Another obituary, this time for German actress Eva Pflug.
She might be a total stranger to my english speaking, non-sci-fi-geek-readers, but she is a StellaVista Ultramodel and needs to be remembered. Even if you don´t care to read my ramblings, make sure to check the videos, because you haven´t lived until you´ve seen a cast of extras doing the "Galyxo". It´s the dance of the future, you know?!
Eva Pflug was already a respected and popular actress in some of the most successful German films of the 1960s when she signed to play Tamara Jagellovsk, Deputy of the intergalactic security service, in the legendary sci-fi series "Raumpatrouille" (Space Patrol - the fantastic adventures of the starship ORION). This role would bring her huge fame, but would later nearly become a tombstone for her carreer.
The Orion took off to space in 1966 a short time before Star Trek was beamed into the atmosphere. Interestingly, both series share a very similar title-sequence, complete with dramatic music and a spoken word introduction.
"Raumpatrouille" Ttitle-sequence with music by Peter Thomas
"Raumpatroullie" was a massive success, despite being shown in black & white (although not many people had colour-tv in the mid-sixties). Interestingly huge parts of the seven episodes had to be filmed in colour to accomplish the numerous blue-screen s/fx-shots.
Apart from the very unusual characters, who were constantly bitching and disobeying orders, the show was revolutionary in it´s vision of a future society that knew no national borders and had men and women as equal partners.
Enter Eva Pflug as Russian "watchdog" Tamara Jagellovsk who is ordered to keep an eye on American commander Cliff Allister McLane, who tends to blow orders to the wind too often. They both hit it off from the get-go. Their cool love/hate relationship is overshadowed by amazing sets and stylish special effects.
While many people complain that they don´t like their vision of the future to be in b/w, "Raumpatrouille" makes a case for the contrary. The look of the "Orion", the underwater "Starlight Casino" and the alien locations are shown in a pristine, ultra-sleek look that creates a totally convincing alternate universe that is like "noir in space".
As soon as "Star Trek" left the cardboard walls of the USS Enterprise to explore an alien planet the production design reached the outer limits of their budget at warp 5.
While "Star Trek" was always more endearing and offered more chances to identify with it´s characters, there was always a very camp making it a lasting success.
"Raumpatrouille" took itself quite seriously or so you were led to believe. The actors spoke their lines, which consisted of mostly made-up terms, without blinking an eye. It made the absurdity of the dialogues bounce off the plastic walls.
The use of mundane, everyday articles as futuristic props gave a very strong message: The future is already here!
Until today the set-design of Raumpatrouille is a thing of wonder and laughter, a work of "form inventing function". The production invested in the most extravagant modern furniture and the latest inventions of plastic molding.
The set was mostly made out of plastics (not cardboard) and objects by Mies van der Rohe, Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, Yrjö Kukkaparo, Harry Bertoia and Joe Colombo defined the lifestyle of the year 3000. But all this paled in comparison to the little objects that made up the commando bridge of the Orion.
Chief designer Rolf Zehetbauer bought hundreds of pencil sharpeners, plastic cups and other "invisible" things of everyday life and incorporated them into his visionary design. He went totally overboard with the use of an ordinary iron as the speed-control for the starship. From this day on Germans felt a little bit more futuristic when they were ironing their shirts!
The men of "Raumpatrouile" were mostly rugged and enjoyed drinking and partying more than saving the world.
The women were sporting atomic bustiers, back-free suits and bangs that would inspire a whole generation of women. There are pictures of my mother were the influence of the female crew on her hair is undeniable.
The unbeatable highlight of the show was of course the nightly party in the underwater "Starlight Casino". Giant fish were swimming behind gigantic, bubbly glass walls and the crew would lose themselves in the most outlandish dance, called the "Galyxo". Pina Bausch should have sued! The music is absolutely amazing. Peter Thomas was always a versatile film- and jazz composer, but the soundtrack for "Raumpatrouille" became an influential masterpiece.
"Do the Galyxo"
The Galyxo scenes are quite popular on Youtube and might be the shocking evidence that traces of humour are indeed existing in Germany (although we have to wait another 912 years for it to show).
As mentioned before, Eva Pflug became an idol for a generation of young women who saw in her a role model of a strong, intelligent, independent woman. Ironically, her new image turned against her, as casting-agents (who were predominantly male back then) shied away from casting her. She probably frightened them. While her male colleagues went on to become highly paid actors, she almost disappeared from the tv-screen and had to turn to the stage to survive.
She also did lots of dubbing and most Germans will associate Ursula Andress and Eve Marie Saint with her voice.
Eva Pflug died alone in her apartment on August 5. Neighbours saw that she had left the lights on for a few days. She was not married and had no children.
Did she like girls or boys? It shouldn´t be so confusing these days. Goodbye, spacegirl.
"Emergency take-off" Note how slowly the wall rises and the actors are forced to wait until they can duck underneath.