Friday, 28 April 2017


[Spoiler-Free] Things are not going well for Josef Matula. Why is he lying unconscious on a North Sea beach? Maybe he should have kept his job in a Frankfurt department store. 

But private investigator is what Matula does best. Four years after his final episode of Ein Fall für Zwei, Claus Theo Gärtner returns as Josef Matula. A German television legend is back. 

Claus Theo Gärtner (born in 1943) first portrayed the street-smart, working-class Hermann Josef Matula in Ein Fall für Zwei ("A case for two"). The long-running series, created by Georg Althammer and Karl Heinz Willshrei for Galmon Film (later Odeon Film), was about a private investigator and a defense attorney who solve crimes in Frankfurt am Main. Matula was 31 when it started on pubcaster ZDF in 1981. When his partnership with Dr. Dieter Renz (Günther Strack) ended in 1988, the character teamed up with three other lawyers: Dr. Rainer Frank (Rainer Hunold, 1988-1997), Dr. Johannes Voss (Mathias Hermann, 1997-2000) and Dr. Markus Lessing (Paul Frielinghaus, 2001-2013).

In autumn 2011, Gärtner expressed his desire to leave after 30 years. The duo Matula-Lessing bowed out with the 300th episode in March 2013. Surprisingly, ZDF decided to revamp Ein Fall für Zwei around attorney Benjamin "Benni" Hornberg (Antoine Monot, Jr.) and p.i. Leo Oswald (Wanja Hues). With the same title but minus the famous theme composed by the great Klaus Doldinger (The Neverending Story, Das Boot, Tatort), the new version debuted in May 2014. Claus Theo Gärtner even had a cameo in a 2015 episode. Aired by ZDF on Good Friday, Matula (aka Matula - Wer Wind sät) is a 90-minute special written by Ben Braeunlich and directed by Thorsten Näter.

This TV movie was filmed last year in Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Frankfurt and on Föhr Island. Five years ago, German private channel Sat.1 tried to resurrect their crime drama Wolffs Revier (1992-2006), another creation of Karl Heinz Willshrei, with a terrible TV movie called Wolff - Kampf im Revier. Thankfully, the return of the beloved detective from Ein Fall für Zwei is a complete success similar to the comeback of Schimanski (1997-2013). Josef Matula lives in a motorhome in Frankfurt and makes ends meet as a security guard in a department store. He quits after chasing a thief too many in order to become a private investigator again.

His first new client is Dr. Claas Jessen, a lawyer. Jessen wants him to have a look at a friend named Agathe Wollert. Mrs Wollert, a 82-year old professor emeritus, recently moved to a seniors' residence in Cuxhaven and asked Jessen for help because she feels threatened. Matula drives to the North Sea coast with his motorhome to find the old lady dead, but he doesn't buy the accidental cause. Her phone leads him to the Bremerhaven Research Institute, where the professor used to work. There he meets Helen Petersen, a secretive PhD student, and Agathe's ex-colleagues Pr. Rolf Lech and Ann-Gret Dahus.

Matula ages well. His instinct remains the same and the man is still full of resources (well, except money). And he has a dog, or rather it's the dog who choses him. Its name, given at the end, is a nice nod to the past. The atmosphere of Matula - Wer Wind Sät is a pleasant mix between The Rockford Files and Nordic Noir, with a good plot and an appropriate sense of self-derision. Guest-starring Sinja Dieks (Helen Petersen), Ulrike Krumbiegel (Ann-Gret Dahus), Götz Schubert (Claas Jessen), Thomas Sarbacher (Rolf Lech), Lutz Herkenrath (Dr. Hans Zerbaum), Anna Böttcher (Gesine Franke), Josephine Ehlert,  etc.  

