What's the matter in town is that murder has revived the legend of the accursed Baron von Klaus of 500 years ago, a sadist before the word was coined to describe him. An angry father cursed this Baron for torturing his daughter, and the townsfolk tell that the villain disappeared in the swamps but did not die. Suspicion alights on Max inevitably, although Franco is careful to give us several other suspicious characters.
The problem for Max is that his alibi for the time of one of the murders stinks. As he protests, he'd probably come up with a better alibi had he actually done the crime, but his real problem, we learn, is that he actually does have a secret to keep. Only one person, the one for whose sake he's keeping the secret, can reveal it to free him, perhaps not without cost. All of this makes Max more than a red herring. He actually becomes a sympathetic character, if not quite the hero of the picture. Franco's compassionate handling of the material seems atypical; even his fans might concede that this is a rare Franco film with a heart.
Filmed in a wider aspect ration than Orloff, Klaus is a more classically composed if perhaps slightly less personal film from Franco. There's actually less sadism to it than the English language title suggests, though there is one scene with a topless victim, filmed almost tastefully, chained to the ceiling of a dungeon. Cinematographer Godofredo Pacheco gives the old-time urban and forest locations plenty of expansive, expressionist atmosphere. The story is simple stuff, but the visuals make it worth looking at, and if not one of his best, it may be one of Franco's most likable films.