original novels were increasingly disregarded in favour of new stories based on motives from the stories. On one hand, this departure made them seem more up-to-date – on the other, the dramaturgy, presentation and content quality levels declined rapidly. From 1969 onwards, Rialto Film started four coproductions with Italian producers to minimise their costs. Audiences increasingly ignored the series, which ended with Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds in 1972.

Style in 1960s "Krimis" films

The typical Krimi movie of the 60s contains a number of distinct stylistic traits, which not only makes the films a true series, but – seen in context with other, similar German crime movies of that time – marks them as part of a true film subgenre as well.

In particular, the two directors Harald Reinl (five movies) and Alfred Vohrer (14 movies) made their mark. While Reinl preferred long dolly shots /pans and exterior shots, Vohrer's films are known for their slight overacting and their distinct zoom and editing styles. Many of these Edgar Wallace krimis featured secretive, flamboyant, super villains whose faces were sometimes hidden from view, an archetype which would later become a staple of spy films in the mid-to-late 1960s.

The titles, which are usually the German novel titles, were intended to evoke the typical image of an Edgar Wallace movie. Most titles mention the villain, like Der Frosch mit der Maske (literally "The Frog with the Mask"), Der Zinker ("The Squeaker") and Der Hexer ("The Ringer"). More abstract titles usually feature the words Rätsel ("mystery" or "enigma") or Geheimnis ("secret"), for example Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee ("Secret of the Red Orchid") Das Rätsel des silbernen Dreiecks ("The Mystery of the Silver Triangle") and Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel ("The Secret of the Green Pin"), while others hint at the location of the story, for example Der Fälscher von London ("The Forger of London"), Der Bucklige von Soho ("The Hunchback of Soho") and Die Tote aus der Themse ("The Dead Girl in the Thames").

The repeated casting of the same actors, generally for similar roles, is typical for the 60s Wallace movies as well. Among the most popular investigators are Joachim Fuchsberger, Heinz Drache and Siegfried Lowitz. Shady characters were mostly played by Fritz Rasp, Pinkas Braun, Harry Wüstenhagen and especially Klaus Kinski, while comic relief was offered by Eddi Arent, Siegfried Schürenberg and later Hubert von Meyerinck, or even Chris Howland. Additionally, well-known film and stage actors like Elisabeth Flickenschildt, Gert Fröbe, Dieter Borsche, Lil Dagover and Rudolf Forster repeatedly acted in important guest roles.

The location of the story is, like in the novels, mostly London and its proximity, with the characters mostly moving through old castles, mansions or country houses – even if the real sets were actually in Germany. Seedy night clubs, asylums, dark basements as well as, especially in later movies, girl's colleges and of course Scotland Yard, are popular main and side locations for Edgar Wallace movies.

The stories are very similar across the series as well. The plot is most often centered around one inventively masked main villain. In contrast to thrillers, the most important technique of creating suspense is the "whodunit". This means that it is generally unknown who the villain really is until the end of the movie. The motivations for the crimes are mostly greed, revenge, legacy hunting, and, especially in later movies, white slavery and the drug trade.

Not unlike the later Italian subgenre of Giallo, the Wallace Krimi movies heavily center around the work of the police or a private investigator. Another typical feature is the heroine, who has to be protected from the schemes and misdeeds of the villain by the Scotland Yard inspector. This theme is repeated in virtually all Krimi movies and it is not uncommon for the two protagonists to be happily in love at the conclusion of the story.

To make the movies even more recognisable besides the typical introduction (usually a murder is committed before the film's title sequence), the title sequences were all in color from 1961 onwards, even if the rest of the film was in black and white. There are only two exceptions. Also, in 1962 the voiceover "Hallo, hier spricht Edgar Wallace" ("Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking") was added to the beginning of the title sequence in the German version.

A very distinct trait is the score by Martin Böttcher and especially by Peter Thomas. Three of the four late German-Italian coproductions are even scored by Ennio Morricone. Little is known about the composer Keith Papworth, who scored Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen, except that he died in March 1992.

