Deadly Shots On Broadway/Dead Body On Broadway/Todesschüsse am Broadway (1969)

‘Greetings from Charlie the Nose.’

A successful armoured car heist nets three million dollars in gold, but the wheelman is an undercover FBI agent, and he stashes the haul in a secret place. The gang catch up with him almost immediately, but he dies before revealing its location. A top FBI agent tries to bring the shadowy figures behind the crime to justice and recover the gold…

The last of the West German eight-film series starring American actor George Nader as top undercover operative, Jerry Cotton. All the usual elements for his last hurray are present and correct, including director Harald Reinl, co-star Heinz Weiss and the production’s usual desperate attempt to make it appear that the film was shot on location in New York.

After an armoured car robbery, undercover secret agent Johnny Peters (Hans Heyde) finds himself driving the van with its fabulous haul of gold bars. Hiding the booty in New York’s harbour, he only has time to scratch the pier number on his girlfriend’s old apartment key and put it in the mail before being gunned down by his partners in crime. The gang are rounded up almost immediately, and it seems the case is closed, apart from the missing gold. Nader and partner Phil Decker (Weiss) are brought in to look for it, but gang leader Joe Costello (Miha Baloh) breaks jail before they can get too far. Heading straight for a backstreet plastic surgeon, the hoodlum grabs a change of face and begins his own search for the treasure.

Meanwhile, a syndicate led by local Mr Big, Woody Davis (Horst Naumann), also has its eyes on the prize. His life is complicated by his inquisitive niece, Alice Davis (Michaela May), who mistakes his criminal activities as the actions of a blackmail victim. All the parties agree on the need to interrogate Heyde’s girlfriend, Cindy Holden (Heidy Bohlen). She’s left for parts unknown, but Nader tracks her down at the Boulder Dam, where she is working as a waitress. He’s quickly convinced that she knew nothing about the heist, Heyde’s true identity or the location of the gold. He persuades her to return to New York to act as bait to flush out the various villains and maybe find the booty in the process.

The Jerry Cotton series is often classified as 1960s Eurospy, along with the multitude of cut-price James Bond lookalikes who spent the decade running around the glamorous capitals of Europe, making the world safe for Western democracy. That definition is a bit of a stretch as firearms are the only fundamental element of the ‘guns, girls and gadgets’ formula to be found. Also, the character is working for a law enforcement agency, not an espionage outfit, and his opponents are almost always criminals with no greater ambitions than robbery and swag. In line with the original novels, there was also no womanising. Cotton might be suave and handsome, but he was all business. However, he often acted as a ‘one-man band’, and the films are filled with gunplay and fisticuffs. And it was the 1960s when 007 fever was at its height.

Rather than marking the usual limp end to a long-running series, this is one of the better entries. The arrival of director Reinl for the sixth film ‘Death and Diamonds/Dynamit in grüner Seide’ (1968) gave the franchise a real shot in the arm as the director delivered tighter, pacier vehicles than what had come before. In this entry, in particular, Reinl displays a fine skill with location work, setting a lot of the action in abandoned industrial sites and buildings. These types of locations became quite the cliché on television over the next decade, but it works fine here, and the gun battles are lively and well-shot. It also helps that gangster Baloh’s signature move is using grenades, which allows for some good pyrotechnics and a legitimate excuse for things blowing up (for a change!)

One of the critical elements running throughout the Jerry Cotton series is the musical soundtracks by Peter Thomas. On the one hand, they brought a level of quality to the early films that weren’t always earned; on the other, they were often intrusive and could be out of place in certain scenes. However, in Reinl’s entries, the music has less of a leading role, except for the catchy theme tune, of course. It’s also worth mentioning that in the English dub, the song performed by Bohlen’s character is absolutely dreadful. Hard to believe she’s a popular club singer on that evidence!

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect is that the greater use of locations means considerably less embarrassing green-screen and shoddy process shots to try and convey an American setting. There are also several instances of our apparent protagonists in long shots that were obviously filmed in the Big Apple! Although, it’s back to green-screen when we close in on the actor’s faces, of course. Whether the production had the budget for pick-up shots in New York or stock footage was acquired and costumes matched is unclear, but it’s more effort than made in the previous films.

