Edgar Wallace Presents The Terror is a 1938 British mystery thriller that packs a tremendous amount into its 72 minute running time. Adapted from Edgar Wallace’s play, The Terror (hence the title), the film begins with a botched gold robbery which sees two of the robbers captured and imprisoned. The pair hold a grudge against the crime’s mastermind, counting down the days until their release. We then fast-forward ten years to mysterious goings on in a big old country house. How are these events connected? You won’t have to wait long to find out.
The Terror features a cast that includes Alistair Sim and Bernard Lee (M in the Connery/Moore James Bond movies) and this acting talent hits the right notes. Lee in particular gives a performance that is a thousand miles away from his gruff persona as 007’s cantankerous boss, while Sim is all simpering slime (it’s easy to see why he was cast a Scrooge in A Christmas Carol).
The film works best when it hits the country house setting, moving from crime thriller into gothic mystery territory. The first fifteen minutes or so feel tagged on, it’s a bit disjointed, as if they’re setting up the plot for the audience. If I were a betting man, I would put down cold hard cash that this opening wasn’t part of Wallace’s original play. I could be wrong though, and that’s why I don‘t flash my cash by betting the odds.
Edgar Wallace Presents The Terror is a lean mystery tale that rollicks along at a tremendous pace. There’s much to enjoy and what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in energy.