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Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street

March 6, 2015 - 7:30 pm
Christa Fuller; Randy Yantek, digital media strategist, UCLA Film & Television Archive

Restored and funded by UCLA Film & Television Archive

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street  (Germany, 1972)

Tote Taube in der Beethovenstraße

Hot on the trail of a scandalous photo of a U.S. senator with an unknown blonde, an American detective is gunned down in Bonn on Beethoven Street.  His partner, Sandy (Glenn Corbett), arrives in Germany to pick up the chase, and maneuvers his way into an international syndicate of blackmailers, falling for Christa (Christa Fulller), the mysterious blonde from the photograph.  She promises to help Sandy, but the Yankee gumshoe might be in over his head in this high-stakes game of global extortion.

From its cutthroat opening, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street displays the confrontational kineticism central to Fuller’s work and probes familiar themes of duplicitous identities and malleable allegiances.  Approached to make a picture for the German television series Tatort, Fuller seized the chance to create a “tongue-in-cheek adventure”: “I wanted Dead Pigeon to be full of high jinks and hilarity.  People expected me to be doing war movies or action pictures. I’d always dreamed of doing a comedy, a film of pure entertainment.”

Invoking the conventions of the detective film, but not taking them particularly seriously, Dead Pigeon romps knowingly through an assemblage of international diplomats and underhanded scammers, with a gun battle staged in a nursery (bullets fly overhead as the heavy, Charlie Umlaut, ducks for cover behind a row of bassinets), and a comically overwrought final showdown between the hotheaded American and the fencing-enthusiast mastermind behind the syndicate.  Stylistic elements amplify Fuller’s experimental leanings: abrupt zooms, jump cuts and surveillance-like camera angles figure prominently.

Returning to Germany for the first time since his service in World War II, Fuller took full advantage of the location, incorporating Cologne’s annual Carnival and landmarks including Beethoven’s home, where Fuller reportedly spent a war-weary night sleeping under Beethoven’s piano during the capture of Bonn.  Released to enthusiastic support abroad—the film was praised by Take One as “relentlessly inventive and bizarre”—Dead Pigeon’s domestic release was minimal.

The Archive’s first completely digital restoration, we’re proud to present this unique articulation of Fuller’s artistic vision, in a never before seen director’s cut with additional footage not included in prior versions.  —Nina Rao

Director: Samuel Fuller.  Production: Bavaria Atelier GmbH, Chrisam Films.  Distribution: Bavaria Atelier GmbH.  Producer: Joachim von Mengershausen.  Screenwriter: Samuel Fuller.  Cinematographer: Jerzy Lipman.  Art Direction: Lothar Kirchem.  Editor: Liesgret Schmitt-Klink.  Music: Can.  Cast: Christa Lang, Glenn Corbett, Anton Diffring, Eric P. Caspar, Sieghardt Rupp.  DCP, color, 123 min.

Restored from 35mm Interpositive (IP) and 16mm print.  Laboratory services by UCLA Film & Television Archive.  Special thanks to: Christa Fuller.