Jerry Cotton was a character who first surfaced in 1954 as part of a series of German novellas called ‘Bastei Kriminalroman.’ His popularity led to a succession of similar works and magazine stories based exclusively around the character, delivered by a stable of more than 100 writers. The 2500 edition appeared in 2005, and total global sales are estimated at around 850 million over the years. A Finnish version of the character appeared in Scandanavia, and a new film appeared in 2007 starring Christian Tramitz, who also provides the voice of Sideshow Bob for the German dub of ‘The Simpsons.’

The Jerry Cotton bows out on a high, although that’s not much of a recommendation.

Death and Diamonds/Dynamit in grüner Seide (1968)

‘It’s somewhat annoying when one of my clients end up in the electric chair.’

A criminal gang steal a supply of poison gas from a factory site in a daring operation that leaves men dead on both sides. The FBI is convinced that a notorious kingpin has ordered the theft as part of a wider scheme. Discovering that an English expert on burglar alarms is an integral part of the next phase of the plan, they incarcerate him and put an agent in his place…

The sixth of the eight-film West German series starring American actor George Nader as FBI undercover specialist Jerry Cotton. This time directorial duties are handed to Harald Reinl, and the film plays more like a heist movie than the agent’s previous investigations.

Speeding away from a burning factory site with booty in hand, you might think it’s time for gang boss Bloom (Carl Möhner) to sit back and savour a job well done, but you’d be wrong. An evil villain’s work is never done, and he busies himself polishing off most of the men he’d used in the heist. Unfortunately for him, one of them manages a few dying words and these point in the direction of security system expert Rick Trevor (Claus Tinney). He’s just finished a stint in the pokey back in Merrie Old England and flies into LAX, only to be conveniently delayed by visa irregularities. Nader steps into his shoes, and the game is on.

As the agency expected, the gang is really under orders from a man named Stone, an underworld mastermind who has never been identified. Möhner runs the operation from a club owned by his glamorous ex Lana (Silvia Solar). Having figured out that relations with a bad boy isn’t the best route to long-term happiness, she wants to keep things on a strictly business basis from now on. Of course, Möhner doesn’t get the memo, forcing Nader to step in. Already suspicious of the agent, Möhner keeps him in the dark, sending him on a fact-finding mission to look at the household alarm system of art collector, Santon (Karl-Heinz Fiege).

The crew then steal a newly-developed ‘Absorber’ unit which has just been shipped to the city after being developed at Cape Kennedy. The device is essential to their ultimate goal. Nader thinks it will be a raid on Fiege’s art treasures, but it turns out that the target is a meeting where experts will appraise diamonds worth approximately twelve million dollars. Nader baulks when he realises that the poison gas will be pumped into the conference room and tips his hand. By then, the operation is in full swing, however, and a rapid game of cross and double-crosses follows to secure the loot.

The continuing investigations of Nader as Jerry Cotton are often bracketed in with the Eurospy genre that sprung into vigorous life after the global success of Sean Connery’s early James Bond films. In truth, that is casting wide to some extent as the series is more firmly grounded in the criminal underworld rather than that of super villains planning world domination. There’s little evidence of the kind of outlandish gadgetry peddled by Q Division, with the film delivering only wristwatches that work as two-way radios and the Absorber. This device turns out to be little more than a vacuum cleaner with an extendable hose that hoovers up the precious gems in question. I guess some of the NASA technicians working on the Apollo space program had a little free time while their colleagues were off shooting movies at Area 51.

Despite these noticeable limitations, the production as a whole takes things up a notch from the preceding entries in the series. Debuting screenwriters Rolf Schulz and Christa Stern provide a script stuffed with shady side characters, intrigue, and so many perilous situations in the final third that Nader could have been forgiven for thinking that he’d stepped into an old-fashioned cliffhanger serial. Director Reinl also proves an excellent addition to the team, for the most part delivering a quick pace and some solid suspense when required. The stuntwork is also more ambitious, with one performer jumping feet first through the windscreen of an approaching car. It’s possibly the standout moment of the entire series.

