Pheeny (Klaus Kinski) is a twitchy paranoid ex-con safe cracker. He pays a visit to Inspector Richard Martin (Hienz Drache) from Scotland Yard. Pheeny tells him a strange tale about someone who hired him to open a door that had seven locks in it. Pheeny gets the feeling that if he opens the door it will be the last one he ever opens so he doesn’t take the job. Instead here he is in Richard’s living room trying to convince him that something is wrong. Right then Richard gets a call from his boss, Sir John (Siegfried Schurenberg). Pheeny is scared and paranoid and doesn’t want to leave. Richard allows Pheeny to stay and lock himself into the apartment while he meets with Sir John.
Sir John tells Richard and Richard’s assistant, Holms (Eddi Arent), about the murder of a priest at a railroad station. On his body was found a key on a chain. It is the second time a murdered man was found to have such a key on him. The two murders appear to be linked. Also on the priest is a letter from an attorney, Warren Haveloc (Hans Nielsen) confirming an appointment.
Through Haveloc Richard learns that he was the executor of the estate of Lord Angus Selford. The Lord named his underage son heir to his estate. Since then the son has traveled around the world gambling and spending his fortune. On April 13th the son, Lord Percy Selford, will become twenty-one and no longer the responsibility of Haveloc. He says that the dead priest, Father O’Brien, had a parishioner named Rufus Stark who gave him the key. He also says that before Angus died he brought together seven trusted friends and gave each one of them a key but he doesn’t know why. It appears that Rufus Stark and the priest both had keys.
When he returns home he finds that Pheeny has been murdered. He also finds a sketch of a coat of arms. At the library he talks to Sybil Lansdown (Sabine Sesselmann). She tells him it is the coat of arms for the Selford family and that she is a distant cousin to the Selfords. When Richard investigates Selford manor he finds himself in the middle of a string of murders, a plot to steal an inheritance, a group of co-conspirators out to get each other and a mad scientist.
“The Door with Seven Locks” AKA “Die Tur mit den sieben Schlossern” was released in 1962 and was directed by Alfred Vohrer. It is a West German-French crime film and a krimi with horror undertones. The movie was based on the Edgar Wallace novel of the same name and written in 1926. The story had been made into a British film in 1940 and was released as “The Door with Seven Locks” in Britain and “Chamber of Horror” in the U.S.
This was a fun but really strange film. It starts out as your standard Edgar Wallace krimi with lots of characters and red herrings but at one point near the end it morphs into a classic horror movie with a mad scientist who, after being kicked out of the medical profession for illegal experiments, wants to graft the head of a man on the body of a gorilla. He even had the gorilla in a cage in his secret laboratory. Helping him is a lummox who was a previous experiment that didn’t go quite as expected.
By this point the seven keys to the seven locks, and what’s behind the door, looks more like a macguffin than a plot. The murders are not all done by one person either. In addition a couple of the characters themselves are more like macguffins than red herrings. Keeping track of who is who and who did what is not easy nor really necessary. Also some of the plot devices are a little contrived but it’s not enough to spoil the fun. I only had two complaints about the film. First, the annoying comedy relief of Eddi Arent, and second, the fact that Klaus Kinski had such a short role in the film.