In Chicago a gang of criminals led by a man named O’Connor are playing cards in a hotel room. A phone call comes in from Gunner Steve (Klaus Kinski) warning that rival gang members, run by Kerkie Minelli (Eric Pohlmann), are on their way up. The door bursts open and machine gun fire erupts. A hand grenade is then tossed in the room. The O’Connor gang is wiped out except for Gunner Steve who was calling from somewhere else. Sometime later FBI Agent Captain Allerman (Christopher Lee) takes Minelli to the docks where he is deported to Italy.
Wealthy men in Britain begin receiving extortion letters. The words are cut out of newspapers and the letters demand 10,000 pounds. If they don’t pay up or if they go to the police they will be killed. When a dead body shows up at Scotland Yard, Sir John (Hans Zesch-Ballot) alerts the blackmail department. New in the department is Inspector Weston (Adrian Hoven). He believes the methods being used by the extortionists is similar to what Americans have been dealing with. He suggests they bring in his American counterpart Captain Allerman.
Allerman says that the note looks like the work of the O’Connor gang. O’Connor is dead but his lieutenant Gunner Steve is still alive and is now in Britain. Weston’s friend Tanner (Fritz Rasp) is the next to receive a letter. His assistant, Lilian Ranger (Marisa Mell) notifies Weston. Tanner is the next to be killed. After that the next person to get a letter is Mr. Shelby. Shelby’s letter is different from the ones sent out before and his is demanding 20,000 pounds. Allerman recognizes the style as being that of Kerkie Minelli. Allerman informs Weston that he has not one but two vicious Chicago mobsters to deal with.
When Steve and Minelli find out that they are both working the same territory the two gangs meet to see if they can come to some agreement. In the end it doesn’t work and the gangs begin warring. In the middle of all this Weston is vying for the attention of Lilian with Edwin (Pinkas Braun), Tanner’s estranged nephew. Weston then learns that Lilian, who was Tanner’s heir, is really penniless since the bank says that Tanner had more debts than assets. Lilian is offered a job at the bank that handled Tanner’s accounts. Weston also finds out that the bank was bought out by a Chicago trust fund. Now the bank is looking like a laundering operation for the mob and the dead bodies keep coming.
“The Secret of the Red Orchid” AKA “The Riddle of the Red Orchid” AKA “Das Ratsel der roten Orchidee” was released in 1962 and was directed by Helmuth Ashley. It is a West German crime thriller and a krimi. The movie was based on the novel “When the Gangs Come to London” by Edgar Wallace.
There are quite a few plot twists in this krimi but for the most part it’s not that difficult to follow but the title doesn’t really fit. It’s a combination of quirky and standard. The movie is also rather campy with the mob being moved to Britain and a bunch of German’s trying to act like American thugs. The actual designated Comic relief is the standard Eddie Arnt as the butler Parker. Parker keeps popping up because he ends up working for just about every rich person who gets bumped off. His resume looks like a list of who’s who but dead. He’s a little tough to get through at times.
The English dubbed version of the film sounds even sillier than the German version. Christopher Lee also sounds more ridiculous in the English version since his voice is dubbed by someone trying to sound like a hard boiled Chicago cop. The music is also rather absurd. The music for the part where the two mobs are sitting at a table trying to work out a deal is a jazzed up version of “Old Lang Syne”.