After years of dreary labor in Hollywood as a professional "evil foreigner," Lorre went home to Germany to write, direct and star in this dark, dreamlike narrative in which he plays the ultimate Peter Lorre character: a Nazi mad doctor sex murderer. The film is an ironic commentary by Lorre, the reluctant impersonator of psychopaths, on the nature of true psychopathology as embodied in the amoral Nazi regime. It's also an ingenious melding of the sort of B-film noir that Lorre had specialized in for years as an actor (Maltese Falcon, Stranger on the Third Floor, Quicksand) and the impressionistic Nouvelle Roman/Nouvelle Vague influenced art film just picking up steam on the continent (shades of Orpheus, Wild Strawberries, and Last Year at Marienbad can be seen in its shadowy enfolding of past/present and dream/reality.) Though somewhat uncertain in balancing himself between his roles as principal actor and director (the motivations of some of the other characters are somewhat murky, for instance, and it's rather a shock to see Peter Lorre so continually being the object of women's lustful attentions) this was clearly a man with the makings of an ingenious and original filmmaker. It's a shame this film isn't better known, and that Lorre never got the chance to make another.
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