After escaping from prison in Istanbul, super crook Kriminal has re-established himself in London as head of a care home, whose heavily insured residents have a habit of dying. A chance reveals that a fortune worth millions is buried on an archaeological site in the Lebanon, but a map showing its exact location has been split into four pieces and hidden in identical statuettes of Buddha…
It’s business as usual for the skeleton-suited master villain as he becomes embroiled in a plot that owes a heavy debt to the Sherlock Holmes tale ‘The Six Napoleons’ and pretty much every ‘hidden treasure’ tale since. Most of the principals return from the original ‘Kriminal’ (1966) with handsome Glenn Saxson thinking on his feet to stay one step ahead of nemesis Inspector Milton (Andrea Bosic), now head of Scotland Yard. On his way, Saxson beds the usual quota of beautiful women, and removes anyone who stands between him and his objective; in this case two ‘lost’ old masters by Rembrandt and Goya. Helga Liné also returns as our leading lady, playing a completely different part from the first film, although her character is much the same. There’s the usual whistle stop tour around continental Europe too; although credit must be given to the location manager who came up with some very impressive ruins in the Lebanon to be used for the film’s climax.
The sleek, expensive look of the film is also assisted by the excellent crisp colour photography by Emilio Foriscot and Angelo Lotti. What is lacking, as in the first outing, is any sense of a real personality; to either proceedings in general, or our leading man in particular. Saxson isn’t bad in the role by any means, but a bit of charisma would have gone a long way, although perhaps it was a conscious decision to ‘play down’ any emotional traits, given the amoral nature of the character.
Saxson’s only other role of note was as western anti-hero Django in 1966 but, after a few parts in minor films, his career fizzled out in the mid-1970s. Director Fernando Cerchio specialised in ancient Egyptian epics, including ‘Nefertite, regina del Nilo/Queen of the Nile’ (1961), which starred Vincent Price as the villain.
There were lots of masked supervillains coming out of Italy in the 1960s; so many in fact that it’s difficult to pinpoint who came first, although the origins of all lay in the country’s popular comic book culture. Kriminal made it onto film twice, which was more than most, although a leading character whose main claim to fame was the faintly ridiculous notion of committing crimes while disguised as a skeleton probably didn’t help his longevity on the silver screen.
Worth a look if your expectations are not too high.