Amazingly enough, Stahlnetz, the German version of Dragnet was actually better than the original. It has to be said though that both shows do not have much more in common with each other than the catchy theme tune. Stahlnetz is set in a different city each episode and has different investigating officers (although often played by the same actors which is somewhat confusing) and it focuses on the day-to-day routine of police work. The cases are rarely spectacular and neither are the police officers, although Heinz Engelmann is great as the tough old cop and Helmut Lange gives a delightful version of a gentleman detective in Strandkorb 421. The first couple of episodes are nowadays fairly tedious to watch as the are documentary in character and don't make much use of the possibilities of film. That however changes and it's interesting to see how the characters and story lines improves and that the director Juergen Roland also finds his own language. Although even the later episodes don't embellish the facts of police work through "psychological" insight or over constructed plots, the way Roland tells it makes it highly addictive watching. He also experiments with points of view, narrative etc. Roland and Menge (actually also well known as a satirist) can't resist poking fun at the typical German "Beamte". Although each episode is part of a 22 parts series each film has its own "language", tone and feel. All in all the variety is amazing. But it's also interesting to see what's not there: there are some references to Germany's not so distant past at the time and some of it is really done in a clever way but never about the personal past of the investigating coppers. The acting is sometimes really superb and it is amazing to see that a lot of big post war German stars were actually in it. The interesting thing for me is that neither Roland nor Menge ever managed to re-produce the quality of Stahlnetz in any other project.
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