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Gar el Hama
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Short | Drama

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22 April 1912 (USA)  »

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A Dead Man's Child  »

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1.33 : 1
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Slam-bang action but no credibility.
29 September 2007 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'Bedraget i døden' would translate as the very intriguing 'Deceived in Death'. I saw this film in October 2006 at the Cinema Muto festival in Sacile, Italy; they screened a Danish Film Institute archive print made in 1957.

The film's director is Eduard Schnedler-Sørensen. The credited scenarist is Ludwig Landmann, of whom I'd like to know more. The credited actors and their roles are as follows: Aage Hertel (Doctor Gar el Hama); Henry Seemann (Baron Sternberg); Carl Johan Lundkvist (Count Wolfhagen); Edith Buemann (Lady Edith); Otto Lagoni (James Pendleton); Einar Zangenberg (Newton, the detective).

The criminal mastermind Gar el Hama stood villainous duty in several Danish films of this period; he appears to be an approximate equivalent of Doctor Mabuse (in German films), Fantomas and Judex (in French movies) or Wu Fang (in American pulp magazines and serials). I've no idea what ethnicity the name 'Gar el Hama' is meant to indicate (Arabian?), but evidently the character is an all-purpose sinister foreigner.

Lady Edith is the daughter (and designated heiress) of wealthy Count Wolfhagen: his will and testament explicitly state that she is to inherit his fortune. She is also happily betrothed to Baron Sternberg. However, a bizarre clause in Count Wolfhagen's will states that his fortune will pass to his friend, moneylender James Pendleton, if both Edith and her fiancée the baron should die without issue. (So then the baron might be barren.)

Oh, blimey! I know nothing about Danish estate law, but can someone actually do this? There are strict rules of succession for noble titles, but property is quite another matter. It seems to me that, once the count's estate and his title are passed to his daughter, the estate (as opposed to the title) is solely her property, and only she can decide who will inherit it from her.

Anyhow! Pendleton proposes to Edith, clearly hoping to get his slimy mitts on her kronen. When she spurns him, Pendleton consults evil genius Gar el Hama, who slips Edith a potion which fakes the symptoms of death ... but only for four days, mind you. When Edith slips into a death-like coma, her lover the baron is completely fooled and he has her cremated. That's the end of the movie. No, I only wish. Actually, the baron has his 'dead' fiancée placed in her family tomb. Maybe he's been reading 'Romeo and Juliet'.

Pendleton sneaks into the tomb and abducts Edith to Constantinople, which is the obvious place to take women who have been drugged into a death-like coma. Meanwhile, Baron Sternberg discovers that his dead fiancée has gone bye-bye. It dawns on him that perhaps she isn't dead after all, so he engages the services of the brilliant detective Newton.

When Edith wakes up in Constaninople (or is it Istanbul this week?), Pendleton proposes to her once again ... and again she rejects him. Enraged, Pendleton pays Gar el Hama to kill Baron Sternberg. (Kill the scriptwriter, too, while you're at it.) The intrepid Newton foils the murder attempt, and he pursues Pendleton and Gar el Hama while they pick up the corpse of Edith. (Is she alive in this reel or dead again? I've lost count. No; the count is dead already.)

SPOILERS NOW. Still dragging Edith along (I guess she's dead after all), the two baddies hop a train, with Newton right behind them. In a desperate struggle, Newton flings Gar el Hama from the caboose, while sending Pendleton to the calaboose. The baron and Edith are reunited. As for the nefarious Doctor Gar el Hama, he evidently survives to spread his evil in another movie. Fade out.

This film is laughably implausible, but no more so than most of the American cliffhanger serials. Also like those films, 'Deceived in Death' is fast-moving, with plenty of slam-bang action and intrigue. The climactic scenes aboard the moving railway train are exciting enough to make up for the reams of illogic which precede them. The photography is excellent, and the exterior scenes are interesting in their own right.

I've noticed that quite a few Danish films from this period depict the villain or (less often) the hero as an Englishman. Although Baron Sternberg is the nominal leading man in this movie, most of the heroics (including the fisticuffs) are handled by the English detective Newton. On the villainous side of the ledger, the Englishman Pendleton is nominally the head villain (since Gar el Hama is working for him), yet it's clear that the oily foreigner Gar el Hama is a criminal mastermind who's capable of far greater villainy than Pendleton, who is merely a crook. My rating for this one: 8 out of 10.


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