Saturday, February 16, 2019
Manhattan Night of Murder (1965)
Inevitably the series spawned a series of film adaptations. The first of the eight Jerry Cotton movies was Manhattan Night of Murder (Mordnacht in Manhattan) which was released in 1965.
They’re fun for many of the same reasons that the German Edgar Wallace krimi movies of the 60s are fun. Those movies gave us a delightfully odd German view of how Scotland Yard operates. The Jerry Cotton movies give us an equally off-kilter German view of the FBI and American organised crime. They are however much more hardboiled than the Edgar Wallace movies, with some obvious film noir influences (which is amusing since American film noir was itself heavily influenced by German movies of the 20s and early 30s).
American actor George Nader plays Jerry Cotton. Heinz Weiss plays his sidekick, Phil Dekker.
The only witness to the murder is a young boy. Unfortunately this circumstance is known to the gang so obviously the boy is likely to a target.
There’s also a charming young lady named Sophie who runs a gas station. Jerry thinks he can use her to set a trap for the hoodlums.
This is very much what you expect from the German film industry at this period - it’s a B-movie with lots of energy and a great deal of style. If you enjoy the Edgar Wallace krimis or the Dr Mabuse movies you’ll know what to expect. Mercifully this one has none of the comic relief that is such an unfortunate feature of many of the Wallace flicks. There are explosions and lots of general mayhem, cool car chases, a getaway biplane (so much better than a getaway car) and plenty of fight scenes (the one amongst the cardboard boxes is quite clever as is the one at the coal processing plant).
All the action takes place in New York and of course it was entirely filmed in Germany. It’s not ever going to convince you that you’re actually in New York but the unconvincingness of the setting adds to the movie’s charm. The Germans just didn’t care. If they wanted a movie set in London or New York they’d happily shoot it in Hamburg. Add some rear projection and some stock footage and you’re fine. They just got on with the job of making the movie and making it as entertaining as possible.
Manhattan Night of Murder isn’t great cinema. It’s low-budget pulp cinema. The plot is slightly crazy at times and doesn’t always make too much sense (which is typical of German movies of the 60s). It does however have a certain distinctive flavour and it is rather enjoyable. Recommended, especially if you have a taste for mildly quirky European crime thrillers.