Veteran director Harald Reinl took the helm for the last three Jerry Cotton films. `Reliable' Reinl was by this time a mainstay in German cinema with Edgar Wallace krimis, Dr. Mabuse thrillers, and Winnetou westerns already under his belt. He shows a certain amount of restraint in Death and Diamonds, the sixth film in the series over all, handling the elaborate robberies with an assured, if unspectacular hand. As the English title implies a diamond heist is at the heart of this entry as Jerry again infiltrates a gang run by a mysterious disembodied voice. This is the Cotton film notable for the uproariously poor English accent that George Nader affects when Jerry Cotton must impersonate alarm specialist Rick Trevor. Nader must have struggled mightily indeed to sound British without coming across as effeminate but the result rings completely false, a major lapse in judgment that nevertheless is highly amusing for the viewer. The bulk of the action in the film is set in southern California, a change of pace in the series. Right off the bat, as Jerry arrives in LA to meet the gang, we are treated to unconvincing rear projections of the newly-completed LA airport, a highly recognizable landmark. Part of the reason for the lack of believability in these few scenes is that the filmmakers had a difficult time matching the southern California light, with Jerry and company appearing a bit drab next to the harsh desert sun in the background. We get to see a lot of film of mid-sixties LA, enjoyable in itself, including the inevitable shots of the Cascade Car Wash that has graced many a movie, and a short but fun collage of LA signage kitsch. One wishes for more glimpses of that vanished art. Another minor quibble with the LA setting is the nightclub used as headquarters for the gang. The building housing the Green Silk bar is obviously older than Los Angeles itself! Inside however, we are treated to the prerequisite go-go chicks dancing away to the tunes of Peter Thomas, always a delight. Reinl has fun with this bit, cutting from a pair of white billiard balls to the jiggling white bikini top of one of the dancers. We also get to spend a lot of time in the factory basement that has made an appearance in every Cotton film thus far. We'd miss it if it weren't there. The action and stunts in the film are handled comparatively well in this entry. The robberies are elaborate in nature and are even commented upon by one of the characters in the film who wonders why the mastermind Stone goes to so much trouble. The viewer will no doubt feel the same as no answer is in evidence. The heist that all this builds up to is the theft of a large quantity of diamonds. The thieves use a highly unlikely method of obtaining the stones, a remote control vacuum cleaner. There's a lot of technical hooey used to gloss over the details of what would most likely be a complete failure. Reinl does manage to pull off the staging well enough to be forgiven, which is quite the feat given the circumstances. Jerry as Trevor balks at every alarm he has to disconnect and is such a nosy whiner in general that one starts to feel empathy with the gang who tire quickly of his antics. At one point they throw Jerry into an industrial furnace and crank up the heat. This is a good suspenseful scene as Nader is obviously pretty close to the fires and if he wasn't our hero his fate would seem inevitable. Not to spoil anyone's fun but how many furnaces have a back door? Later, Jerry manages a couple more imaginative but equally improbable stunts. When several of the baddies are attempting a getaway, Jerry manages to jump through the windshield of their oncoming car. The stunt is impressive enough, but Jerry adds much panache by suavely punching the driver after arriving unannounced in the front seat, taking charge of the situation without mussing a hair on his head. A one hundred foot jump from a bridge onto a moving boat sets up the explosive finale of the film. No wonder Jerry's mom remarks early in the film that the last time he said there was no danger involved he spent seven months in the hospital. To top things off there is a whipping scene in an industrial setting as Mabel (Marlies Drager) lets Lana (Silvie Solar) feel the lick of her lash. This actually sounds better than it turns out to be but it is another fun element in a film that doesn't intend to be an exploitation piece. Further fun is to be had in spotting familiar faces including Silvie Solar, given more to do in this film than she did in Manhattan Night of Murder (65), Carl Mohner (Rififi (56)), and Dieter Eppler, to name a few. Eppler was a genre favorite appearing in many of Harald Reinl's films. Another recognizable face is that of Albert Bessler, a regular in mystery films of the time. Interestingly enough, Bessler has a cameo in Secret of the Black Trunk (61), a Bryan Edgar Wallace adaptation, as an American FBI man! All in all, Death and Diamonds is a middle of the pack entry not without its charm and Reinl was a welcome presence in a previously uneven series.
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