Tuesday, October 23, 2018


At the height of the Sixties spy-film craze the Germans made a series of seven films based on the pulp fiction character Kommissar X, who despite the name is neither a Communist nor even a spy but a globetrotting American private eye. Three Golden Cats (also known in the U.S. as Death is Nimble, Death is Quick) is the second film of the series. As they did throughout, Tony Kendall plays Joe "Kommissar X" Walker -- the nickname isn't used here -- and Brad Harris plays his sort of friend/sort of rival, policeman Tom Rowland. Co-directed by Rudolf Zehetgruber and Gianfranco Parolini, the latter later best known for the Sabata spaghetti westerns, the film benefits greatly from its Sri Lanka locations and the colorful cinematography of Klaus von Rautenfeld. Our heroes end up in the erstwhile Ceylon to protect an American heiress (Ann Smyrner) -- who seems resourceful enough not to need their help much -- from the kidnappers of the Golden Cats, a former anti-imperialist guerrilla group that turned into gangsters-for-hire after independence.

Behind the Golden Cats, we learn toward the end, is a mad scientist who wanted ransom money to finance the biological warfare projects that got him thrown out of the U.S. This Bondish sort of villain exists mostly to put some of the protagonists in a death trap and is completely eclipsed,  by the Cats' head karate killer, King (former Hercules Dan Vadis). This may be Vadis's finest hour on film. Bald and mustachioed and coolly glowering, making a fetish of donning a headband before a kill, King has an indisputable menacing charisma that upstages the ostensible stars on every occasion. Vadis and Harris staged their own fight scenes -- Rowland is also a karate expert -- and did many of their own stunts in this action-packed picture. They make it look more like a precocious martial-arts movie than a Eurospy film -- the training sequence involving scantily clad Sri Lankan policewomen definitely doesn't defuse that impression -- and their final showdown in the Cats' temple is a bravura blend of camp theatrics and succinct brutality from two plausible looking bruisers.

You also get an acid attack in a shower, an assistant assassin who specializes in nitro capsules, a cool boat chase with our heroes pursued by a futuristic vehicle through an exploding swamp and a climactic collision between a speeding car and an airplane on the tarmac. You also get ladies' man Walker getting kissed by an elephant and getting dumped at the end by the heiress, an equally capable Sri Lankan heroine (Michele Mahaut) and the elephant at the same time.

Kendall's horndog antics date the picture to its time, but Harris and Vadis's commitment to pure action make Three Golden Cats feel more like a contemporary action film than may of its actual contemporaries. Judged by the standard of any time period, it's an enjoyable piece of unrepentant pop trash that inspires confidence in the rest of the series.

1 comment:

W.B. Kelso said...

I truly wish someone, anyone -- Arrow? Synapse? Scorpion? would get a full boxset of the Kommissar X franchise out. More folks need to see them. They're the right kind of bonkers in my book.