Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1973)
One of the rarest items in the just-deceased Museum of the Moving Image Sam Fuller retro is the 1973 made for German TV curiosity Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street. An episode in the cop show "Tatort", Fuller received a modest budget and instructions to use his wife, actress Christa Lang (The Champagne Murders (1967), What's Up, Doc? (1972)). He obliged, and churned out a fabulously entertaining detective thriller/farce. It's pure Fuller - with an opening shootout in a maternity ward and a clandestine meeting at the Beethoven Museum (the same spot he broke into for a night's sleep during WWII).
Christa Lang plays a professional blackmailer, seducing diplomats and then drugging them to take some artful photographs. The limp dick on the case is played by Glenn Corbett, prolific TV actor ("Route 66", "Dallas"), and who debuted in Fuller's Crimson Kimono back in '59. From the outset Corbett, here known as by the intimidating moniker of "Sandy", is an easy-going failure, big, dumb and appealing. He gets outsmarted by the opening shooter, and ambles his way happily through the rest of the proceedings. He's double and triple-crossed to no seeming effect. The most engaged Sandy gets is when he trails Christa to a theatre screening Rio Bravo dubbed in German.
It's a tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of the detective genre, and Fuller has a blast with it, especially in the dialogue. Christa says Sandy looks like an "unemployed rapist", and when she doesn't allow him to open the door for her, she says the last time a man did that for her, "I was going 60 miles an hour". There's also a brilliant bit where Christa tells the Chinese ambassador that she doesn't think ping-pong is a sport.
Most bizarrely, Stephane Audran (fresh off Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) pops up as a Dietrich-esque lipstick lesbian in an underground bookstore, going by the frightening name of Dr. Bogdanovich.
There's also murderous clowns and a Fuller phone cameo as an aggrieved senator caught in one of the photos. Fantomas plans on releasing it on DVD, although it's been delayed due to some sure to be knotty rights issues. I hope it sees the light of day soon, because it shows Fuller at his loosest and close to his best.