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.