The Phantom of Soho (1964)

SEPTEMBER 25, 2008


One of my favorite movies since I started HMAD was Raw Meat (aka Death Line), a delightful British monster movie that featured Donald Pleasence in one of his best roles ever that didn’t once require him to talk about “it as if he were a human being” or something along those lines. Since then, I have sought a British film that would equal that film in terms of sheer bliss and dry humor, but unfortunately The Phantom Of Soho did not fit the bill.

Actually, it's a German movie, but it takes place in London, so I hoped it would be more like a British film (fun) than a German one (depressing). But it's not really funny (or depressing, for that matter). It's just sort of there, for the most part.

Not that it’s entirely humorless. I don’t think it’s possible for a movie with two London based detectives to not have any dry humor, just as it is impossible for me to write a review that didn’t have profanity. And it's clear that the Germans were obviously trying to emulate typical British humor, but something was apparently lost in the translation.

And translation is the best way to describe it, because it has been (poorly) dubbed. While a few lines here and there deliver, many of them just sound a bit awkward, due to the bored guy or gal dubbing in the lines. So unfortunately, you’re left with the actual plot, which is pretty ho-hum. Worse, the killer’s identity is painfully obvious from the start, which leaves all the investigation scenes feeling a bit useless.

That said, some of the kill scenes are pretty cool, with a surprising number of POV shots from the killer (so Halloween stole from Black Christmas, and Black Christmas stole from Phantom of Soho?). And despite the dubber’s best efforts, some of the humor shines through. There’s a great bit where the rookie inspector guy pulls out not one, not two, but three magnifying glasses from his jacket so he and the other two cops can inspect a photo. I know that doesn’t sound particularly funny, but trust me, it is. And even though I figured out the killer’s identity pretty early on, it was still a pretty interesting story, much better than most serial killer movies anyway (i.e. it has nothing to do with religious beliefs or being abused as a kid).

I was also happy to discover that this is the rare horror film with a title that begins Phantom of ____ and yet it is NOT a modern/alternate/whatever version of Phantom of the Opera. Once I read that the film revolved around a club in London called Zanzibar (where one would order his lady’s favorite dish, I presume), I assumed it would have a swinging disfigured killer hacking up dancers and cokeheads that threatened to undermine some mod chick he was particularly fond of, so discovering that it was more like a Jack the Ripper story by way of Agatha Christie was pretty sweet.

Mill Creek once again provided a widescreen transfer (though it’s a bit off, the left side is partially cut off while the right has a black spot), but it’s far from their best work. The picture seems to be recorded off of a fuzzy cable station, and for some reason, the sound has an echo. When someone speaks and there is silence after, you can hear the line again, sounding like it was coming from the next room. But I dunno, maybe the guy in the office next to mine is also a Mill Creek enthusiast and coincidentally happened to be watching the film today. Either or.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Where do I find the entire film auf Deutsch? Sounds like it might be better in the original language :)


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