Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Der Hexer aka The Mysterious Magician (1964)
Sinister Cinema | Review by Dan Taylor

Late night. Darkness falls on my block. Lights around the 'hood flick off one by one. By one. Duty calls. Something called THE MYSTERIOUS MAGICIAN. Given to me by a man known only as Wolfie. Mysterious dealings indeed. I know nothing about what's in store for me, and I like it that way.

Tape's rolling. Black, white. Is this the movie? No, it's just a trailer for something called THOUSAND EYES OF DR. MABUSE. It's got gunshots, crap falling from the ceiling, and Auric Goldfinger himself. Christ, maybe one day this'll be on one of the three hundred cable stations that only seem to show BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY and WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING.

I won't hold my breath.

Okay, the preview's over and there's a secretary patching a call through to her boss. Is this the movie? I don't know. Nothing tells me it is, but nothing tells me it isn't. Wait! Somebody has just clobbered the secretary and they're putting her into some kind of underwater submarine/coffin. A subma-casket! Cool. Credits come up, bullets riddle the screen and only now am I sure that I'm watching Edgar Wallace's THE MYSTERIOUS MAGICIAN.

The credits pop up names like Joachim Berger, Heinz Drache, Ann Savo and Eddi Arent. Berger. Heinz. Mmmmm, I'm getting hungry but the score distracts me... it's superb! Screams, moans, gunshots and lotsa jazzy badabadah's! I'm in.

Cue sexy heels and some nice cleavage. It's the office of Inspector Bryan Edgar Higgins (Joachim Berger) and for some reason he's just come from the darkroom where he was developing cheesecake shots of the va-va-va-voomy Miss Osbourne. Which Elise, the inspector's main squeeze, doesn't take kindly to. But before he can fix things on the personal front, duty calls.

Seems that secretary's body was discovered floating in the river and she'd been strangled before she drowned. Which makes the whole goofy interplay between Higgins and his boss, Sir John (Siegfried Schurenberg), seem really kind of callous. ("It's about a woman." "I hope a young one..." Ah, no jackass, a dead one.)

At this point I have no idea what kind of inspector "Inspector Higgins" is. Judging from the cheesecake photos and the delicious dishes he surrounds himself with I'm guessing Female Body Inspector. Woops, wrongo! Turns out he's Scotland Yard! Woulda never guessed that one.

Seems that the killers picked the wrong gal to kill and dump in the river. Turns out that her brother is Ringo. Wait, scratch that. Her brother is "The Ringer," a notorious criminal who has been banished from the UK for causing some scoundrels to commit suicide. No, really. That's what they're telling me. The Yard ('cause that's what we like to call it) has a strong suspicion that the secretary's boss is involved in her murder, but they're all worried that The Ringer is going to come back from Australia and get his revenge on the killers. In fact, here comes The Ringer's wife now, arriving on the plane from Australia. And while she's wearing a black hat she seems all too cheerful about the death of her sister-in-law.

It's at this point that THE MYSTERIOUS MAGICIAN (aka DER HEXER, THE RINGER and THE WIZARD) starts pushing red herrings like a Wendy's employee pushing the "chili." Who is The Ringer? Is it Finch, the kleptomaniac butler now working for the chief suspect in the murder? Is it one James Wesby, who just happened to be on the same plane as Mrs. Ringer... who just happens to be in the washroom to see The Ringer climb out the window... who just happens to be in the hotel lobby watching Inspector Higgins through a big hole in the newspaper?

With Higgins at his wit's end, Sir John decides to call in Inspector Warren, the only man to "almost" capture The Ringer. I believe he was successful in capturing Ringo, but The Ringer got away. But before Sir John can call him in Inspector Warren shows up with the same idea. Then again, maybe he just wanted to check out Miss Osbourne in the latest in a line of dresses that are one or two sizes too small! Yum. (Of course, this movie was made in 1964, which means that sexy Ann Savo is now, well, let's forget that and just look at her ass and boobs again! YAY!)

Inspectors Higgins and Warren are not exactly The Yard's answer to Starsky and Hutch. Higgins and Warren chase a suspect across a series of rooftops only to come up empty. Higgins gets clobbered by one of the villains while Warren is hanging out near the house where Higgins gets clobbered, which just happens to be near the mysterious canals which are right by the creepy Nazi Youth Girls School run by the "priest" who looks like Harrison Ford from that submarine movie!

Pretty soon The Ringer tires of playing these reindeer games and the scoundrels start dying, one by one. By the time that Messer, the chief suspect, is the only one left, he goes crawling to Sir John for a "bodyguard." Who do they give him? Higgins. Good luck dude.

Like a crime thriller is supposed to end up, all the major suspects and characters arrive at the same place at the same time in order for The Ringer to be unmasked. (WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD.) And it's... it's... ah, hell, it's Inspector Warren! We know this because the real Inspector Warren turns up after being kidnapped by The Ringer. He impersonated the inspector in order to get to the killers, but he made one fatal mistake... he forgot that the real Inspector Warren doesn't like women. "For his own reasons," of course. No, really. That's how they know he's not the real Warren!

Last minute twists abound! Mrs. Ringer shoots Mr. Ringer, but not really, and when the cops go to subdue the wife, Mr. Ringer escapes but then the butler (forgot about him, didn't ya?!) turns out to be The Ringer's assistant and so he knocks out the one cop they left with Mrs. Ringer and all is safe because The Ringer has escaped to fight crime, or hex people, or play ring toss with 'em or whatever the hell it is that he does another day! YAY!!!

Whew. So, what's the verdict? Thumbs up, way up, for THE RINGER. First off, I love the character of Mrs. Ringer. She makes no bones about the fact that her husband is there, he's taking care of the bad guys and they'll leave when it's all over. There's a supremely bold air to her that's very bewitching. Second, the not-quite-catfight between Miss Osbourne and Higgy's galpal Elise is priceless. Whenever Miss O calls the inspector, Elise emits this hysterical feline growl/screetch. Third, not only do we have the Newspaper Cam but we also get bold use of the Phone Cam by shooting through the holes of a rotary phone from inside the phone. Love it. And finally, well, it's got hot chicks making drinks while dressed in a towel, cleavage, sexy heels, and rampant double entendres that would make 007 blush.

What's not to like?

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