Released in the US 1974
Starring Glenn Corbett, Christa Lang, Sieghardt Rupp, Anton Diffring, Stéphane Audran, Eric P. Caspar, William Ray, Alexander D’Arcy, Anthony Chinn
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Just in terms of entertainment:
Following Shark!, Sam Fuller’s luck getting films funded didn’t change much; Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street is Fuller’s only film of the ’70s. Technically, it’s not even a proper film, but if you didn’t know it was made as an episode of the German cop series Tatort (which is amazingly still running), you’d never have guessed it. Where American television stifled Fuller’s creative spirit and made him conform to the norms of whatever show he was working on, the producers of Tatort allowed Fuller the freedom to make whatever he wanted. He took this freedom and ran with it, crafting a unique, exciting picture unlike anything else in the Fuller catalog. Part crime thriller, part farcical comedy, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street is a hidden gem in Fuller’s filmography.
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street opens with a pigeon falling from the sky. As it plummets to the sidewalk below, it is joined on the ground by a dying man. The killer runs down the street with the cops in chase. The film hits the ground running, leading us into a tale of blackmail, deceit and betrayal. Our hero, Sandy (Glenn Corbett, who made his film debut in Fuller’s The Crimson Kimono), is an American private investigator on the hunt for the negatives to some compromising photos of an American senator. The man murdered on Beethoven Street was Sandy’s partner, and the clues left by the murderer allow Sandy to infiltrate the group responsible for the senator’s blackmail.
But some of comedic moments are hard to miss regardless of the film’s varied tone, because when Fuller goes for it, he really goes for it. This is a Sam Fuller movie, after all! For instance, there’s a completely bonkers sword fight in a room adorned with weapons on the walls. Absolutely hilarious and over the top, a battle rages between a cultured sword fighter and Sandy the American, who is so consumed with rage that he flails his weapon wildly and throws it at the other man without any thought. Then he grabs another sword from the wall and gives that one a few good swings before throwing it too. The cycle repeats through an entire arsenal of bladed weapons. Like I said: it’s BONKERS (in the best possible way).
These intensely visual moments are scored by the music of the influential German band Can (billed here as “The Can”), and their pulsating, jangly music is the perfect match for the tone and imagery of the film. As many later Fuller films do, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street feels somewhat dreamlike at times, and Can’s music also evokes something of a similar state of mind. That’s not to say that the music is ethereal or anything, but that if one were to dream of being chased, Can’s music here would be a perfect aural complement. In its more abstract moments, the music also reminded me a lot of Goblin’s soundtrack work, specifically moments in the score for Suspiria.
But even taking the narrative slack of the broadcast version into consideration, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street is a great piece of evidence that the tampering done to Shark! was a travesty. Fuller was clearly still an inventive, powerhouse filmmaker that most likely delivered a very good film to those shyster producers… but I digress. Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street isn’t a great Fuller film, but it is very entertaining and chock full of great moments. Glenn Corbett does an excellent job as the inept detective (who seems to have no clue of his ineptitude), playing up both the stupidity and the anger of the character beautifully. This film was supposed to get a stateside DVD release by Fantoma a number of years ago, but it seems that Olive Films now owns the distribution rights. Seeing as they’ve released two Fuller films to DVD/Blu-ray quite recently, let’s hope their edition of Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street isn’t too far away (and that it includes both versions of the film).
Update! (2/12/2016): Olive has finally announced their release of Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street! It is to be the 128 minute cut, with some extras, too! April 19, 2016 is the big day and you can order it from Amazon as a Blu-ray or as a standard DVD!
Couldn’t find a trailer, but here’s the sword fight.