However, this is a Jerry Cotton movie, and praise needs to be qualified by acknowledging the usual problems. There’s still the doomed attempt to make it look like an American movie. There’s far more stock footage of cars on US streets, but we still get appalling green-screen shots when we switch to the actors in closeup. As usual, this is present throughout the airport scenes and was such a feature of the films that you have to wonder why the unit didn’t go to a German air terminal and shoot the actors there. It might not have looked very American, but it could hardly have looked any worse.

Solar’s club is also one of the strangest (and cheapest) in movie history. There’s no bar or stage, just girls jigging about in their underwear surrounded by busy pool tables! All very nice, I’m sure, but not the ideal way to concentrate on your safety play. There’s also a slight plot hole around Stone’s criminal activities. After every job, the usual procedure is to liquidate all the low-level crooks involved in the caper. Even if that’s not common knowledge outside the FBI, it beggars belief that word would not have got around in the underworld. But he has no problem recruiting minions, apparently.

Reinl shot his first feature in 1949 but is probably best remembered for his output in the 1960s. Fritz Lang returned to Germany to make the overdue final film in his trilogy starring criminal mastermind Dr Mabuse in 1960. It was enough of a domestic success to kick start a series, and it was Reinl who picked up the baton for ‘The Return of Dr Mabuse’ (1961) and ‘The Invisible Dr Mabuse’ (1962). These displayed both the necessary style and thrills, and the director began a fruitful working partnership with star Lex Barker. They collaborated on a long-running series based on the popular ‘Winnetou’ Western novels of Karl May, beginning with ‘The Treasure of Silver Lake/Der Schatz im Silbersee’ (1962). There was also Poe-inspired horror ‘The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism/Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel’ (1967), which co-starred Christopher Lee. Reinl worked consistently throughout the 1970s and 1980s but varied dramatic subjects with several documentaries on the search for ancient astronauts.

A brisk, efficient thriller that is somewhat limited by its lack of production values.

Death In A Red Jaguar/Der Tod im roten Jaguar (1968)

‘Each of the cities indicated here has been the site of at least one murder recently.’

Several seemingly unconnected murders in the San Francisco Bay area are committed using a weapon fitted with a unique silencer. The FBI believe that a shadowy organisation is offering ‘murder for hire’ and assign their top agent to crack the case…

The sixth movie appearance for George Nader as FBI man Jerry Cotton finds the actor reunited with director Harald Reinl, who was behind the previous entry, ‘Death and Diamonds/Dynamit in grüner Seide’ (1966). That film was a step up in quality from what had gone before, and here Reinl delivers arguably the best in the eight-film series.

When assassin for hire, Kit Davis (Gert Haucke) knocks at the door of his latest target, Ann Gordon (Karin Schröder), he’s shocked to find it answered by her pre-teen daughter, Jane (Manuela Schmitz). Retreating to a local bar for further instructions, he’s told to go ahead and returns to finish the job. When the agents join the police at the scene, we even see part of the child’s body wrapped lumped through the bannisters on the stairs. Nader immediately focuses on the murdered woman’s estranged husband, Francis Gordon (Giuliano Raffaelli). However, he has already called in local private eye Sam Parker (Herbert Stass) and his can-do secretary, Ria Payne (Daniela Surina), to investigate.

Meanwhile, Haucke has chalked up a second victim, Henry Jackson (Hans Epskamp). The unfortunate accountant was about to testify against his slippery boss, Peter Carp (Kurt Jaggberg), so Nader s him an official visit. Jaggberg is smug and cocky, but his wife Linda (Grit Boettcher) wants out, fearing that she is next on her husband’s hit list. Jaggberg is happy to order her a taxi, but when it arrives, Haucke is in the driver’s seat, and Nader has to intervene to save her life. Stashing the frightened Boettcher safely with Surina, Nader goes after Jaggberg and the mysterious syndicate boss behind the killings.

