Sandy

Created by Samuel Fuller

"Nothing's more stupid than private detectives... except American private detectives."

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street was a made-for-TV movie by legendary American B-film director Sam Fuller (The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, The Big Red One, etc.) that aired in Germany in 1974 as part of Tatort, a popular and very long running cop show.

In fact, the show may still be still running. Tatort (it means "crime scene") is sort of an anthology series, with various teams of detectives from different regions of Germany working to solve crimes. "Reifezeugnis" was perhaps the most famous episode, directed by Wolfgang "Das Boot" Petersen and starring a very young Nastassja Kinski.

I'm not sure how -- or if -- "Tote Taube in der Beethovenstrasse" (the episode's German title) fits into the continuity, since it's more (or less) of a private eye drama, following SANDY, a big, tough but not particularly bright New York City gumshoe (played by American actor Glenn Corbett) out to avenge the murder of his partner, going undercover to join an international gang of drug-dealing extortionists operating in Germany who prey on politicians. He's aided by the lovely Christa (Mrs. Fuller in real life), part of the gang, who's unaware of what Sandy's really up to.

After its original broadcast on German television, it was released theatrically in Europe to mostly positive reviews, but received only a brief release at drive-ins and other second string markets in the U.S. It took years for it be released on DVD or Blu-Ray, and after finally tracking down a copy, I'm really wondering why I even bothered.

Because it pretty much sucks. Inept and amateurish, this gobbler was done on the cheap, and it shows. The dialogue is horrible, the plot barely logical, the direction clumsy, and the acting? Well, suffice it to say that the lead actress was the director's wife. As for Glenn Corbett, he rocks a fine pornstache, but if he was anymore wooden, he'd have been paid by the board foot.

And how tough can a guy be with a name like Sandy, anyway?

Yeah, yeah. Fuller considered it a "cartoon caper," but that's pretty much the standard defense when someone works in a genre and does a gigantic bellyflop. The intention may have been to go way over the top, but it fell far short, more underwhelming than overreaching, with potentially powerful scenes truncated for no apparent reason (budget?), and pointless scenes stretched to the breaking point. It's usually slagged as a cheaply produced, pretentious mess -- or lauded as a boldly visionary tour de force.

Trust me -- it's the former.

His disciples may celebrate Fuller for his pulpish audacity, claiming only he would stage a gunfight in a maternity ward, with bullets flying over the heads of innocent babies. Or have the climactic conclusion built around a long, drawn out sword fight, with the thoroughly hissable villain mostly offscreen.

But these seem more like flaws than features. The extremely brief shootout in the maternity ward barely registers, and the climactic sword fight just seems silly and clumsily directed; something borrowed from Get Smart, maybe, but without the laughs. Or the dramatic tension.

Fuller later wrote a novelization of the film that was published as a tie-in paperback in 1974 in the States, despite the film's lack of success there. E. Borgers of the Hardboiled Mysteries Website thought the book was "particularly well done." Me? Given the source material, I'm a little dubious.

UNDER OATH

  • "Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street is a self-conscious film that does not fully embrace its intended satire, but it's still a hell of a ride."

-- Stacia Kissick Jones, Spectrumculture.com

  • "What has really been detailed in this tawdry, inconsistent and unbelievable plot (values unacceptable in good bourgeois art) is the mechanism of passivity in which all are implicated by the camera, both the blackmail camera and Fuller's camera. The repetition of the blackmail allows that mechanism to be detailed since the act in question throughout, the act of sex, is never performed."

-- Ernest Larsen in Jump Cut: Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street

TELEVISION

  • TATORT
    (1970--)
  • TOTE IN DER BEETHOVENSTRASSE... Buy this DVD... Buy the Blu-Ray
    (aka "Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street")
    (1972, German)
    102 minutes
    Screenplay by Samuel Fuller
    Directed by Samuel Fuller
    Produced by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Bavaria Atelier GmbH
    Starring Glenn Corbett as SANDY
    and Christa Lang as CHRISTA
    Also starring Anton Diffring, Eric P. Caspar, William Ray, Anthony Chinn, Alexander D'Arcy, Sieghardt Rupp, Hans Blumenberg, Armin Halstenberg, Stephane Audran

The IMDB lists this as the 25th episode of Tatort's first season, and gives it an airdate in September 1974.

NOVELIZATION

RELATED LINKS

The worst and most disappointing P.I. films of all time.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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