And Gutenberg Lived Here: Dark, Darker, Comic.

Murder mysteries here in Gutenberg Land are,

to quote a shop owner at the unfortunately now defunct

and much missed

Murder One in London,

“usually the “noir” type:”

taking place at night,

in a cemetery,

with  a shovel,

preferable to a country house on a weekend.

And then, of course,

they must be full of traditional historical social problems-

anything dating back to the time of the dinosaurs

or since,

will do just fine, thank you.

And lately, of course,

they must be full of the social problems the society here is undergoing,

ie cultural clashes with the new immigrants,

and between the new immigrants and the old immigrants,

sometimes even from the same country.

Or financial problems-

most especially financial problems.

And protesters versus the police,

the rise of non-controllable political splinter parties…

(It used to be that a certain notorious splinter party

tried every year to celebrate a certain person’s birthday,

around the twentieth of April.

You don’t hear much from them any more, thank heavens.

Until a voting year comes up.)

And then there are the Scandinavians-

much beloved here-

like the Wallender mysteries,

which are so popular.

Taking place outside,

often in the dark,

usually with a hoard of crickets doing the background music

so you can’t really hear the dialogue.

The alternative being,

not surprisingly,

the coziest of the cozies.

British Midsomer,

or a cute German one

called Murder With A View,

about a hot sort of Brenda Lee “Closer” type

who is kicked out of Cologne

for not being peaceable enough,

and fitting into the system,

or playing the game of politics enough,

and voila,

a job in a place with more Elk than people.

And who speak a dialect most of us here watching it in the original

roll on the floor laughing at.

But here is the catch:

the cozy has a lot to do with local customs,

ie the, as I mentioned above,

much beloved over here Barnaby novels,

Or the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marples,

which, of course, at one point recently,

led to a specialty of the German entertainment industry,

(already populated by such shows as-  top of the tv list over here:  “To Tell The Truth” in German),

a German sub-version  of the Christies,

heroine Agatha Heiland (the German word for Christ, latin Christi)

who, with her best bud Mr Stringer,

a hypochondriac who is too cheap to live in a hotel when on vacation,

and basically does all the tough stuff,

with a sort of dragging one shoe “I don’t really want to” attitude,

digs like a demented mini-dachsund, till she finds a paper in the library,

a clock that runs wrong, or blood on a golf shoe-

all of the classics.

And may right win out.

And here, a large round of applause,

and in my opinion the reason the movies did so well,

goes to Frau Heiland,

the marvelous, now unfortunately  no longer with us,

Ruth Drexel,

an absolutely unique all-rounder of an actress,

who, after many years of heavy heavy stage drama,

was suddenly “discovered”

in a truly brilliant, in my opinion,

German cozy,

call “Der Bulle Von Tölz” (The Cop from Tölz- a small picturesque town in Bavaria)

The cop,  played by Ottfried Fischer,

a Bavarian political cabaratist,

is in his late thirties,

has the mentality of Ferdinand the Bull,

and lives with mama Resi- (Theresa)

a Tölz original,

who runs a truly Bavarian Bed and Breakfast,

and that in a-

the writers would have us believe-

truly Bavarian Yankee in King Arthur’s Court style-

with alien hunters, tv show masters, Chinese medicine practitioners,

all taken in, and made to feel at home-

even if she does do things like putting “vitamins”

in the son’s supper,

that turn out to be a bit more on the dangerous substance list

than he would care for.

And then there are the classics,

redone to fit German humor-

a strange and funny German satire of the Edgar Wallace series.

Or, which amazes me no end,

the  Father Brown series,

based loosely,

in the German post-war reconstruction times,

on the GK Chesterton series of books,


in one of the first German versions,

starring Heinz Rühmann,

an actor, who, having come up the hard way,

working in a transit hotel-cafe-restaurant

owned jointly by his large family of female relatives,

went on to both stage and film roles so brilliant

he could manage to keep his head down,

and stay alive,

during the war,

making light-hearted comic pictures for the men at the front,

only to use the time thereafter

to show what he really felt.

My favorite is a film from 1968 called the duck rings at seven thirty-

die Ente klingelt um halb acht-

about a scientist who,

having put a duck on to bake in his super -modern automatic kitchen’s oven,

goes off to get a few things,

has a car/elephant collision,

ends up in a nerve clinic,

since they don’t believe him,

and spends the rest of the film trying to escape,


with the help of a group of 1968 hippies,

find the elephant,

to prove his innocence.

And since,

as anyone who has ever seen Rühmann’s films knows,

his work,

for example as a hero whose life can only be saved

by being declared crazy, and put in an asylum by a friendly doctor,

because he has made the fatal mistake of criticizing the government of the 1940’s,

shows that he is one of the  best comic theatre and film actors around.

And since German books, and films, and theatre

all carry such a heavy inborn load of automatic seriousness-

not just the “noir” found in other countries,


here in Germany

noir to the third power,

these vehicles only function when German books, films and shows

are never played as “light-hearted,”

or truly cozy,

but must still contain large, perhaps even larger than normal,

amounts of comic elements.

As the newer ones do,

in my opinion,

in order to finally reach the balance

that makes such works exceptional.

copyright 2017

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