Matula is produced by Odeon TV (for ZDF and Austria's ORF) and distributed by ZDF Enterprises. Michael Bauernfeind exec produces. Thomas Höbbel is the line producer. Anette Kaufmann and Klaus Laudi are the producers. Music composed by Axel Donner. Joachim Hasse is the cinematographer. The real name of Matula's (fabulous) dog is Mumford and he's trained by Charlott Arzberger. Matula - Wer Wind Sät attracted 5.26m viewers (16.8%). A second TV movie, tentatively titled Matula - Der Schatten des Berges, is currently filmed until the end of the month. A third may be commissioned.

See also:

[Update - April 29, 2018] 

Review of Matula - Des Schatten des Berges (Matula #2):

[Update - May 27, 2019] 

Review of Matula - Matula - Tod auf Mallorca (Matula #3):

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


[Spoiler-Free] 15 dead men are found frozen in a stolen bus on a country road of the north of France. The bodies were manicured, their hair done and they were elegantly dressed after their death. Those men all disappeared three years ago and all loved the same woman at some point.

This woman vanished around the same period... until now. The second series of French crime drama Witnesses (Les Témoins) is now available in France on DVD thanks to Koba Films.

Two years after the first series of Les Témoins, police detective Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) and her colleague Justin (Jan Hammenecker) are back for another conundrum written by Hervé Hadmar (who also directs) and Marc Herpoux, the duo behind Signature, Pigalle, la nuit and Les Oubliées. Thierry Lhermitte, who brilliantly escaped the antics of the French Doc Martin with his role as the enigmatic Paul Maisonneuve in the first series, doesn't return. Audrey Fleurot (A French Village, Spiral) co-stars alongside Marie Dompnier as the even more mysterious Catherine Keemer.

« Les enfants, aux yeux des folles mères,
Vont se briser la tête sur les pierres. »

Catherine, the common denominator between the 15 frozen victims in the bus, suddenly resurfaces in her car after three years. Totally amnesiac, she's found in the street asking "Il est où?" A furnished studio flat, a poem by Auguste Barbier (1805-1882), a woman in a psychiatric hospital since 1979, and a place called "La Colline du Diable" are amongst the first elements of this case. And there are similarities with troubling events which happened years ago. Sandra Winckler has a problem with her elder daughter and she chooses to play a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Catherine Keemer has her own child related issue. Like the tagline of this new series says: "Love is the greatest danger".

Aired between March and April 2015 on French pubcaster France 2, the first series of Les Témoins (6 X 52-minute) caught an average of 4.3m viewers. The creation of Hervé Hadmar and Marc Herpoux also raised a huge interest abroad with sales in several territories like Germany, Belgium, Norway, Australia, Poland or the United Kingdom, where Channel 4 aired it as Witnesses. France 2 commissioned a 8-episode second series. In between, Hadmar and Herpoux did the miniseries Beyond the Walls (Au-delà des murs) for Arte. With Witnesses 2 the writers took advantage of the series' longer run to jeopardize, little by little, the sanity of their heroines in the psychological labyrinth of a manipulative "Minotaur".

Filming took place between March and August 2016 during 96 days in the Hauts-de-France region and at the Mont-Saint-Michel. Marie Dompnier, who worked mainly on stage before Les Témoins and won a Golden Fipa award for the role of Sandra Winckler, expands her character with an infinite subtlety. Audrey Fleurot is (of course) excellent and the talented Belgian actor Jan Hammenecker gets more presence as the likeable Justin, a role he first played in Signature. Justin lives with Mélanie (returning actress Florence Bolufer) and he's joined by his teenage son Fabien (Gwendal Marimoutou), who lived with his mother in La Réunion until then. They celebrate Christmas in March and Justin has a funny scene with a fridge.

