From the late fifties to the early seventies, the German production company Rialto Film, produced a series of popular thrillers based on the nineteen-twenties mystery stories of Edgar Wallace. These became known as "Krimi" (Krimi: a criminal/mystery story) and the genre became so popular that several other companies jumped on the Krimi bandwagon which also enabled Wallace's son Bryan to make a living writing stories and screenplays in the same vein as his father. "The Devil came From Akasava" appeared at the tail end of the genre's life-span in Germany, just before it was completely subsumed by the much more explicit, Italian take on the mystery thriller known as Giallo, embodied by the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, whose debut movie was also based on an Edgar Wallace story: "The Screaming Mini". The film was produced by Artur Brauner's CCC Finix Films who employed Spanish b-movie maverick Jess Franco to direct a number of cheaply made films at the beginning of the Seventies. This last-ditch Krimi cash-in was among them, but although it purports to be based on an Edgar Wallace mystery, and was publicised as such, it is unclear how true this actually is. Wallace produced a few African adventures with Akasava in the title, and Brauner also contracted Bryan Edgar Wallace to script some of his CCC productions in the sixties -- so it is possible that the film is a mishmash of these elements. In any case, the new release on DVD from IMAGE is of more interest to Franco fans than Krimi purists, for it turns out to be a lightweight, but extremely enjoyable, romp -- employing all of Franco's most frequent collaborators from the period and headed by the luscious Soledad Miranda, seen here in her last screen role before her premature death.
The story revolves around some pulp-science hooey involving the discovery of a new form of mineral in the African town of Arkasava, which has the power to catalyse the instant transformation of metal into gold, but also gives off deadly "rays" which induce catalepsy in anyone exposed to them. Naturally, a whole host of shady characters are after the mineral, and when Dr Forrester (the minerologist who discovered it) mysteriously disappears in Akasava, his assistent is murdered, and a complete stanger is found stabbed to death in Forrester's office back in London; Special Agent Jane Morgan (Soledad Miranda) of Scotland Yard is assigned the job of getting to the bottom of the mystery while going udercover as an exotic dancer (but of course!). From here on in we get bombarded with plot-twists and double crosses galore, as virtually the whole cast turn out to be not quite what they at first appear!
Fred Wlliams (Harker in Franco's version of "Dracula") is the male lead, whose character is also an undercover agent, posing as Forrester's nephew. In line with most James Bond-style spy capers of the time, all the females in the cast fall into bed with him at some point! Although, Franco does seem to deliberatly undercut the hero to some extent by handicaping him with a broken leg, forcing him to hobble around with a stick for most of the time! He and Soledad's sulty spy end up pairing up, and the story gets unfeasably complicated from here on in as we are introduced to an endless supply of dodgy characters: the shadowy doctor Thorrsen (Horst Tappert) and his untrustworthy wife Ingrid (Ewa Stromberg); another suspicious physician in London, Dr. Henry (Paul Muller); and Howard Vernon, who can never help but look throughly creepy, plays a throughly creepy valet! Franco himself makes a welcome appearance as another spy who helps Williams and Miranda with their investigation, and the whole caper zooms along at a pleasingly frenzied pace. For a Franco film this is unusual, as is the rather conventional thriller narrative structure. But the film still ends up feeling quintessentially Franco (more so than many of the Harry Allen Towers features he directed) thanks to the familiarity of the cast and it's groovy psychedelic soundtrack, provided once again by Manfred Hubler and Sigi Schwab, which plays constantly all the way through the movie! But the best reason for watching the film is, once again, the presence of Soledad Miranda who this time is playing a rather conventional Bond-girl type of role rather than one of the dangerously seductive manifestations of supernatural depravity she usually portrays for Franco. Despite the relentless pace of the piece, Franco gets his priorities right -- and finds time for Soledad to remove all of her clothes approximately every ten minutes!
Image Entertainment's disc is in some ways a disappointment since it contains no extras at all (not even a trailer) and it presents the film 4:3 full frame, rather than the correct 1.66:1 theatrical ratio, which often leads to the framing looking very tight. The clarity and vividness of the transfer though (produced from Artur Brauner's original CCC vault elements) is exceptional! The colours look gorgeous with beautiful reds, greens and deep blacks; Soledad's exotic dance routines have never looked so alluring! Although not a very good example of the Krimi genre, "The Devil Came From Akasava" is one of the more entertaining and easily accessible Franco films; and of course, Soledad Miranda is always more than watchable!