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Monday, April 11, 2016

DEAD PIGEON ON BEETHOVEN STREET -- DVD Review by Porfle



When legendary director Samuel Fuller (THE BIG RED ONE, SHOCK CORRIDOR, THE NAKED KISS) was offered the chance to direct a feature-length episode of the popular German police procedural "Tatort" (or, "scene of the crime"), he took full advantage of it by making one of his most interesting and experimental films.

DEAD PIGEON ON BEETHOVEN STREET (1972)--a nice, pulpy title befitting the work of a noir director--may have the look and budget of a television episode (albeit a deluxe one), but Fuller's use of camera and editing amidst some of Germany's most exciting landmarks is both striking and delightfully eccentric.

The same can also be said of Fuller's script, which dispenses with the show's lead character Kressin (Sieghardt Rupp) early on in order to feature Glenn Corbett as an American private detective who has come to Germany to avenge the death of his partner who was killed while trying to infiltrate an international blackmail and extortion ring. 


While avenging one's partner is a tradition of private eyes going back at least as far as Sam Spade, Corbett's character both embraces cliche' and amusingly weaves in and out of it.  His attitude, similarly, is hard as nails one moment and playful the next.  He doesn't even have a cool name like Spade or Marlowe--his name is "Sandy", and we never find out what comes after that. 

Needless to say, Sandy isn't the usual super-suave detective--in fact, if he weren't sorta cool, he'd come close to being a schlub.  He even has to cajole a coolly skeptical Kressin just to keep being allowed to continue on his mission instead of getting kicked out of the country. 

The plot is complicated and involved, and the film's pace is pretty much as lazy as a Sunday afternoon.  But as soon as Corbett is joined by Fuller's real-life wife Christa Lang (WHAT'S UP, DOC?, AT LONG LAST LOVE) as "Christa" and the great Anton Diffring (WHERE EAGLES DARE, FAHRENHEIT 451) as Mensur, the big cheese of the blackmailers, the plot begins to matter less than the simple joy of watching these actors interact, so to speak, with each other.  


Sandy pretends to be a blackmailer himself in order to get accepted into the organization by Mensur, and does so by collaborating with the lovely Christa as she ingratiates herself with prominent politicians, drugs them, and photographs them in compromising positions with her. 

Along the way, however, things begin to heat up romantically between Sandy and Christa, with her allegiance in question when she discovers that her new partner isn't what he seems.  During this time the scenes of intrigue and the occasional burst of pulse-quickening action take place against some of Germany's most scenic backdrops, including a colorful street carnival in Cologne which Fuller uses to its fullest effect.

Eric P. Caspar plays the eccentrically-named Charlie Umlaut, the smack-addicted killer who put the actual lethal bullet into Sandy's partner on Mensur's behalf and whom Sandy wants to capture in the worst way.  He's the classic second-banana bad guy who's even more entertaining and sinister than his boss (think Taylor Negron's "Mr. Milo" in THE LAST BOY SCOUT). 


Christa Lang's unusual beauty and quirky acting style make her interesting to watch (her performance grows more captivating as the film progresses) both with Glenn Corbett and in her crackling scenes with Diffring, who, of course, is impeccable as the suave criminal mastermind.

As for Corbett--with those electric blue eyes and world-class 'stache--it's nice seeing him playing a less stiff character than usual ("Route 66", "Star Trek", CHISUM, BIG JAKE).  I always liked him despite never finding him especially exciting until just now, in a role that allows him more depth, variety, and sheer likability than pretty much the rest of his whole career put together (or at least the parts that I've seen).

The final confrontation between Mensur and Sandy turns into a wild free-for-all of swishing blades, smashing furniture, and the distinct sensation of Sam Fuller's elbow being poked into our ribs.  It's this impression that he was having fun with this and not taking it particularly seriously that gives the whole film a sort of casual appeal.


The 2-disc DVD set from Olive Films is in 1.33.1 widescreen with optional English subtitles.  Disc one is the restored version of Fuller's original long cut of the film (127 minutes) along with a trailer.

Disc two contains a fascinating documentary on the making of the film, "Return to Beethoven Street: Sam Fuller in Germany", which features Christa Lang-Fuller, Sam's daughter Samantha, Eric P. Caspar, Wim Wenders, and other persons of interest, in addition to two text essays on the film by authors Lisa Dombrowski ("The Films of Samuel Fuller") and Samuel B. Prime.  These essays are also found in the attractive 8-page illustrated booklet that comes with the set.

Even if DEAD PIGEON ON BEETHOVEN STREET weren't an interesting and fun movie it would be buoyed by the sheer novelty that runs through the entire project.  While on the sunny side of "noir", the final punchline is pure film-noir irony and is very well-played by all involved, putting a satisfying capper on the whole thing. 

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DVD Release Date: April 19, 2016
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3 comments:

christa Fuller said...

YOU HAVE NOT SEEN GLENN CORBETT IN THE CRIMSON KIMONO by the same SAMUEL FULLER?
LOOK IT UP ON ROTTEN TOMATOES
also available on dvd
Yes, DPOB is an homage to the NEW WAVE…..among other things
great doc by ROBERT FISCHER

Porfle Popnecker said...

I haven't seen CRIMSON KIMONO yet but I now look forward to seeing it as soon as possible.

I've watched DEAD PIGEON twice so far and still haven't taken it all in. It's really a fascinating movie.

Thanks very much for your comment!

christa Fuller said...

just got the special edition with bonus features of A FULLER LIFE
httsp:chrisamfilms.com