Judith Henry replaces Catherine Mouchet as Sandra and Justin's boss Maxine Dubreuil. Éric Winckler is now played by Guillaume Durieux (instead of Mehdi Nebbou). The performances of Yannick Choirat as Geir Jansen, Anne Benoît (Christiane Varène), and Séverine Vincent as Audrey Solange, are particularly praiseworthy. Also starring Steve Driesen (Olivier Keemer), Dominique Bettenfeld (Martin Souriau), Alexandre Carrière (Fred), British-Canadian actor Philip Desmeules as Antoine Barrier, Nina Simonpoli-Barthelemy (Chloé Winckler), Héloïse Dugas (Louise Keemer), Lila Gueneau Lefas (Léa Keemer), Serge Merlin as Atticus Lorcat, etc.

The writers depart from the previous series' format but the mystery remains effective and gripping. Hervé Hadmar's always stylish direction is impressively atmospheric. The locations are incredible. There's a small (clever) change at the end of the title sequence, still accompanied by Tricky's haunting We don't die (2013). Witnesses is produced by Cinétévé with France Télévisions and Pictanovo (Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie), with the support of Région Hauts-de-France and the participation of SBS-TV Australia. Fabienne Servan-Schreiber and Jean-Pierre Fayer are the producers. Jean-Marc Abbou is the production manager.

Music composed by Éric Demarsan. Jean-Max Bernard is the cinematographer. Distributed by Newen Distribution (Spiral). The first couple of episodes of Les Témoins 2, aired on March 15, caught an average of 3.4m viewers (14.2%). Versus Grey's Anatomy on TF1 during its whole run, the series ended with 2.5m viewers (10.6%). Koba Films releases Series 2 of Witnesses in a 3-disc DVD set. 
See also: (Series 1 - DVD Review)

Monday, 24 April 2017


In the beautiful Black Forest region of West Germany, Professor Klaus Brinkmann runs the Schwarzwaldklinik, a prestigious private hospital.

The German cult medical drama Black Forest Clinic (Die Schwarzwaldklinik, 1985-1989) is available on French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films since February, with the release of the first half of Series 1 as "La clinique de la Forêt-Noire - Saison 1".

Die Schwarzwaldklinik originated from an idea by TV producer Wolfgang Rademann, the creative force behind the lighthearted ZDF series Das Traumschiff ("The Dream Ship") for Polyphon Film- und Fernseh GmbH. This German answer to The Love Boat (1977-1986), which premiered in November 1981, still exists today. For two years Rademann tried to convince the channel to air something in the vein of the Czechoslovak medical drama Nemocnice na kraji mesta (1978-1981), shown in both East and West Germany under the title Das Krankenhaus am Rande der Stadt. Until ZDF entertainment boss Peter Gerlach told him: "You're getting on my nerves. Do it yourself!" (1) 

Produced by Polyphon, Die Schwarzwaldklinik started filming during summer 1984 in the district of Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald. Crime drama scriptwriter Herbert Lichtenfeld (Tatort) wrote all the episodes. Veteran movie and television director Alfred Vohrer helmed the 90-minute pilot (Die Heimkehr) and 11 episodes of the first series. His impressive filmography includes a long string of Edgar Wallace movies and some Winnetou films but also several episodes of producer Helmut Ringelmann's hits Derrick and Der Alte. Experienced TV helmer Hans-Jürgen Togel took over from Vohrer until the end of Die Schwarzwaldklinik in 1989.

A competent ensemble cast is headed by stage, movie and TV actor Klausjürgen Wussow as Professor Klaus Brinkmann and Gaby Dohm as Nurse Christa Mehnert. Wolfgang Rademann wanted Armin Mueller-Stahl (Veronika Voss, Lola) and Thekla Carola Wied (Ich heirate eine Familie) but they didn't wish to bind themselves with the series on the long-term. Dr. Udo Brinkmann (2), Prof. Brinkmann's impetuous and womanizing son, is played by Sascha Hehn, a.k.a. Chief steward Victor Burger in Das Traumschiff. Hehn came back aboard the Dream Ship as Victor and his twin brother Stefan Burger. Victor Burger finally got promoted to Captain three years ago in Das Traumschiff and he appeared in Kreuzfahrt ins Glück, its spinoff (which debuted in 2007).

