The Kommissar X Films


Director: Various
Year: 1965 - 1971
Rating: Various
Country: Germany

I picked up one of these films and enjoyed it enough to watch a second and then a third. Like potato chips. But by the time I got to the last three they had gotten a bit stale and it was just the completist in me that drove me to the finish line. That plus the great location shooting in what were for the time far away places. These are all up on YouTube.

Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill (1965) - 7.0

The Kommissar X films were a series of seven Euro-Crime-Adventure movies made in the 1960’s by Germany. The first one was released in 1965; the last in 1971. They are ridiculous by most every cinematic standard known to man – disjointed plots, dreadful dialogue (though admittedly badly dubbed), amateurish acting, goofy humor and an overall vapidity that makes you roll your eyes often – and yet I quite like these films like I would a three-legged dog that you adopt. They are wonderfully cheesy, have loads of lovely actresses, take place in exotic locales, have lots of wam-bam-sock em-up action and never take themselves seriously. They know what they are making and selling to the public – just good dumb fun.These are based on books written by Bert Island (aka Paul Alfred Mueller) – 620 of them – I have never come across one of them but with 620 of them I can imagine just how well-written they must be. Still I would like to give one a try.

All seven films have the same two male American characters – Joe Walker a suave lady-killer private eye from New York City and Tom Rowland, a police officer from New York. The two of them team up together to overcome evil and dastardly plots all over the world. Walker is portrayed by Tony Kendall, who was in fact really Luciano Stella born in Italy while Rowland is played by Brad Harris, an American muscleman who appeared mainly in European films and was initially in a few peplum films including being Hercules in The Fury of Hercules (1962), Samson in Samson (which bizarrely has Serge Gainsbourg in it), Goliath in Goliath Against the Giants and is also credited with being one of the gladiators in Spartacus. I have to admit I would love to see those peplum films no matter how bad they are.

These two actors were teamed up a number of times besides in the Kommissar films – a couple Spaghetti Westerns and the Three Fantastic Supermen films. Clearly, they had some appeal. Why isn’t exactly clear to me. In these films they are not the brightest bulbs in the pack – with Walker always falling for every woman’s seductive come-on and Rowland sort of the straight man who never gets laid.

Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill (aka 12 Golden Women aka Hunt for the Unknown) is the first in the series and one of the better ones in the series. It has a decent budget and gets off to a bang from the first moment and only slows down from time to time to catch its breath. To the theme song (written by director Gianfranco Paolini) that goes “I love you Joe Walker like every woman does”, Walker and Harris race down the coast of the Riviera (really Croatia) just for fun. They later slug one another just to show they care. Soon though Walker is awash with women trying to seduce him and generally ending up dead and a case of a missing nuclear scientist that has more than a few coincidental echoes of Goldfinger.

Walker is stopped by a striking woman in a yellow canary pill box hat who gives him $3,000 to look for a missing man – she calls him the most expensive P.I in the world – hey Marlowe only asked for $20 a day plus expenses. She is played by the strangely attractive looking Maria Perschy who was also in The Castle of Fu Manchu and Five Golden Dragons. Another woman is waiting for Joe back at his apartment – Bobo who needs protection and is willing to pay Joe with kisses. Behind everything is your usual movie madman who has an underground liar on a secret island where he is hoarding enough gold to control the world! He has also created an army of blonde Barbie Doll killers all with flip curl hairdos who have been drugged to follow orders. Of course, a kiss from Joe solves that. Good fun, lots of action, lovely women – sort of what you hope for from one of these Euro films.

Death is Nimble, Death is Quick (1966) - 6.0

At times this makes as much sense as a kangaroo singing opera, but it is still rather enjoyable. So many of these Euro-Spy-Action films fall down because of poorly structured plots with huge holes in them or narrative jumps that make your head spin. Which is weird. You understand that these films don't have the budgets for big action set pieces or elaborate sets - but just writing a script that makes sense? That seems like it would be the easy part but so often these films trip over themselves in getting from point A to point B. But after a while you sort of overlook this and just enjoy these films for what they have - great locales, lots of exterior shooting, pretty girls, fast cars and action.

This one takes place in Ceylon before it became Sri Lanka and before a civil war tore it apart. Back in the 1960's I went there on vacation as well with my parents and it was such a beautiful country with lush jungles, cascading tea fields and fabulous beaches. I am not positive but I think we stayed at the same hotel as in this film - Mount Lavinia a 200 year old colonial hotel - as it looked so familiar. I would have to taste their curry to be sure because it was the hottest curry I have had in my life - painfully so! So all that added to my enjoyment.

There is an attempted kidnapping of the daughter (Ann Smymer) of a wealthy businessman - and needless to say quite attractive and so our boys Joe Walker (Tony Kendall) and Captain Rowland (Brad Harris) show up to protect her and go after the Golden Cats who are behind it. Within minutes of Walker arriving he is kissing two stewardesses and having an attempt on his life by a bacteria that dissolves your body.

There are some good action bits here - a rooftop fight, a boat chase through an eerie and strange lagoon and a karate showdown between Rowland and one of the villains named King. King is played by Dan Vadis who was in a number of peplum films and portrayed Hercules two times. So did Brad Harris so we had two former Hercules bashing one another. I like that whenever King plans to kill someone with a karate blow he stops and puts on a black headband to make it legal I guess! Vadis went on to make a number of Westerns as well as appearing in five Clint Eastwood films. Fun brainless film that swishes by in no time.

So Darling, So Deadly (1966) - 6.0

Aka: Agent Joe Walker: Operation Far East
Kommissar X Film - Third in the series

By the 1960's West Germany had begun to shift their film output from what they termed Heimatfilm to a more genre based style of film. Heimatfilms were very local and very German with many of the stories taking place outdoors in the Alpines with songs, fresh air, busty blondes and happy endings. They didn't get much play though outside of Germany and Austria. Throughout Europe the film industries were finding it difficult to produce films that were successful enough in their home country to cover costs. So they began to do co-productions with other European countries and began making a lot of films that were cross-border in appeal with actors from various countries working together and often starring an American to help get distribution in the USA.

So for example in this film you have actors from America, Italy, Germany, France, Yugoslavia and Malaysia (Cathay is attributed on the film). This also creates the need for dubbing in various languages since none of the actors spoke the same language and that adds unfortunately to the cheesy factor. The producer of these Kommissar X films from the second on was Constantin - you will see their logo at the beginning of these films - still a major producer in Germany.

In Germany the crime or Krimi film was very popular often based on Edgar Wallace or his son Bryan's writings. They also made a number of Westerns often sourced from the books of Karl May though they never became as popular globally as did the Italian Westerns. And in the mid-60's the spy films became popular due to the James Bond fever all over the world. Which is where the Kommissar X films come in - not exactly spy, not exactly crime, not exactly adventure - but a combination of all three.

Besides being a reasonably entertaining film - depending on your tolerance for slapdash films - this series served another purpose - a chance to see the world. Back in the 1960's not a lot of people were going to Bangkok or Ceylon or Singapore but they were able to catch glimpses of them in these films. This one begins in Singapore and then moves to Johor Bahru, Malaysia for most of the film. I can't imagine that a lot of Western films have been shot there but it seems like a charming place - at least back in 1966.

Walker and Rowland are hired to protect a scientist and his invention that increases the power of lasers 100 times. The Golden Dragons headed by a man in a cheap red hood wants it. Most of the film is taken up with them trying to kill the two boys in various ways, in various locations - they blow up a plane, blow up a train, try assassinating them in a car, in the hotel room, while water skiing and anywhere else they can. They are not very good at it. In one scene they have four machine guns pointed at the boys and still manage to screw it up. Good help is hard to find in gangs with underground lairs. But this leads to loads of fisticuffs and shootouts - choreographed by Brad Harris. I assume the love scenes were choreographed by Tony Kendall. Again, he gets all the girls. The baddies also have a group of hootchi-kootchi girls with machine guns. It is all remarkably stupid - none of it makes sense - the boys do a terrible job of protecting anyone or anything - Walker kisses any woman that breathes - but I find myself enjoying these films at some strange level.

Kiss Me Gently (1967) - 6.0

A Kommissar X film - aka Death Trip - Fourth in the series

This one certainly begins well enough with Joe Walker (Tony Kendall) in a lengthy barroom brawl in which every time he gets knocked backwards his head fortunately lands in the soft cushiony bosom of an obliging lady. He gives her a kiss and gets back to knocking heads. Very clearly these films would not play well in the Metoo era. Souvenirs from a different age. As he escapes the bar the camera pans the outside skyline. One of my favorites - Istanbul with the many minarets reaching into the sky in praise of Allah. Later the film moves to the magnificent limestone caves and pillars of Cappadocia where you can find ancient Christian murals in some of the caves.

This adventure has our two boys - Walker and Rowland (Brad Harris) in Turkey stopping a gang from stealing a large amount of LSD which they plan to use against NATO. Or I think. This was ever so convoluted with some logistical jumps that made no sense at all - but you know we just overlook the minor things like logic and continuity. This one felt a bit of a downgrade from the earlier films till the final 20 minutes in Cappadocia. That saved the film - some amazing stunts - precipitous slides down the limestone hills, a motorcycle chase that was quite nervy and a fight in one of the caves that I really hope was a studio set because otherwise they were destroying an amazing historical site - but this was the 1960's so who knows.

The usual silliness - the bad guys could have killed them a dozen times but never do, the secret boss revealed in the final few minutes, lots of wonderful Istanbul and some gorgeous ladies on hand. It is what a Kommissar X film is. They no doubt played better back in the 1960s before these sorts of films became such huge affairs with giant budgets. For their time they are not bad. Rather fun.

Kill Panther Kill (1968) - 4.5

Kommissar X Film - AKA - The Three Blue Panthers

By the 5th film in the series the quality was visibly dropping like a man falling off an edge. Part of it is perhaps the fact that from setting their films in wonderful places like Singapore, Ceylon and Istanbul, they place it in Canada - Calgary and Montreal. Nothing against those places but Istanbul they are not - though admittedly it is during the Calgary Rodeo Show and Parade and the Montreal Expo in 1967. But still. On top of that the film has even worse dubbing than usual and a plot that departs from spy and adventure and instead becomes a dull film noir of sorts.

A criminal is broken out of jail and then switches identities with his brother who has a stash of stolen jewels. When Walker and Rowland aren't fighting each other to an irritating extent they are looking for these jewels. Maybe I have just had a bit too much Kommissar X films recently but this one just felt flat and tired. There was some action - a nice scene in which they take on a judo class - and a silly scene when once again the bad guys can't seem to pull the trigger and just kill them - but no evil masterminds or their lairs - just regular crooks. On the plus side Rowland almost gets laid but noir intervenes. Poor guy.

Three Golden Serpents (1969) - 5.0

Kommissar X Film - AKA - The Island of Lost Girls

This is the sixth film in the series and it is a considerable step down from the first few in many respects but at least for me it had one thing going for it. As soon as this film began, I felt right at home – literally – it takes place in Bangkok and unlike so many movies that are filmed in foreign locations, this one really takes advantage of its surroundings – almost a travelogue for the first 10 minutes as we sweep through the Wats (temples), Klongs (canals), traditional Thai dancers, tuk-tuk rides, crocodile farms, pictures of King Bhumibol when he was a young man on the walls and lovely open roads with only a smattering of traffic. They are staying at this huge hotel with acres of grounds and not knowing it I looked it up – the Siam Intercontinental – torn down a bunch of years ago and is now occupied by the Paragon, Siam and Discovery Malls in downtown Bangkok. Damn. What a shame. 1969 Bangkok. I would have loved to have seen it. Well, actually I did on a trip to Penang with my parents – only for a few days but it was the beginning of my fascination for the country.

Eventually the tour ends when a young American girl is kidnapped for nefarious means. Mom calls in our two boys and it becomes a series of fights, chases, murder attempts, blow dart killings, shoot outs on the klongs, Harris losing his shirt of course and Walker falling for every deadly trap a pretty girl sets for him. Behind it all is a Fu Manchu styled female – Madame Kim-so – whose hatred of the white race has her dreaming big of finishing them off – but so far consists only of a few kidnapped girls they keep on an island – but you have to start somewhere. All silly fun ending in a huge fight in the mud which was more than a little anti-climactic. If only all this was just done better, acted better, choreographed better – but then they would not be what they are – charming relics of the 1960’s.

The Tiger Gang (1971) - 5.0

Kommissar X Film aka FBI: Operation Pakistan

This final film in the Kommissar X series has the energy of a dying cat with tuberculosis but at least they place it in another exotic part of the world - Pakistan - where they jump back and forth between Lahore and Karachi like kissing cousins living right next door to one another (which they are not) with a side trip to the legendary Khyber Pass. Pakistan in 1971 was a mess as it still is and nothing they can do can make it look anything but dusty and poor with a few spectacular older buildings in the background.

The ambitions of the plot have shrunken since those early films when a madman wanted global control. Here we got a Mafia bigshot who has escaped to Pakistan, disguised himself as Pakistani and set up a drug syndicate - The Tiger Gang. With The French Connection films about drug smuggling were I guess more popular than spy films which seem to have lost their flavor. His gang isn't much to look at.

Lots of pretty Pakistani actresses pop up and there are a few brief sequences in which they dance ala Bollywood though in this case it would be Lollywood. The police officer in this is played by Muhammed Ali who was a big star in Pakistani films - called The King of Emotions - who in his films was often paired off with Zeba, who plays the good girl here. At the end of the film Rowland promises to be back but this was the end of the line for Kommissar X. Maybe a film or two too late.