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The Secret Killer More at IMDbPro »Le vampire de Düsseldorf (original title)

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Watching a serial killer doing his thing

Author: tony_le_stephanois
18 May 2015

A brutal murderer was widely known in the 1920's in Germany, nicknamed The Vampire of Düsseldorf (hence the title). He got captured and he appeared to be Peter Kürten. In this version of events we follow Peter committing his crimes. A laborer who pretends he's from high society. There's much attention for the unstable political situation in the days of the Weimar republic. There are fascist everywhere, burning books, beating people up, etcetera.

Watching a serial killer doing his thing is a actually quite weird type of film to watch. But it exists for decades and keeps on fascinating people, until this day (for example Henry, Portrait of a serial killer, or series like The Fall and Dexter). Le vampire de Düsseldorf is an early example from 1965. But a film about (supposedly, director Fritz Lang denied it) the same killer, M., is even older, even from the same year as when Kürten was executed (1931).

The subject isn't very original. As many others already have mentioned, M. by Fritz Lang is a much better film. It's not so much about the killings, rather about psychology, fear and sentiments. As others also have mentioned, there's not much German about this film, not even an attempt to. This film lacks in original storytelling and in realism.

However, the good thing is: I found this film surprisingly stylish. Robert Hossein (who wrote and directed the film, and played the lead) was by then already an experienced film noir director, who knew how to capture the attention with silence, as he did in La Mort d'un Tueur. The street scenes at night are quite marvelous. The camera movements are lovely to see. Many pretty shots, as for example the distant shot of the bar Eldorado, the shot with Anna and all her mirrors, or the following through the streets. Those are absolutely worthy of the predicate film noir. I rate this 7/10, mostly for style.

Unrelated to the review, but I also like the idea of a bar with phones in which, for example, table 14 could call table 8. Apparently a common thing in the 20's. A funny concept that a smart person perhaps can revive again.

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Skillfully made but few surprises

7/10
Author: markwood272 from United States
18 May 2015

Skilled direction by the star, Robert Hossein, although the story was full of unsurprises. Hossein's portrayal of real life Weimar-era serial killer Peter Kurten was a little too detached, almost bored. Superb camera work and lighting, although the music grated at times. This movie was unknown to me until I found it online. It appears to have been released the same year as The Night of the Generals, a movie set in Nazi occupied Poland a decade later. With both films featuring Teutonic serial killers, I guess one of them had to step aside. Here there were no subtitles, but the dialogue spoken so clearly and free of argot I missed only a little. The people probably spoke non-colloquial French because they were supposed to be Germans, and everyone knows Germans in the 1930's spoke without argot. Marie-France Pisier was good as the chanteuse of a subterranean boite called El Dorado.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Serial killer in 1930 Dusseldorf strikes young women

7/10
Author: msroz from United States
15 June 2012

Robert Hossein stars in this film noir that he also wrote and directed. He plays an unemployed workman who is a serial killer. The female lead, who plays a nightclub singer (Anna) that is his love interest, is played by the magnetic Marie-France Pisier. Both were teamed up a year earlier in Death of a Killer, another very good Hossein noir.

I try to find and watch any Hossein movie I can, as actor or director. He's in such good ones as Chair de Poule and Rififi. He obviously knows what he is doing in his pictures and he does it well. There is a certain silence or understatement or air of mystery that involves the viewer. This movie has a number of personal entanglements and attractive cinematography.

In this one, there are many dark streets, parks, and squares. They are usually very lonely. But Nazis suddenly appear to smash a window, burn books, or beat up a communist.

Hossein's killer, Peter Kurten, has several linked motivations. He has been ill-treated as a child, resents authority and is unemployed. He flaunts his killings against the police with notes and close calls. He is a humorless man who kills women as a means of power and to compensate for his evident sexual inferiority and clumsiness. His walk is a strange motion with short mincing steps, like those of someone much older and his arms do not swing naturally. He is clever enough, for a time, to think up diabolical schemes and he mocks God very subtly in one scene in what appears to be a church.

The movie draws parallels between Kurten and the Nazis (they are S.A. at this time), who also are exercising brute force. Kurten never fails to dress up in smart night clothes (black) and don a hat. That's his uniform. The S.A. was known to have homosexual elements, such as Ernst Rohm. In a way, Kurten's personal actions represent the breakdown of both law and order and respect for law and order. After a man is victimized by Nazis, Kurten and Anna walk right by him and don't stop even to see his condition.

Anna sings at a nightclub (and does a wonderful torch song like Dietrich) named El Dorado, which symbolizes the riches that the people do not have and also something unobtainable. Anna is what Kurten wants, but it's unclear that he can consummate the relation. She is his El Dorado. Kurten romances Anna and wins her over. Does he finally make love to her? Perhaps he does, but it's doubtful because he is stretched out fully clothed on the bed in his apartment. This is of no great moment because time is working against him anyway.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

highly recommended

8/10
Author: christopher-underwood from Greenwich - London
23 November 2013

A major discovery, for me, this one, written, directed and starring, Robert Hossein. Evidently a highly esteemed French actor who played many a romantic lead with the likes of Bardot and Loren, he also played less frivolous parts including thrillers such as Riffifi. Not as prolific at directing, he nevertheless seems to have made several interesting sounding titles that I shall have to look out for. His leading lady here is Marie France Pisier, who also was a very popular artiste in France and amongst other things was in Celine and Julie Go boating and a couple of Bunuel's. Here she plays a very cool and attractive cabaret singer, complete with top hat and whip. Her scenes in the nightclub are most effective as is the whole film. Based on a true story of a Dusseldorf serial killer, the sleazy back streets here are actually Madrid and the b/w cinematography throughout is a joy. Extremely well performed by all concerned and very competently directed, this is a highly recommended film.

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Nachts ,wenn Der Teufel Kam....

Author: dbdumonteil
3 November 2008

A subject which was already treated by Lang and Siodmak.It's difficult for a French to create a German atmosphere...In spite of Marie-France Pisier's laudable efforts -her song "la Belle De Nuit" is really spellbinding ,Pia Colombo providing the vocal-but the nightclub looks like an American one,which the final fire reinforces.

Hossein was interested in films noirs ("Toi Le Venin" "Le Jeu de La Verite") and he tried to mix suspense with a political context : the crisis, with the unemployment the demonstrations,and the serpent's egg ,to quote Ingmar Bergman .The problem with the hero is that we know too few things about him (just compare with Mario Adorf's part in Siodmak's movie): once he was sadistically punished ,when he was a child,they buried him to the neck in the sand under a blistering sun,and that's it.

Good scenes: Hosssein and Annie Andersson in the park,just like a romantic couple,till Hossein sees the girl's legs.The caretaker,asking the criminal to knock on his door when he comes back at night;she feels safe when he is at home .The scene in the field when Hossein is scared by a pair of lovers.

Like this?try these,these are essential viewing: "M" Fritz Lang ,1933 "Nachts ,wenn der Teufel kam" Robert Siodmak, 1957

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