Klaus Brinkmann returns to his hometown with his housekeeper Käti to become the chief physician of the reputable Black Forest Clinic. His wife died a while ago and he's separated from with his anesthetist girlfriend, Dr. Elena Bach. Klaus has a complicated relationship with his son Udo, who lives in the family house and works at the clinic as a doctor. Later he meets Nurse Christa, who has an affair with Udo. The doctors of the Schwarzwaldklinik are confronted with all sort of patients and situations. The victims of a road accident and the man who caused it, a woman with cancer and her husband, a life prisoner who has an ulcer, etc. Professor Brinkmann is even taken hostage by bank robbers.

Karin Hart (Käti), Karl Walter Diess (Dr. Schäfer), Franz Rudnick (Dr. Wolter), Holger Petzold (Dr. Rens), Eva Maria Bauer (Head nurse Hildegard), Barbara Wussow (Klausjürgen Wussow's daughter) as Nurse Elke, and Jochen Schroder as the sympathetic Nurse Mischa are amongst the other Series 1 regulars. Familiar faces pop up in this first series: Werner Kreindl (Soko 5113), Christiane Krüger (Arsene Lupin joue et perd, Star Maidens), Rainer Hunold (later in Ein Fall für Zweï, Dr. Sommerfeld – Neues vom Bülowbogen and Der Staatsanwalt), Philipp Moog, Alexander Wussow (3), Rolf Schimpf (later Leo Kress in Der Alte) or Karin Baal.

Launched in October 1985, Die Schwarzwaldklinik quickly became highly popular and attracted up to 28 million viewers. It ended in March 1989 after 70 episodes (pilot included). Sold in 38 countries, the series was shown in France on M6 in 1987 as La clinique de la Forêt-Noire, and in the UK on Channel 4 (dubbed) in 1988 under the title Black Forest Clinic. The characters of Black Forest Clinic reappeared in a 1991 Christmas crossover between several ZDF series. In 2005, the German pubcaster aired a 20th birthday special titled Die Schwarzwaldklinik - Die nächste Generation. It was followed the same year by Die Schwarzwaldklinik - Neue Zeiten. Both TV movies were helmed by Hans-Jürgen Togel.

The exterior of the "Black Forest Clinic" is actually The Carlsbau, a building which houses a health clinic in Glottertal. The outside of the beautiful "Villa Brinkmann" is the Hüsli local history museum in Grafenhausen-Rothaus. Film and TV composer Martin Böttcher (the Winnetou movies) was hired for the music and wrote a main theme but he was replaced by Hans Hammerschmid, who composed the famous Hallo - Dr.B. and the rest of the soundtrack. Böttcher's theme served as the intro of ZDF's Forsthaus Falkenau (1988-2013). The 4-disc Koba Films DVD set contains the pilot + 11 episodes of the first series, in French only. It's an excellent opportunity to revisit (or to discover) a bona fide German television classic.

(2) "Hugues" in the French dubbing.
(3) Son of Klausjürgen Wussow. In 2005 he played Dr. Benjamin Brinkmann in the two TV specials.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Struck by a personal tragedy, Commissaire Swan Laurence is not at all in the mood to investigate a crime committed during the filming of the new movie starring Blanche Dulac

On the set he finds a bad remedy for his situation, while Alice Avril finds love with a crew member.
« Un mort sur le tournage de Blanche Dulac? Mais c'est merveilleux, Alice! »

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie welcomes writers Jennifer Have and Zina Modiano and director Rodolphe Tissot (The Churchmen/Ainsi soient-ils) with Le miroir se brisa. This adaptation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side is the first of two new episodes filmed between October and December 2016. The fact that the big budget series had to leave its production base to build new sets elsewhere and a regrettable drop in the quality of the previous batch of episodes hurt neither its ratings nor its popularity. Les petits meurtres is a hit even in repeats! (1)

