Though Harald Reinl's ZIMMER 13 is but one of many Edgar Wallace-inspired thrillers from Rialto, the film rises above the usual krimi produced by the company during their heyday thanks to a mish-mash of genre elements that add up to a very satisfying whole.
After a straight razor wielding killer slices a woman at a trainyard the scene abruptly shifts to the country estate of Sir Robert Marney (Walter Rilla), a member of the British House of Commons. There he's visited by Joe Legge (Richard Häussler), a notorious criminal who has been out of the country for the last several decades. It seems that Sir Marney helped Legge pull off a heist 20 years ago, and the crook is back now that the statute of limitations has expired.
With larceny still in his heart, Legge blackmails Marney into helping him with another robbery and threatens the aristocrat's feisty daughter Denise (Karin Dor) in order to keep him in line. Fearing for his daughter's life, Marney turns to series regular Joachim Fuchsberger, turning up here as private detective Johnny Gray.
From here on out, ZIMMER 13 (aka ROOM 13) deftly juggles numerous storylines that all intersect in time for the zany and typically convoluted (though less so than usual for a krimi) ending. Though the heist being planned in the titular Room 13 is a bit of a yawn (it's basically your run of the mill train robbery), we're treated to more razor wielding kill scenes, including a stripper who gets hers after performing, and a slice of Gothic mystery as we try to figure out just what happened to Denise's mother. These gothic and giallo elements seamlessly work together to give this krimi more oomph than many of the other, more straightforward “murder mystery” examples of the genre that I've enjoyed.
Naturally, Eddi Arent shows up in his usual comic relief role, this time presaging the forensic-obsessed crime solvers so popular with today's television audiences. As Dr. Higgins, Arent uses his senses and gadgets to help Gray with the case, identifies an undercover agent thanks to “the official underwear of Scotland Yard,” dresses up like an Italian waiter who bears a striking resemblance to Borat, and even gets his licks in during the final battle with the villains.
Though saddened by the lack of Kinski in this offering, ZIMMER 13, with its jazzy Peter Thomas score, dark mood, striking photography and engrossing story definitely ranks at or near the top of my krimi viewing list.