Constantin Film and Allianz Filmproduktion’s Jerry Cotton series rarely rose above the distinctly mediocre. Despite Nader’s likeable presence, budgets were low, plots were mundane, and a lack of production value restricted the action. However, when veteran director Reinl took over the series for the last three entries, he managed to instil a sense of dynamism and pace that had been sorely lacking in the previous entries. The scripts and stuntwork showed a little more ambition, too, with denser plots and more invention in the action sequences. At one point, Nader engineers a genuinely great escape when he’s tied up in the face of an oncoming railway tanker.

But the standout here is Haucke and his unusual, soft-spoken killer. His performance provides a complexity not found anywhere else in the series. Temporarily deterred by the idea of executing a young child, he works up to it by playing a loud record in a neighbourhood bar. Later, he enjoys polite chit-chat with his landlady, Mrs Cunnings (Ilse Steppat), before taking a phone call and blanking her daughter, Eve (Britt Lindberg), who is cavorting right in front of him near naked. It’s a grave mistake to take him out of the picture so early on; a film wholly based around Nader’s hunt for him would undoubtedly have been a better picture.

Reinl keeps the action coming, however, and shows an excellent eye for a location, something even more pronounced in the last film in the series ‘Deadly Shots On Broadway/Dead Body On Broadway/Todesschüsse am Broadway (1969). There’s also a little more effort to involve Nader’s partner, Phil Decker (Heinz Weiss), who, despite consistent second-billing, often felt like little more than an incidental character. It’s also good to see a more proactive female character in the form of Surina. Although the English dub saddles her with a hideous deep southern drawl, she does get involved in the action and is present for the climax. Women in the Cotton series were almost always damsels in distress and, on rare occasions, Femme Fatales, so it’s refreshing to see one who is more than just a generic plot device to get Nader from one punch up to the next.

It also contains what appears to be the first American footage shot for the series, although it may have been library footage that was matched later on. We see Haucke’s character walking about on a stateside street, but, of course, we only see him from behind. When we cut to the actor’s face, we’re back to tatty green screen, although to be fair to director Reinl, he does try to keep this to a minimum throughout his three-film tenure on the series. The jazzy score of Pete Thomas also takes a little bit of a back seat. Although it was usually the most creative and interesting aspect of the earlier films, it was often a distraction. The audience must have wondered on occasion if Thomas was shown the visuals before composing his score.

Haucke was almost exclusively a television actor whose 44-year career encompassed all areas of drama. He was usually a guest actor but had supporting roles in several prestigious mini-series in the 1980s, including ‘Die Geschwister Oppermann’ (1983), the saga of a Jewish family in Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power, generational drama ‘Die Bertinis’ (1988) and ‘Der Schatz des Kaisers’ (1987), a thriller set in Vienna’s art world. Later on, he had a regular slot on light-hearted crime drama ‘Ein Bayer auf Rügen’ (1993-5), and his final credits were as a recurring character in the popular series’ The Country Doctor’ on which he appeared on and off for 17 years. Surina appeared in unusual Giallo ‘The Dead Are Alive!/L’etrusco uccide ancora’ (1972) but mainly appeared on the small screen by then. Her final credits date from 1982.

Apart from appearing as Jerry Cotton, Nader is primarily remembered for his debut turn as the hero in Phil Tucker’s bad movie classic ‘Robot Monster’ (1953). Signed by Universal as a possible stand-in for Rock Hudson, the contract resulted in only a few minor roles. However, this did include fourth billing in Hedy Lemarr’s final picture ‘The Female Animal’ (1958). By then, he was working more in television anyway, although another film role took him to England for cheap noir ‘Nowhere To Go’ (1958), where his co-star was a 24-year-old Maggie Smith! During his tenure as Cotton, he also starred in two projects for European producer Harry Alan Towers: ‘House of a Thousand Dolls’ (1967) with Vincent Price and ‘The Million Eyes of Sumuru’ (1967) with Frankie Avalon, Klaus Kinski and golden Bond Girl Shirley Eaton. His career before the camera came to an end in the mid-1970s when he sustained a severe eye injury in a car accident. He reinvented himself as an author and published the first gay-themed science-fiction novel ‘Chrome’ in 1978.