Last year saw an apparent reorientation of the Laurence/Avril/Marlène era of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie to something along the line of their predecessors Larosière and Lampion, hence less comedy and fast-paced banters. Le miroir se brisa keeps it that way with an interesting script and a good direction for a rather reassuring result. The life of Commissaire Laurence (Samuel Labarthe) falls apart when Dr. Euphrasie Maillol (2), his great love, dies in a plane crash. Devastated, the commissaire rejects the support of Marlène (Élodie Frenck), who remembers about her "Tonton Léon" (« Tonton Léon, suicidé au Paris-Brest. »)

« Alice détective. J'aime bien. »

Laurence treats the sympathy of Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir) no better. Worse, he neglects his new case: Simone Maupin, the "Hand double" of movie star Blanche Dulac (the fabulous Anne Consigny), has been poisoned during the shooting of the latest film directed by Blanche's husband Marc Borel (Nicolas Briançon). Swan is particularly odious with his loyal secretary and even with the victim's son. He ends up accepting a very special prescription from Dr. Jacques Mentchikoff (Luc-Antoine Diquéro, impressive), the sinister personal physician of the actress. 

« Vous êtes mon ange blond, Marlène. »

Jennifer Have and Zina Modiano bring the main characters on new territories. Thankfully for Marlène, who reached her limits in Le cheval pâle. The writers allow Élodie Frenck a couple of touching moments, as Laurence's secretary goes undercover in the entourage of Blanche Dulac and meets the star's disabled young son. Samuel Labarthe is given the opportunity to explore another aspect of his character. And Blandine Bellavoir steals the episode thanks to the encounter of Alice with Fred, the set photographer played by Camille Rutherford.

Scriptwriters Jeanne Le Guillou and Bruno Dega brought back some life in Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie with Albert Major parlait trop. The enthusiastic work of Have and Modiano on Le miroir se brisa restores a bit of the series's greatness, damaged by the abysmal La mystérieuse affaire de Styles. The rest of the cast includes Alice Vial (Sylvia Franco), the excellent Cyril Gueï as pathologist Dr. Timothée Glissant, the talented Dominique Thomas (Tricard), Éric Beauchamp (Martin), François Godart (Robert Jourdeuil), Adeline-Fleur Baude (Simone), etc. 

Produced by Escazal Films and France Télévisions, with the support of Pictanovo and Région Hauts-de-France. Sophie Révil is the producer. Main characters created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. Music composed by Stéphane Moucha. Swiss television RTS aired Le miroir se brisa ahead of French pubcaster France 2. The next episode is L'homme au complet marron (based on The Man in the Brown Suit), written by Thierry Debroux and directed by Rodolphe Tissot. The Laurence/Avril/Marlène era of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is available in the U.S. on VOD service MHZ Choice under the title Agatha Christie's Criminal Games.

(2) Played by Natacha Lindinger in 3 episodes, here seen through stock shots.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017


A wonderfully interesting interview with author, publisher, scriptwriter and TV producer Lee Goldberg for a podcast episode of Writer's Bone

Lee Goldberg's television work includes two of my favourite mystery dramas: Diagnosis: Murder and A Nero Wolfe Mystery. He also worked on shows like Martial Law, SeaQuest, Murphy's Law, etc.

Monday, 3 April 2017


This little blog is still around in spite of difficulties (sigh). Last month we had Inspector Montalbano, Capitaine Marleau and Witnesses. Never give up, etc.

- Inspector Montalbano: Come voleva la prassi (RAI 1):

- Capitaine Marleau (France 3):

(La Nuit de la Lune Rousse

- Witnesses (Les Témoins) - Series 2, Episodes 1 & 2 (France 2):


- Capitaine Marleau (Ratings):

By the way, Series 19 of Midsomer Murders started yesterday in France. You can find our reviews here: