The Indian Scarf (1963)

A bit of explanation before I jump into the film itself. You may have seen my comments on Blood and Black Lace, the 1965 Italian giallo film, which I really enjoyed. Giallo is an Italian crime/mystery film genre that grew out of the cheap pulp fiction novels of the 50s that had a predominantly yellow cover. Early giallos were black and white, but with directors like Bava and Argento, lush, saturation of color became a signature of this form of film. Other notable signatures of this genre are stylishly-dressed, masked murderers who go on frenzied killing sprees–over hours or days not weeks and months. Often there are weird dream-like sequences. Whereas in an American film, the score of a noir film may be for subtle atmosphere, in a giallo, the score is prominent, sometimes jazz, sometimes classical, always a bit jarring to the scene. A warning to the curious, some giallo are uncomfortably violent, featuring graphic and bizarre deaths. Despite my appreciation for the many remarkable filming techniques in Argento’s Opera (1987), with gorgeous operatic selections in the score, I won’t be reviewing that one as it was too much for me. Honestly, I have to wonder if some of these films aren’t gateways to lower the audience threshold for sadism, murder and snuff films. Neo-giallo is not for me.

But before Italian giallos there were German krimis. English author Edgar Wallace, best known for King Kong, wrote over 175 novels, many of them crime novels, (see link below) which a German film company used to create their own giallo-style films, called “krimi“s. There is overlap of the two genres. (Link below with more about krimis.) Here’s the fun part– the stories are by an English author, set in England, performed in German, dubbed (badly) back into English. The early ones were primarily in black and white with the same actors appearing again and again, film by film. The atmosphere and camera work is notable; the acting is over the top, reminiscent of silent films where expressions are held for unnaturally long periods of time, actions are exaggerated, fight scenes are lame and limp-fisted, and the murders are quick and almost silly in their stagey-ness.

The Indian Scarf is a perfect and wacky whodunnit. An eccentric old man dies, the heirs gather like vultures, eager to get their share and run, only to find out that the pre-will stipulates they must all live together in the house for seven days before the real will is to be read. One by one, in rapid succession, they are killed off. Oh, and we are informed that there has been a flood so the peninsula is cut off, as is the phone. No escape and no way to call for help. The bodies are piling up in the chapel. Each victim is found with a distinctive scarf around the neck. Why does the killer leave the scarves? Does the killer have an endless supply of scarves? Scarf fetish perhaps? I wish I could tell you, but unless I hiccupped during the explanation and I missed it, none is given. There is a vague mention of India, but that’s about it.

This campy, atmospheric, wild ride has been compared to Clue for its pace and feel. As with Clue, the entire film takes place within a colossal and beautifully bizarre house. The set design, like the acting, is over the top. Now that I know the story, I will have to have another viewing just to take in all the props–wildly oversized flowers in jeroboams, massive statues, hidden passages, weird art and tchotchkes abound. In fact, early on, for no apparent reason, a box is lifted, releasing a tarantula. Why was there a tarantula there? No idea. Why was the box lifted? I couldn’t tell you. It made no sense in the storyline.

Eddi Arent as Richard Bonwit

Eddi Arent stands out with hilarious comedic talent as the butler–again much like Tim Curry in Clue or Hank Azaria’s Agador in The Birdcage (1996). Looking for a fun escape? This is IT! It’s on YouTube–see link below.

Link to film on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms0HyB_NEq4

Link to blog on Edgar Wallace with list of books:

https://www.bookseriesinorder.com/edgar-wallace/

Link to list of Krimi films: https://mubi.com/lists/krimi-1959-1972

strangle scene from The Indian Scarf which I have to mention has some super sound effects

I give The Indian Scarf FIVE MONKEYS for weirdness and camp.

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