A Degree of Murder (1967)

Genre: 60’s Crime Drama

Now this is an odd West German film and not particularly good, but it will definitely be of interest to some people.

First of all it stars the gorgeous Anita Pallenberg in her first screen role. Her next starring role would be opposite Jane Fonda as the The Great Tyrant in Roger Vadim’s sexy science fiction Barbarella (1968) and later with Mick Jagger in Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970)

As most of you probably already know, Anita Pallenberge is famous for being romantically involved with three members of the Rolling Stones. First it was with Brian Jones, who was her boyfriend during the making of this film, but then she famously dumped him for Keith Richards resulting in the both of them driving off to Morocco in Brian’s Rolls. Supposedly she also had a fling with Mick Jagger during the making of Performance.

In this movie, Pallenberge plays Maria, who in the midsts of having a fight with her boyfriend in her apartment, accidentally shoots him. His matter-of-fact response to being fatally shot is:

“Now look what you’ve gone and done”

... and then proceeds to die on the carpet.

With the body lying in the apartment, Maria has to somehow remove it before her flat mate returns, so she goes to the local railways station to look for help. Wandering around, she asks strangers if they would like to earn 500 DM by removing the body.

Unsuccessful, she ends up in a small bar in a working-class district where she meets Günter (Hans Peter Hallwachs). He agrees to help her and is soon in her apartment and bed while they both wait for it to get dark outside.

They need a car to transport the body, so they borrow an old one from the garage where Günter works.

After going back to bed with Maria, Günter tells her that the body is too heavy and that he needs to ask his friend Fritz (Manfred Fischbeck) to help.

With the help of Fritz, they move the body, which is wrapped in a carpet, into the car and drive out to the countryside where they bury it on a construction site.

Maria now also becomes romantically involved in Fritz, but he has some concerns that the body hasn’t been hidden well enough. The others aren’t keen to return, so they continue their journey home and depart company.

Except for the occasional flashback and one lapse into heavy drinking, Maria seems fairly unemotional about the fact that she had killed her boyfriend. She only finally breaks down uncontrollably once home when she sees his photo beside her bed.

On the whole, Maria seems to have a death fixation. In one scene in the car she instigates a game of 'dare or lose' which nearly results in all three being killed. She also points the gun around at Günter with total disregard for his safety, especially considering what had already happened. Actually, all the characters seem very blasé. If it’s not losing the 500 DM in cash by the side of the road, it’s the discussion about who had used or not used  protection during their love-making, to not being too overly concerned about the dead body. Without giving too much away, even the very last shot in the film is completely odd as if those involved are also slightly detached from reality.

Because of this, it’s quite hard to feel any sympathy for the characters which is what lets this film down.

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff (THE TIN DRUM) with a minimal budget and being rather pretentious at times, this film falls short of his later work.

As mentioned earlier, Anita Pallenberge was dating Brian Jones when this film was in production and he actually appears very briefly in one scene. I must have blinked because I missed it or it was missing from my copy which had 10 minutes of footage missing from the original 87 minutes running time.

This leads on to the second reason why this film will be of interest to some. Not only does Brian Jones have an extremely brief part in this film, but he also composed, arranged and produced all the music.

This was his only solo work away from the Stones and hearing it you can really appreciate the talent he had. With the help of session musicians Jimmy Page (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (piano), Kenny Jones (drums) and Peter Gosling (background vocals), Brian played all the other instruments, including sitar, organ, recorder, banjo, harpsichord, autoharp, dulcimer, clarinet, and harmonica. The result is a great piece of 60’s psychedelia, which sadly has never been issued on LP or CD and possibly never will be. Volker Schlöndorff says he still has the original master tape given to him by Brian, but is unable to release it due to publishing rights.

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