Probably the best of the West German series based around the exploits of agent Jerry Cotton. It’s nothing remarkable, but it’s an efficient 90 minutes of fast-paced entertainment if you’re in the mood.

Murderers Club of Brooklyn/Der Mörderclub von Brooklyn (1967)

‘Waiters don’t usually carry Mother’s Little Helper.’

A circle of wealthy businessmen are the targets of a deadly blackmailer, who demands a million dollars from each of them. One of the tycoons calls the FBI, but they are powerless when masked men break up a party at his home with machine guns. They kidnap one of the guests, believing she’s the man’s daughter, but kill her instead when they find out it’s the wrong girl. It’s just the beginning as more blackmail letters follow…

It’s the fifth time around for FBI agent Jerry Cotton (George Nader) swinging into action in his trademark red jaguar. The character came from a long-running series of crime books and magazine stories that debuted in the mid-1950s and proved wildly popular in Europe and Scandinavia. The fact that he eventually got his own film series may have had more than a little to do with a certain Agent 007. However, the films are more crime than espionage based and, although there’s plenty of gunplay. ‘gadgets and girls’ most definitely took a back seat.

Seeing that his drapes are drawn, super-agent Cotton (Nader) smells a rat and takes the ‘alternative route’ to his high-rise apartment, leaving partner Phil Decker (Heinz Weiss) to arrive by more conventional means. It’s a good call as there are a bunch of disposable villains lying in wait for him. The credits roll once he’s dealt with this minor annoyance, and the picture explodes into colour after the black and white opening. Boss agent Mr High (Richard Münch) figures something big is about to go down and orders Nader and Weiss to accept a mysterious party invitation from banker Henry Dyers (Karel Stepanek).

The shindig is strictly a black-tie affair for the smart set, but Nader and Weiss get little time to cruise the buffet and grab a cocktail. Stepanek has received a blackmail note to the tune of one million dollars, and fellow financial tycoons, John Cormick (Rudi Schmitt) and Henry Johnson (Helmuth Rudolph), have been subjected to the same threats. That’s about as far as Nader and Weiss get before an armed gang in stocking masks crash the party and grab Sally Chester (Ira Hagen). Sadly, it’s a case of wrong place, wrong time for her as the gang thought she was Stepanek’s daughter, Jean (Dagmar Lassander). A couple of hours later, she’s found dead on a park bench in the lifeless arms of a suspicious waiter Nader had singled out at the party.

The blackmail letters continue, with Rudolph’s wastrel son, Burnie Johnson (Helmut Kircher) and Schmitt’s daughter, Edna (Helga Anders), being used as leverage. Rudolph agrees to pay, dropping the cash at an airport locker, but it’s an FBI trap set with counterfeit money. Of course, on stakeout duty are Nader and Weiss, but they are fooled when unseen hands grab the stash by drilling into the locker from behind via an empty shop on the concourse. The next time the financier pays for real and, even though our increasingly less-than-dynamic duo chase the pick-up men through subway tunnels, they still can’t make an arrest. Nader begins to suspect smooth local operator Harry Long (Wolfgang Weiser) is involved somehow, and the plot starts to smell increasingly like an inside job.

Until now, the cinematic odyssey of Jerry Cotton had been a grimy, black and white business, but Constantin-Films splashed out on a colour process for this film and the others that followed. The switch from one to the other after the pre-credit scenes is undoubtedly an unusual choice. It may be that the original opening sequence has been lost or, just as likely, that the black and white scenes were shot for an earlier film and never used (possibly ‘3-2-1 Countdown for Manhattan/Um Null Uhr schnappt die Falle zu’ (1966) as that has a similar scene). These initial events have no direct bearing on the story that follows, and we never see any of these criminals again. It does make you wonder about Nader’s home security arrangements, though. His ‘alternative route’ to his apartment involves swinging up the side of the building in a cradle on the end of a crane operated by Weiss. Is the crane always sitting there, then? You know, just in case?