Other Edgar Wallace-type German movies and influences on other works

In the wake of the Edgar Wallace movies, the Krimi genre became a staple of the German filmmaking scene. In addition to those based on the works of Edgar Wallace, are the Artur Brauner-produced Doktor Mabuse and Bryan Edgar Wallace (Wallace's son, also a crime novelist) movies such as The Mad Executioners and The Phantom of Soho. Also, the Jerry Cotton and Kommissar X movie series, and the Father Brown and Louis Weinert-Wilton series, are stylistically closely related to the Edgar Wallace movies and fall within the German Krimi genre.

The movies are still very well known in Germany today and there are frequent reruns of them on television – even if a large part of their appeal is their high camp factor. Since the Edgar Wallace style is a stock motive of German filmmaking, there are numerous parodies and spoofs, most recently the 2004 movie Der WiXXer (approximately "The Wanker", a parody of Der Hexer) and its 2007 sequel Neues vom WiXXer (a parody of Neues vom Hexer), making fun of the now-clichéd conventions of the genre.

German Edgar Wallace "Krimi" Filmography (1959–72)

These films were produced by Rialto Film of Germany unless noted otherwise[4]. Where the German title is different from the English one, a translation of the German title is also provided.

YearGerman Film TitleEnglish Release Title(s)Produced byDirector
1959Der Frosch mit der Maske (The Frog With the Mask)Face of the Frog (based on the novel Fellowship of the Frog)Preben PhilipsenHarald Reinl
1960Der rote Kreis (The Red Circle)The Crimson CirclePreben PhilipsenJürgen Roland
Der RächerThe AvengerKurt Ulrich-FilmKarl Anton
Die Bande des Schreckens (The Band of Terror)The Terrible People (a.k.a. Hand of the Gallows)Harald Reinl
1961Der grüne BogenschützeThe Green ArcherJürgen Roland
Die toten Augen von LondonThe Dead Eyes of London (based on the novel Dark Eyes of London)Alfred Vohrer
Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen (Mystery of the Yellow Daffodil)The Devil's Daffodil (based on the novel The Daffodil Mystery)Ákos Ráthonyi
Der Fälscher von LondonThe Forger of London (based on the novel The Forger[5])Harald Reinl
Die seltsame GräfinThe Strange CountessJosef von Báky
1962Das Rätsel der roten OrchideeThe Puzzle of the Red Orchid (aka Secret of the Red Orchid[6])Helmut Ashley
Die Tür mit den sieben SchlössernThe Door with Seven LocksAlfred Vohrer
Das Gasthaus an der Themse (The Inn on the Thames)'The Inn on the River (based on the novel The Indian Rubber Man[7] Alfred Vohrer
1963Der Fluch der gelben SchlangeCurse of the Yellow Snake (based on the novel The Yellow Snake)CCC-Film/ Artur BraunerFranz Josef Gottlieb
Der ZinkerThe SqueakerAlfred Vohrer
Der schwarze AbtThe Black AbbotFranz Josef Gottlieb
Das indische TuchThe Indian ScarfAlfred Vohrer
Zimmer 13Room 13Harald Reinl
Todestrommeln am großen FlußDeath Drums Along the River (a.k.a. Sanders)Harry Alan TowersLawrence Huntington
1964Die Gruft mit dem RätselschloßThe Curse of the Hidden VaultFranz Josef Gottlieb
Der HexerThe Ringer, aka The Mysterious MagicianAlfred Vohrer
Das VerrätertorTraitor's GateFreddie Francis
Sanders und das Schiff des Todes (Sanders and the Ship of Death)Coast of SkeletonsHarry Alan TowersRobert Lynn
1965Neues vom HexerAgain the RingerAlfred Vohrer
Der unheimliche MönchThe Sinister MonkHarald Reinl
1966Der Bucklige von SohoThe Hunchback of SohoAlfred Vohrer
Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne (Mystery of the White Nun)The Trygon FactorCyril Frankel
Das Rätsel des silbernen Dreieck (Puzzle of the Silver Triangle)Circus of Fear (a.k.a. Circus of Terror and Psycho-Circus)Harry Alan TowersJohn Llewellyn Moxey
1967Die Blaue HandCreature with the Blue HandAlfred Vohrer
Der Mönch mit der PeitscheThe Monk with the Whip (a.k.a. The College Girl Murders)Alfred Vohrer
1968Der Hund von Blackwood CastleThe Hound of Blackwood CastleAlfred Vohrer
Im Banne des Unheimlichen (In the Spell of the Unknown)The Hand of Power (a.k.a. The Zombie Walks) based on the novel The Hand of PowerAlfred Vohrer
Der Gorilla von SohoThe Gorilla of Soho (a.k.a. The Gorilla Gang)Alfred Vohrer
1969Der Mann mit dem GlasaugeThe Man with the Glass EyeAlfred Vohrer
Das Gesicht im Dunkeln (The Face in the Dark) / A doppia facciaDouble Face (a.k.a. Puzzle of Horrors)Riccardo Freda
1971Der Teufel kam aus AkasavaThe Devil Came from AkasavaCCC-Film/ Artur BraunerJesus Franco
Die Tote aus der ThemseThe Body in the ThamesHarald Philipp
1972Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel (The Secret of the Green Pin) / Cosa avete fatto a Solange?What Have You Done to Solange? (a.k.a. The School That Couldn't Scream)Massimo Dallamano
Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds (Puzzle of the Silver Half Moons) / Sette orchidee macchiate di rossoSeven Blood-Stained OrchidsUmberto Lenzi

