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Only Dead Witnesses are Silent

(The Sinister Puppet)

Director: Eugen Martin
Screenplay: Gerhard Schmidt, Francis Niewel
Camera: Franz Sempere
Music: Al Lavaguino
Sets: Ramiro Gomez
Sound: Günter Rauch
Editing: Edith von Seydewith
Asst. Director: Jürgen Hilgert
Production manager: Horst Backwinkel
Head of Production: Franz Thierry
Producer: Dr. Alfons Carcasona

CharactersCast
Erik SteinJean Sorel
Chris KronbergerGötz George
Katherina, Ballet mistressMargot Trooger
Inspector Herbert KaufmannHeinz Drache
Karin KronbergerMara Cruz
Police superintendentWerner Peters
Georg von CramerMassimo Serato
Magda BergenEleonora Rossi-Drago

and others

The Plot

Each evening the same mysterious show takes place on the stage of an internationally-renowned variety theatre: the puppet Grog hypnotises on the orders of its master Georg the medium Magda. An X-ray shows how her heart ceases to beat under the influence of the sinister starring look until an order from Georg commands the puppet to slowly bring back to life the attractive young woman.

Each evening an impressed audience applauds the two artists Georg von Cramer and Magda Bergen. Backstage, Erik Stein the actual inventor of the act has to look on with envy as he is pushed increasingly into the background, also in his love for Magda.

Chris Kronberger, a pleasant young boxer who works as a driver for a haulage company, is asked one day to take a huge bunch of roses to Magda, but finds himself in Georg’s empty dressing-room. A bundle of banknotes on the dressing-table attracts his attention and he uses the opportunity to steal them. But before he can flee with the money, Georg, who returns unexpectedly, notices the theft. In order to avoid being recognised, Chris deals him a measured blow which knocks Georg out.

Only one other person is aware of the episode: Erik Stein, who is everywhere keeping an eye on his successful partner. He has just learned that Georg and Magda want to marry. In a second he recognises his opportunity, so hate and envy tempt him into doing away with his rival altogether. The only witness to the brutal murder is the puppet Grog.

As far as the police officers are concernedit is a clear-cut case, not least supported by the clever testimony of Erik. It could only have been Chris who committed the murder. He only manages to avoid arrest by fleeing over the rooftops after his sister Karin distracts the waiting police at the door. One of them, Inspector Herbert Kaufmann, courageously takes up the dangerous chase across the narrow ledges but then slips. Chris risks his own life but manages to save him from falling to the ground and then knocks him out for his own safety.

Back at the theatre, Katherina the wordly ballet mistress confuses the police by making secretive insinuations about Grog the only witness. The puppet itself, however, has vanished. Thus Erik appears to have finally won, particularly so when next morning he sees the picture in the newspaper of Chris the wanted murderer. Chris phones him from a boxing studio where he is hiding and explains that he only hit Georg von Cramer with his fist and not with a stick as suggested by the newspapers. That means therefore that only Erik can be the murderer. They agree to a meeting in the night on a building site, where Erik is hoping to clear up the matter with a couple of thousand to pay off Chris.

Meanwhile, Karin tries to gain contact with her brother. Chris manages to outwit the police and convince his sister of his innocence.

All this time, Erik prepares himself for the night-time meeting. With a pistol in his hand he waits on the empty building-site. The grabbing claws of an invisibly controlled huge crane put him in considerable danger but again he manages to escape. In a state of exhaustion he reaches his house and receives a package containing the puppet Grog. And a short time later there is a confrontation between the real murderer and Chris who demands a signature to a confession. Apparently grasping for breath, Erik first asks for his heart-tablets to be brought from another floor. Chris bundles the seemingly sick man over his shoulder and at the same moment becomes a dead man. Using a letter-opener, the unlawful Erik puts an end to the life of the dangerous witness to his deed. He hides the body in the cellar. But then there is the sound of hollow laughter from the puppet Grog on the first floor. Erik rushes upstairs. Nobody is to be seen. Only Grog is laughing apparently without reason.

The unsuspecting Karin asks Erik to help her in the search for Chris. Erik sees himself threatened by the new arrival and decides to kill her too. But Karin is saved at the last moment. In his desperation, Erik asks Magda over to the villa and begs her to flee with him. He hastily packs the cases but then suddenly discovers that the puppet Grog has disappeared. The lights go out throughout the whole house. Grog s empty laughter echoes throughout. Erik rushes down into the cellar despite Magda’s desperate plea for him not to leave her alone.

But Chris lies stiff and immobile under the linen sheet. From another corner of the cellar there is the sound of a dull heart-beat. Erik rushes over and stares at a sinister scene.

Down in the cellar stands the X-ray screen just like on-stage. Sitting opposite on a seat is the puppet Grog starring with sparkling eyes as if it wanted to bring someone back to life with hypnotic powers. The rhythmic sound of heart-beats fills the room. Before Erik can recover from his shock he hears from the living-room Magda s frantic calls for help. He is only able to establish that she has disappeared. Only when Karin and Inspector Kaufmann arrive on the scene does she emerge from the shadows. Totally aghast, Erik has to look on and see how Magda switches off a tape-recorder which has obviously been giving off the heart-beats and the gruesome laughter. She then admits that it was her who had staged the whole nightmare as revenge for the killing of her lover.