Of course, the story mechanics of the films in the series often don’t stand up to close scrutiny, but it’s not the premier consideration for this type of enterprise. The mission statement is fast-paced action and two-fisted adventure, and, to some extent, director Werner Jacobs delivers. Once one problem is resolved, Nader and his crew run into another complication almost straight away. No sooner has he removed a bomb from his car than he’s strafed with gunfire from a passing helicopter! The stuntwork on a moving train is decent too, and that’s obviously Nader performing some of the simpler escapades, despite the undoubted level of danger involved.

Unfortunately, the thin budget shows through in the usual way, the attempt to make the project look American hamstrung by the obvious New York stock footage and tatty SFX. The production apparently had enough money for an airport set for one of the ransom drops. It looks ok, so why intercut with terrible ‘green-screen’ of Nader and Decker against footage of JFK International? It would look better if Jacobs had shot them against a wall hanging with a few promotional airline posters. Not a great solution, obviously, but better than what’s on offer instead.

Worse still, there are plenty of dull stretches, which mainly involve the plot, which never really develops beyond a sequence of repetitious events. An anonymous blackmailer targets bankers through their grown-up offspring, and there are various ransom payoffs and attempted payoffs. There’s little else here; it’s merely a question of who is behind the scheme. Surprises are minimal, and it’s hard to be invested in our trio of faceless victims who seem far more concerned about their money than their children. Nader does remark on this at one point, but Herbert Reinecker and Manfred R. Köhler’s screenplay isn’t really worried about highlighting an anti-capitalist agenda. Peter Thomas contributes his usual loud, swinging soundtrack, which is simultaneously distracting and the best part of the entire enterprise.

Nader was a capable actor with some screen presence who had come to West Germany after an underwhelming American career. An early starring role in Phil Tucker’s notoriously awful ‘Robot Monster’ (1953) was hardly the best introduction, but Universal Studios still signed him to a contract. Allegedly, this was as a possible substitute for Rock Hudson in the event of a scandal involving the handsome star. If so, it was a strange choice as Nader was also gay and didn’t bother making any special effort to hide it. After his stateside career went nowhere, the actor decamped to Europe but never made a great impression outside the Jerry Cotton series. A late big-screen appearance came courtesy of Eddie Romero and John Ashley’s ‘Beyond Atlantis’ (1973), but he retired shortly afterwards.

Another unremarkable entry in the series. The only surprise is that the films picked up after this.

A Cold Blooded Affair/Tip Not Included/Die Rechnung – eiskalt serviert (1966)

‘My company is in the phone book under the FBI.’

A top FBI agent saves a stranger from being beaten up by two thugs after leaving a bar. What he doesn’t know is that all of them are part of a conspiracy to hijack an armoured van and rob the U.S. Treasury. The agent begins to investigate when the young man turns up dead, but the poison gas he created is already in the hands of the gang…

The fourth entry in the Jerry Cotton series finds the ever-present American actor George Nader once more in the title role. Although his adventures are often recorded as falling under the Eurospy umbrella, the connection is a little tenuous. Nader might be a cool agent ready with his fists, but there’s little of the girls and gadgets on hand that an audience might reasonably expect and even less of the typical glamour.

A quiet night down the pub is never on the cards when you’re a secret agent. When his spider-sense starts a-tingling, Jerry Cotton (Nader) follows young gun Tommy Wheeler (Christian Doemer) out of his local when the chemist picks up a couple of non-too friendly plus-ones. Nader deals with them, of course, but Doemer doesn’t hang around to say thanks. Nader shrugs it off, of course. It’s just another day at the office for the likes of him. He’s happy to go back to his pint and chat up the bar’s singer Violet (Yvonne Monlaur), who tells him that Doemer is an out of work chemist who seems to be in some sort of trouble. Nader agrees to look into it, although it may only be an excuse to give her his telephone number.

