Fire and Pulp

There was some excitement at school today. When I walked into the building some fifteen minutes before the beginning of the afternoon classes, I was struck by how empty the place was. There were barely any students about. I could even put up a poster at the notice board without moving loitering students out of the way.

When I was in the copy room, another teacher came in and said, “Did you see? There’s a fire right across from the parking lot.” Now I don’t park at the main parking lot, so I hadn’t seen the fire. However, it explained why there were hardly any students at the school. They were all outside, watching the fire. A moment later, a boy I didn’t know came dashing into the administration tract in a laudable attempt to inform the assembled teachers and administrative staff of the fire.

In the end, the fire didn’t turn out overly dramatic. What happened was that a wooden garage on the premises of a local inn had caught fire. Some material damage, but thankfully no one was harmed. The afternoon classes weren’t disrupted either, though my students were a few minutes late.

When making what according to my memory is the first crossover of all three CSI franchises, one would think that the writers would come up with something better than a hackneyed human trafficking plot straight from the pulp era. Body parts dumped next to the highway, prostitutes “branded” like cattle with tattoos, young women (including at one point a well-off TV weathergirl) snatched from the streets and carted across the country in locked truck compartments, a bit of organ trafficking thrown in for good measure and, as the final insult, a professor of literature moonlighting as a pimp – oh please! My suspension of disbelief dropped right through the floor. I’ve seen prostitution and human trafficking plots very much like this one in films and pulp stories dating back to the thirties and forties and they seemed far-fetched even back then.

Never mind that the connecting plot centered on one of the vanished girls was terribly inconsistent. In CSI Miami the girl is first a murder suspect and then a desperate kidnapping victim leaving messages of “Help – He’ll kill me” in gas station restrooms. By the time, we get to CSI New York she’s a victim all the way, though too valuable to kill because she’s pregnant. In CSI Las Vegas, however, that same pregnancy suddenly ruins her value for the pimp that purchased her. For goodness sake, make up your minds! I was never a huge CSI fan, but by now they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Finally, it was reported today that German actor Heinz Weiss died on Saturday aged 89. Predictably, most obituaries only mentioned Weiss’ role as a cruise ship captain in the long-running TV show Das Traumschiff (similar to Love Boat and just as unwatchable) and occasionally his role as an escaping POW in the World War II drama So weit die Füsse tragen (“As far as my feet will carry me”, which is pretty much the whole plot right there). Interestingly, Weiss also was in The Great Escape, probably relishing the opportunity to play a guard after having been the escaping POW for so long.

But for me, Heinz Weiss will always be Phil Decker, partner to George Nader’s G-Man Jerry Cotton in a series of film adaptions of the bestselling German pulp magazine series in the 1960s. And he will always be The Green Archer in Jürgen Roland’s stunning 1961 adaption of the eponymous Edgar Wallace novel. I’m a big fan of both the Jerry Cotton and Edgar Wallace adaptions and have written articles on both.

So rest in peace, Heinz Weiss, who was Phil Decker, the second coolest agent of the FBI, and the Green Archer.

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