What James Bond hath wrought! Among the many imitations of Ian Fleming’s 007 were American rip-offs like Derek Flint and Matt Helm, but often overlooked here in 2022 are Germany’s Kommissar X films. The series of novels began in 1959 and number at least SIX-HUNDRED TWENTY! You read that right. Truly, no man is Bert Island.
The Kommissar X (also known as Commissioner X) tales were similar in style to Germany’s own Jerry Cotton novels which began publication in 1954. The Jerry Cotton character even beat Kommissar X to the big screen, with professional Smug Prick George Nader starring as the federal agent in eight movies.
Kommissar X was played by Tony Kendall, with Brad Harris as his sidekick Tom Rowland.
KISS KISS, KILL KILL (1966) – Also released under the titles Hunt for the Unknown, Chasing the Unknown and Jagd auf Unbekannt, this was the first film appearance of Kommissar X, aka Private Investigator Joe Walker, and his colleague Police Captain Tom Rowland. Like James Bond and Jerry Cotton, Joe Walker had his own memorable theme music to accompany him as he kicked butt, bedded down with beautiful women and drove fancy sports cars.
Stylish villain Oberon (Nikola Popovic), called “O’Brien” in some dubs, is a mastermind who has accumulated a fortune in gold through dishonest means and wiped out his accomplices in order to nab their share of the loot, too. He also has plans to abduct a nuclear physicist, which gets Kommissar X mixed up in all this.
In Yugoslavia, our hero tangles with some of Oberon’s underlings and renews his acquaintance with Captain Tom Rowland, who is in the country to train police departments in state-of-the-art criminology. Ultimately, the pair trail Oberon to his island fortress, where they face the villain’s army of beautiful female soldiers as they try to recover the stolen gold AND the nuclear physicist.
DEATH IS NIMBLE, DEATH IS QUICK (1966) – Also released as Three Yellow Cats and Drei gelbe Katzen, this movie sees another unlikely coincidence result in Kommissar X and Tom Rowland becoming involved in the same case.
The location this time is Sri Lanka, back when it was called Ceylon, though in the novel the setting was Burma. Siegfried Rauch as Nitro is the top villain this time around as he runs a master plan involving germ warfare.
There’s also a beautiful young heiress being pursued by an evil organization called the Three Yellow Cats, whose members wear gold(ish) cat masks.
Dan “Quo” Vadis, almost unrecognizable with his head shaved, plays the muscular henchman named King and Yi Feng has an uncredited role as an assassin. This movie also features a reasonable number of chase scenes, gunfights, fistfights, and, for some variety, elephants vs airplane action.
SO DARLING, SO DEADLY (1966) – Also known as In the Claws of the Golden Dragon and Operation Far East. As you would expect from a third franchise film squeezed into one year, this Kommissar X outing is a bit lackluster. That is especially true regarding the fight scenes, which focus more on generic fisticuffs this time rather than anything exotic.
The plot involves our hero and his sidekick Tom Rowland being sent to Singapore to safeguard a scientist named Professor Akron – no, not Doctor Detroit, Professor Akron. Naturally, the professor has a beautiful daughter who also needs protecting.
The scientist has invented a device called the Eradicon, a filter which can be affixed to lasers to amp up their destructive power, or, since special effects can be expensive, to give the lasers the ability to make engines stall. Doing that to aircraft in flight is one of the goals of the Golden Dragon (Nicola Popovic done up as an Asian).
That Fu Manchu-style villain employs assassins plus whip-wielding women but, needless to say, Joe and Tom are up to the challenge. And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Brad Harris dancing!
DEATH TRIP (1967) – This movie was also released as Drei grune Hunde and Kill Me Gently. A new year, and a new Kommissar X film!
In this adventure, Tom Rowland is assigned to escort a shipment of LSD to American military forces in Turkey. Let me make that very clear, Tom is escorting A SHIPMENT OF LSD TO AMERICAN MILITARY FORCES IN TURKEY!
What is the military going to do with the LSD? Apparently if the filmmakers told us, they’d have to kill us, because we never learn what they plan to do with it.
The LSD gets intercepted by an old criminal organization called Three Green Hounds, and Tom needs the help of Kommissar X to recover the shipment amid much action, beautiful ladies and scenic Istanbul locations. Ultimately, the action switches to desert oil fields in the Valley of 1,000 Hills for some wild motorcycle chases and more.
You’ll find yourself wondering if you’ve been slipped some of the stolen LSD in the bizarre scene with a talking camel. (Don’t ask.)
KILL PANTHER KILL (1968) – Also known under the titles Gangsters for a Massacre and Drei Blaue Panther, meaning the titular obsession with the number three continues!
International criminals bust loose a jewel thief who once stole and hid three million dollars’ worth of diamonds in Canada. They want in on the loot, but the thief left the jewels with his twin brother, who gets killed before he can reveal where he hid the gems.
Meanwhile, Kommissar X is hired to recover the diamonds by the insurance company that was covering them. In another unlikely coincidence, Tom Rowland is also sent to Canada on the trail of the thief who was liberated at the start of the film, forcing the reluctant allies to work together once again.
Some of the action for this movie was filmed during the 1967 Expo in Montreal, so that adds a nice change of pace as Eurospy flicks go. Siegfried Rauch is back as yet another slick villain in this fifth Kommissar X installment.
ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS (1969) – The alternate titles for this Kommissar X production are Three Golden Serpents and Drei goldene Schlangen. Herbert Fux himself has a small role once again.
Captain Tom Rowland is in Bangkok at an international police convention. A woman’s beautiful daughter goes missing, so she asks Rowland for help and also calls in Kommissar X to have him come help in the investigation.
As our bickering heroes pursue leads, it turns out that the missing young woman is just one of many abducted by the organization run by Madame Kim Soo (Vilaiwan Vatanapanich). Kim Soo’s men, who all sport tattoos of three serpents, take the women to the Madame’s Island of 1,000 Lotus Flowers, where they are strung out on drugs and then used as sex slaves for wealthy visitors.
Madame Kim Soo’s fondness for Muay Thai matches brings her to Bangkok on a regular basis, thus giving Joe and Tom a lead to her island so they can bring down her ugly enterprise. See our heroes get attacked with flame throwers and blowguns, and laugh as Kommissar X makes a gun adjustment that redefines “male enhancement.”
TIGER GANG (1971) – Also released as F.B.I. Operation Pakistan and Kommissar X jagt die roten Tiger, this was the seventh and final film in this cheap but often entertaining series.
For their last cinematic hurrah, Kommissar X and Captain Rowland find themselves assigned to shut down the Red Tigers, who operate a drug network that runs from Afghanistan to the inner-city streets of the United States. Our heroes work with Pakistani law enforcement officials in this mission.
The violence gets grittier and bloodier than in any of the other movies in this series, and that tonal shift kind of ruins the high-spirited fun. And speaking of ruining the fun, the memorable (yet ridiculous) Joe Walker theme song, I Love You, Joe Walker, is not heard this time around! Try to picture a 007 flick without the Bond Theme.
On the weird side, we do get an exploding book and fast-motion fight scenes that do not need to be in fast motion. With this film series at such creative loose ends, it’s no wonder Tiger Gang was the end of the road.
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