Noir City International (Virtual) Film Festival: THE DEVIL STRIKES AT NIGHT

I was really thrilled to see this one in the line up, because I was unable to find a streaming version with subtitles back in March. Unlike the previous flick, you really can’t follow this film without understanding what people are talking about.

Unfortunately, this is another film that will not play subtitles through my Roku. Fortunately, unlike THE FIFTH HORSEMAN IS FEAR, its more straightforward realistic style didn’t suffer too much from the tiny screen treatment.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Imogen Sara Smith’s exceptional intro. I will always love you Eddie, but damn if this wasn’t the best one so far. She describes the police inspector protagonist as an extreme version of Chandler’s decent man in an ugly world, and I was particularly struck by this bit:

“He has to face the fact that laws, justice and even truth no longer exist in his country. Not only morality, but reality are overruled by propaganda.”

Sound familiar?

Anyway, on to the movie.

When a local barmaid is murdered, her sad sack secret lover takes the fall, but a more urbane soldier turned inspector gets involved and suspects a serial killer at large in the idyllic German hamlet. There’s just one problem. All signs point to a beefy blond hunk of Aryan manliness, not some evil foreigner, Gypsy or Jew; the only acceptable options for the town’s Nazi overlords.

It’s directed by Noir City favorite Richard Siodmak (THE KILLERS, PHANTOM LADY, CRISS CROSS) and the story is loosely based on real life serial killer Bruno Lüdke. I’m also reminded of Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo and even the story behind the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. This is a story about tension between the need to solve a case and the need to make the facts of the case conform to preexisting political dogma.

Needless to say, I like this one WAY better the second time, now that I can actually understand what the hell is going on. The visually gripping sequence where the killer gets lost in his own head as he reenacts a murder in the woods is even more memorable and disturbing.

Also, this film resonates deeper now, during the last stretch of the 2020 Infopocalyse. But I digress…

Interesting side note: check out this contemporaneous review from the New York Times.

Stay tuned, Noiristas, because tonight, we’re off to Italy for FOUR WAYS OUT.

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