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Friday, October 14, 2011

Body Double with Sybil Danning!

This week I was watching an episode of the cult German krimi series "Derrick" played by former Edgar Wallace movie actor Horst Tappert as inspector Stephan Derrick and Fritz Klein as his eternal side kick Harry Klein. The episode was called "Zeichen der Gewalt", first broadcast in 1975 on May 4th by the commercial state television station "ZDF". The episode was part 8 in a very long running series of 281 episodes covering 25 seasons (!) from 1974 untill 1998. This German krimi was and still is one of the most succesfull television series ever being broadcast in more than 100 countries in the world. Even today in countries like France there is still on one channel or another a re-run of Derrick and Italy is probably a country having the most Derrick fans knowing every episode by heart, who did what to whom and why and connecting every episode with every guest star.
And guest stars there were a lot during its run! Although Derrick was a fairly common detective series it came in a time in the mid 70's when a lot of actors and actresses made, more or less out of necessity, the transition from cinema into television. And they were not only B-actors or actresses. During its run you could see parts played by Curd Jürgens, Horst Buchholz, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Gunther Stoll, Götz George, Lili Palmer, Karin Baal, Judy Winter, Ushi Glas, Maria Schell, Cornelia Fröboes,... and exciting was the fact that one of those stars could be the murderer which was fairly new at that time in part a trend the American crime series "Columbo" with Peter Falk had started at the beginning of the 1970's.
The episode "Zeichen der Gewalt" tells the story of a Bavarian gangster played by beefcake Raimund Harmstorf, fresh from his mega success "Der Seewolf", escaping from prison by black mailing a lawyer into giving him a gun in prison after which he kills a guard while breaking free! On the run he hides in a night club which he used to run as a manager. So after the killing of the guard Derrick comes in to investigate the murder and trying to find the gangster. Obviously the trail of the killer leads Derrick to his previous work place and while Derrick is there the lights go down... and a striptease begins performed by the wife of the gangster.

After having seen this striptease I was silent for some time, not quite realising what I had just seen. Ok, the striptease was fairly dull and uninspired but I had some kind of déjà vue. The actress I had recognized as a very young Sybil Danning, later to become a major B-star in American action movies during the Reagan era of the mid 80's in the same vein as Birgit Nielsen. What was it that stunned me??? I had to look again at that part of the show. In the back of my mind, a suspicion began to form. Oh, my God! This could not be possible??? Could it??? After having seen the striptease for several times I was fairly sure that my suspicion was correct! It had to be!
The part of stripper performed by Sybil Danning was a part that originally had been offered to Marisa Mell. Now I was certain! Sybil Danning was so much looking like Marisa Mell, almost a body double! The same length of hair, the same cut, the same make up, the same body language, the same movements and look in the camera... everything oozed Marisa Mell only she was not on screen... it was a body double! My whole being knew that this was correct only how to prove it??? My first instinct told me to look in the direction of the Edgar Wallace movies. After the collapse of the Edgar Wallace franchise in the mid '70's, a lot of directors like Helmuth Ashley, director of Marisa Mell's Edgar Wallace movie "Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee" or the ultimate Edgar Wallace director Alfred Vohrer with 14 movies, switched trades to Derrick. They knew how to make a good krimi like in the 60's but now updated for television. But... it was no use! There was no connection. But who was the director of this episode??? It was Theodor Grädler! And then I knew!
Theodor Grädler was the second director on the 1972 made for television movie "Elisabeth-Ich möchte ein Möve sein!" After the ZDF rejected the first cut of the movie by Jörg Eggers it was partially reshot with a second director none other than Theodor Grädler. So there you had it! Theodor Grädler knew Marisa Mell very well after having worked with her on this tv movie which had a lot of flack during its production days! Once he got the script for the episode "Zeichen der Gewalt" in the series Derrick, he must have thought of Marisa Mell for the part of the wife and stripper. He knew she had done several memorable stripteases in her movie career like in "Le Dolce Signore" or in "Una Sull'Altra". She was perfect for the role! I am certain that the part was offered to her. One reason or another, she did not accept it! Was it that she thought she was to old to do it??? Was it that she did not wanted to do television anymore after the debacle of the Elisabeth movie??? Was it because she found the role to lean and not worthy of her talent??? Or was it that she had enough of being again a stripper??? Who knows??? She did not do it in person but the whole scene in the episode has the spirit of Marisa Mell! In the end Marisa Mell did not ever appear as a guest star on the Derrick series like other more famous stars did. Personally I find this a pity, rather strange knowing her talent and screen presence and a hole in the filmography of Marisa Mell. I would have so much have liked to have seen her opposite Horst Tappert playing a victim or a murderer with her husky voice, emerald green eyes and sensuous looks. That would have been grant. Fortunately there are other stripteases of Marisa Mell to marvel at like the one from Una Sull'Altra, her most famous one!
Would you like to know more about Derrick, the stars and the episodes?

The Derrick Fan-blog is your one and only stop:

Thanks for the use of the pictures in this entry!

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