This generous compilation gathers together music that soundtrack composer Thomas composed for a series of early/mid-'60s crime flicks directed by fellow German Edgar Wallace. Judging from the pictures inside CD booklet, these movies must have been pretty kitschy -- unlike Thomas' music, which holds up quite well. Roughly comparable to some of John Barry's work from the same era, but with more of a jazz foundation, Thomas' soundtracks mix together a whole range of sounds -- strings, vibraphones, flutes, James Bond-style guitars, light Afro-Latin and West Coast jazz rhythms, lonely saxophones, punchy brass-section work, organ, harpsichord, piano, and so on -- into a smooth, flowing whole. Only a few of the CD's 30 tracks are as sinister as the title implies -- a lot of the music actually has a happy-go-lucky (if sometimes ironically so) feel. Standout moments include the menacing yet also humorous "Titlemusik" from Der Hexer, with its monotone chanting vocals, gunshots, and piercing screams; the slyly dissonant "A-Ha!"; and the bubbly, irresistibly catchy "Smoothly Organ." The remainder is never less than enjoyable, if generally not quite as distinctive or groundbreaking as the sci-fi/space jazz of Thomas' Raumpotrouille. On the whole, though, Kriminalfilmmusik is an excellent sampling of Thomas' more "crime jazz"-oriented work, showcasing the various qualities (e.g., superb orchestration and production, well-written melodies, subtle humor) that make him a standout composer in this field.
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AllMusic Review by William York