Doemer has fallen in with a criminal gang who hang out backstage at a wrestling arena and are led by the ruthless Charles Anderson (Horst Tappert). The current project on the books is robbing the U.S. Mint, apparently located in Wall Street and not Washington D.C. as you might have thought. Anyway, this government financial ‘clearing house’ (whatever it may be) is in the habit of recycling old bills for new, sending out the discards in an armoured van, presumably for destruction. The plan is to hijack the vehicle using a smoke bomb provided by Doemer, grab the cash and head for the hills. The heist comes off, but Doemer is surplus to requirements afterwards. When the boffins at the FBI examine the body, they find traces of the gas used in the robbery, and Nader puts two and two together.

The bureau was already on high alert when it came to the targeted shipment anyway, and Nader had advised bank official John M Clark (Walter Rilla) to make the run with an empty van. Stupidly, he ignored our hero’s advice. Faced with the distraught Rilla, Nader accepts responsibility for the decision to the press, which earns him an immediate suspension from agency head Mr High (Richard Munch). Of course, Nader hangs around instead of going on leave and keeps in touch with the investigation, courtesy of his sidekick, Phil Decker (Heinz Weiss). Developments are only too predictable from there; the villains double-cross each other, the inside man reveals his identity, and in an enjoyably silly climax, Nader launches himself off a building and grabs on to a helicopter.

All told, this is a pretty dreary entry in the series, with only the inventive heist sequence sparking any significant interest. This action is well-executed by director Helmuth Ashley, even if it is a tad implausible. Elsewhere, there’s the usual desperate effort to make the film look American with New York stock footage and some truly terrible back projection work. The armoured van also has a ‘Mells Fabo’ decal, which is obviously a riff on ‘Wells Fargo’, but it’s unclear if this is supposed to be a joke or another hamfisted attempt at hoodwinking the audience as to the origins of the film. As usual, Peter Thomas provides a swinging, brassy soundtrack that practically screams the 1960s, but it’s scant reward for sitting through another 90 minutes of Nader’s underwhelming crime games.

Nader was born in Pasadena and performed some uncredited bits and minor supporting roles in films in the 1950s before landing the lead in Phil Tucker’s famously dreadful ‘Robot Monster’ (1953). Signed to a contract by Universal Studios, most likely as insurance against Rock Hudson being outed. Nader’s career went nowhere, perhaps because he was also gay and, unlike Hudson, made little effort to hide it. He did land the title role on the syndicated television show ‘Shannon’ in 1961, but all that followed were a few scattered film roles. These included a return to low-budget science-fiction with the Woolner Brothers’ shabby production of ‘The Human Duplicators’ (1964). He left for Europe shortly afterwards, where he made eight films as Jerry Cotton. There were another couple of encounters along the back roads of cult cinema before he retired in 1974 to become an author.

Monlaur was born in France and trained for the ballet before working as a model in her late teens. She began appearing in domestic and Italian films in her twenties and relocated to England at the end of the decade. Some assignments in the horror field followed, starting with the wildly entertaining ‘Circus of Horrors’ (1960), where she played opposite mad surgeon Anton Diffring. Her performance was enough to get her noticed by Hammer Studios, who cast her as naive heroine Marianne Danielle in ‘The Brides of Dracula’ (1960) and alongside Christopher Lee in ‘The Terror of the Tongs’ (1960). But her career never took off and, after a handful of films back in her native land, she retired at the end of the 1960s.

A rather bloodless and unmemorable crime drama that strays a little into Eurospy territory but fails to make much of an impression in either genre.

A Shot from the Violin Case/Tread Softly/Schüsse aus dem Geigenkasten/The Violin Case Murders (1965)

‘Because of that, I’ve been sentenced to life behind a wall of filing cabinets.’

A gang of crooks shoot a singer dead when robbing her safe and then heist a stock of gold bars hidden in a remote farmhouse. The FBI investigate, only to find the criminals are planning an even bigger job, and their top agent infiltrates the gang to try and stop them…

West German-French co-production that finds US actor George Nader as FBI super-agent Jerry Cotton. He’s this week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’ speeding around the glamorous capitals of Europe with a blonde on each arm and employing an arsenal of tricky gadgets to defeat a supervillain and his plans for world domination. Only he doesn’t. To call this a Eurospy adventure at all is pushing the definition somewhat when director Felix Umgelter’s film really has far more in common with a standard crime thriller.