Bryan Edgar Wallace movies

Seeking to emulate the success of Rialto Film's Edgar Wallace movies, CCC Film bought the rights to the written works of Edgar's son, Bryan Edgar Wallace. The stories were re-written as they were adapted into movies, but they were still promoted as "B. Edgar Wallace Movies" in the hope that his name would attract a large audience. The following are all CCC Film productions unless otherwise noted.[8]

(Note* - The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Handschuhe/ Secret of the Black Gloves) (1970) was marketed in Germany as being based on a story by Bryan Edgar Wallace, but was actually adapted from Fredric Brown's novel, The Screaming Mimi[10].


(CDs predominately featuring the musical scores of Wallace movies)

  • Kriminalfilmmusik von Martin Böttcher – Rough Trade, BSC 307.6518.2
  • Kriminalfilmmusik von Martin Böttcher Vol. 2 – Prudence, BSC 398.6534.2
  • Peter Thomas Kriminalfilmmusik – Prudence, BSC 398.6533.2
  • Kriminalfilmmusik No. 4 – Prudence, BSC 398.6560.2
  • Peter Thomas Film Musik – Polydor, 517,096-2 (one CD)
  • Peter Thomas Film Musik – Polydor, 845,872–2 (two CDs)


  1. Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  2. The Mind of Mr. J.G. Reeder on IMDb. Retrieved on 14 December 2015
  3. Edwards, Matthew Klaus Kinski, Beast of Cinema: Critical Essays and Fellow Filmmaker Interviews McFarland, 22 Jul 2016
  4. Kramp, Joachim (2001). Hallo—Hier spricht Edgar Wallace!. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf. ISBN 3-89602-368-3.
  5. "Filmportal: Der Fälscher von London". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  7. "Filmportal: Das Gasthaus an der Themse". Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  8. Dillmann-Kühn, Claudia (1990). Artur Brauner und die CCC. Deutsches Filmmuseum. pp. 240–290. ISBN 3-88799-034-X.
  9. de:Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Koffer
  10. Lucas, Tim (2007). Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. Video Watchdog. pp. 810–2. ISBN 0-9633756-1-X.
  • Florian Pauer: Die Edgar Wallace-Filme, 1982, Goldmann Verlag, ISBN 3-442-10216-2 (in German)
  • Christos Tses: Der Hexer, der Zinker und andere Mörder, 2002, Klartext-Verlag, ISBN 3-89861-080-2 (in German)
  • Joachim Kramp: Das Edgar Wallace Lexikon, 2004, Verlag Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, ISBN 3-89602-508-2 (in German)
  • Georg Seeßlen: "Die deutschen Edgar Wallace-Filme" in: Mord im Kino. Geschichte und Mythologie des Detektiv-Films. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1981, ISBN 3-499-17396-4 (in German)
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