Events begin with our slick gang of crooks in operation, exhibiting an almost military precision as they rob the singer’s safe and lift the gold bars from their hiding place under a farmhouse. Both robberies leave FBI boss John High (Richard Münch) perplexed. How did the gang know that the singer’s publisher was hiding ill-gotten gains in her safe? How did they know the location of the gold bars? These facts were supposed to be privileged information available only to the higher echelons of the agency and a handful of other officials. Time to call in top man Jerry Cotton (Nader) to investigate, alongside sidekick Phil Decker (Heinz Weiss).

The agency has been receiving some anonymous calls that provide Nader with an initial lead. These are coming from Kitty Springfield (Sylvia Pascal), who is worried that her sister is involved with a criminal gang. What she says about their movements fits in with the crimes under investigation, and so Nader infiltrates the group at the bowling alley where they hang out. Posing as a drunk, he beats a couple of them up in a bar fight and thus becomes a trusted member of the gang! He’s immediately given a role in their latest project, a ‘Rififi’-type heist that involves setting off a bomb in a school across the street as a diversion.

The film is a slightly unusual hybrid of an adventure due to its attempt to emphasise the leading character’s ‘super spy’ credentials in the wake of the James Bond phenomena. Apart from Nader’s endless capability to rise to any occasion, there’s little else of the typical Eurospy tropes on show here. The most sophisticated gadget is a machine gun built into a violin case, and some vague flirting with Münch’s secretary (Helga Schlack) doesn’t really establish Cotton’s reputation as a ladykiller. What emerges is little more than a conventional tale of cops and robbers.

At times, Umgelter seems to be aiming for a gritty, documentary approach, assisted by the black and white cinematography of Albert Benitz. However, the decision to set the film in New York was a mistake. Obviously, the intention was to heighten its opportunities for foreign distribution, but the city appears only courtesy of ham-fisted back projection. The technique is used frequently and is never remotely convincing, giving proceedings a shabby, bargain-basement look. At one point, this stock footage can even be seen projected on to the side of a truck where Nader is clinging. Then there’s the music. Although Peter Thomas’ jazzy score is very distinctive and rightly highlighted as one of the film’s most remarkable qualities, it mitigates against the realism of events and would be better placed in a more standard Eurospy adventure.

Nader starred as Jerry Cotton in eight films for Allianz Filmproducktion and Constantin Film, the last being released in 1969. As a young man, he had starred in Phil Tucker’s notoriously ridiculous ‘Robot Monster’ (1953) before his handsome looks and rugged physique secured a contract with Universal. Unfortunately, all he received were a few supporting roles to the studio’s leading talent of the era, including his friend Rock Hudson. Nader was also gay, and there are unsubstantiated rumours that this hurt his career.

He moved into television when his contract expired, although occasional film roles followed in such low-budget projects as science-fiction turkey ‘The Human Duplicators’ (1964) and ‘The Million Eyes of Sumuru’ (1967), author Sax Rohmer’s attempt to create a female supervillain to rival his own Fu Manchu. Nader virtually retired after the Jerry Cotton series wrapped up, apart from the occasional TV appearance and one more film, Eddie Romero’s cheap and cheerful ‘Beyond Atlantis’ (1973).

Jerry Cotton is the star of more than 2,500 pulp novels released in German-speaking countries and Finland in the decades following his debut in 1954. More than 100 authors have been responsible for his adventures, and worldwide sales have reached over 850 million copies. If it’s tempting to assume that Nader’s sexuality was the reason for the character’s ‘all work and no play’ attitude towards the ladies, apparently that was present and correct in the literary works already. In recent times, Constantin Film attempted to revive the character with the film ‘Jerry Cotton’ (2007) starring Christian Tramitz in the title role. The emphasis was more on comedy, and it did not lead to a series.

More of a crime film shoe-horned into the 007 template, this is a passable way to spend 90 minutes if you can forgive some of the obvious technical deficiencies.