Spies Kill Silently/Le Spie Uccidono In Silenzio (1966)

Spies Kill Silently (1966)‘Then you become an automaton, bending all of your willpower and intelligence to my will alone.’

When a top professor’s daughter is murdered, it provides confirmation that a mysterious villain is targeting the scientific community. His assassins are individuals in positions of utmost trust, programmed to obey him via a new hypnotic drug. The authorities send their best agent to bring the madman to justice…

Although it was not obvious at the time, it now seems clear that the Italian and Spanish governments signed an international treaty in the mid-1960s. Their intention was to take over the world by flooding the marketplace with endless cheap Eurospy films, thus bankrupting Hollywood and the western Military-Industrial Complex. It’s the only thing that makes any reasonable sense.

This week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’ is Canadian actor Lang Jeffries as Michael Drum, an agent so brilliant that he only thinks to check his hotel room for electronic bugs after he’s explained his plans to local police inspector Craig (Jose Bodalo). He’s also happy to accept a colleague’s prompt identification of a cyanide pill, which he makes just by looking at it. Yes, we’re back in the fairly predictable territory of low-budget spy shenanigans, with a complete absence of big set pieces, stunts, gadgets and even car chases. Most of the action here is confined to the usual fisticuffs and a couple of gun battles. After one of those, Jeffries strolls down the street and fixes a beautiful woman’s car. When she asks for the keys back, he keeps them. ‘I’ll drive’ he smirks, taking her right back to his hotel room. Why does she just smile and go along with it? Because it’s the sixties, baby! Oh, and because she’s an enemy agent, which no-one could possibly have guessed.

In its defence, at least director Mario Caiario keeps things going at a decent pace and, although Jeffries is not over-blessed with screen presence, he’s a capable enough leading man. He enjoyed a very brief career on US TV in the late-1950s before being cast opposite Rhonda Fleming in Italian muscleman picture ‘Revolt of the Slaves’ (1960). He rarely worked outside of Europe after that, playing mostly in costume pictures and more Eurospy films. He even tried his hand at science fiction; appearing as literary hero Perry Rhodan in the hopelessly tatty but rather fun, ‘Mission: Stardust’ (1967).

Spies Kill Silently (1966)

The Three Stooges were trying out some edgier new material…

Elsewhere in the cast we find the lovely Erika Blanc, who brought beauty to a number of notable cult pictures in the 1960s, including Mario Bava’s ‘Kill, Baby…Kill’ (1966), and several Eurospy films like ‘Espionage in Lisbon’ (1965). She also steamed up the screen in horror ‘The Devil’s Nightmare’ (1971). She’s still working as of 2017 at the age of 75.

What lets this film down in the final analysis is the fragmentary script, which is little more than a hodgepodge of half realised ideas that were already becoming a little too familiar by the mid-1960s. Character motivation is never a major concern; the most obvious example being that of our supervillain Andrea Bosic. Why is he killing off all the scientists who are working on projects to help the human race? Well…umm…we don’t really know. He never really explains himself, beyond some vague declarations about taking over the world. He even unveils a super weapon toward the end of the film that he’s had all along but never mentioned!

Cookie-cutter Eurospy which benefits from good pacing and professionalism all round, but the only thing likely to live in the memory is the shortcomings of the script.


Agent X-77 Orders To Kill/Baraka Sur X-13 (1966)

Agent X-77 Orders To Kill (1966)‘I was probing to assess his resistance capacity.’

Enemy agents attempt to steal a top scientist’s research and then assassinate him by sabotaging a commercial airliner. The plane crashes but the Professor survives, and various espionage operatives clash in their efforts to acquire his secrets, including French Secret Service man Agent X-77…

Rather dreary, run of the mill Eurospy shenanigans, with the only noticeable twist being the involvement of a French film company in its production, along with the inevitable collaboration of Italian and Spanish studios. The Gallic influence means this week’s ‘Bond on A Budget’ is actor Gérard Barry, who demonstrates the necessary charm and the usual ability to shot someone dead from a great distance without aiming his gun properly. Having said that, there is an effort to ground his adventures in a more realistic way that many of his contemporaries, although the lack of big sets, stunt work, gadgets and set pieces may have been as much to do with budget limitations as anything else.

The lack of production resource is pretty obvious from our opening sequence. The plane disaster is rendered through the tremendously convincing medium of two characters hearing a distant explosion and when Barry, posing as an accident investigator, visits the crash site all we see is the disordered interior of the passenger cabin and a few extras playing dead. Much of the subsequent action is centred on the hospital where the Professor is admitted and a series of less than stellar plot developments that seem merely designed to pad the run time to feature length.

These include the introduction of our faceless villains, their tacked-on plan to blow up a factory that’s supposed to be producing the Professor’s invention (whatever it is!), and Barry’s romance of sassy nurse Sylva Koscina, who falls for him after just one date at a restaurant cum-nightclub that bares an unfortunate resemblance to a poorly dressed film set. He also spends a good deal of time driving around in his little red car, constantly accompanied by a jangly zither on the soundtrack. Now that musical accompaniment worked magnificently in ‘The Third Man’ (1949) but here it’s just annoying. Extremely annoying. Especially when it plays over lengthy shots of tape reels spinning on the kind of computer that used to take six hours to add two and two.

Barry’s performance is from the Sean Connery school of Bond. He may smile and romance the ladies a little, but he’s all business really and is pleasingly cold blooded on a couple of occasions, particularly when he gasses a fellow agent who has switched sides for love. But action is at a serious premium here, with just a few bouts of unconvincing fisticuffs, a bit of gun play, some decent stunt driving and a couple of explosions. The plot is cheerfully vague throughout and simply disintegrates into some running about and the attempts of various agents to kill each other. Exactly what the Professor has invented is never really made clear. If it is some kind of amazing, brand new rocket fuel, then how come this anonymous factory outside Trieste is already making it? The script simply doesn’t bother with such trivial exposition.

Agent X-77 Orders To Kill (1966)

The audience were less than thrilled with the in-flight movie…

Directing duties here were appropriately split between Italian Silvio Siano and Frenchman Maurice Cloche, who it could be argued made a loose Eurospy trilogy with ‘Agent FX18’ (1964) starring Ken Clark and ‘Le Vicomte Regie Jes Comptes’ (1967) with former ‘Sinbad’, Kerwin Matthews.

Barry was a hero of French adventure films at the time, and later had a major role in ‘Open Your Eyes’ (1997), which was remade (poorly) in the U.S. as ‘Vanilla Sky’ (2001) with Tom Cruise. Koscina is best remembered as Steve Reeves’ better half in cheesy Italian muscleman epics ‘Hercules’ (1957) and ‘Hercules Unchained’ (1959) but had a significant career in more respectable cinema, appearing in Georges Franju’s ‘Judex’ (1963) and ‘Juliet of the Spirits’ (1965) for Ferderico Fellini. Also in the cast is Gérard Tichy, who was the title villain in ‘Superargo Vs. Diabolicus’ (1966) but also appeared in big budget productions like ‘Dr Zhivago’ (1965) and ‘King of Kings’ (1961), as well as Mario Bava’s impressive horror ‘Hatchet For The Honeymoon’ (1970).

There were certainly worse pretenders to 007 crown, but that market was seriously oversaturated by the mid-1960s and, without any remarkable elements, it’s inevitable that this example simply got lost in the shuffle.

Password: Uccidete Agente Gordon/Kill Agent Gordon (1966)

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)‘You’re very sweet and one day I want you to meet my twin brother.’

The Western intelligence community suspects that a mysterious criminal organisation are supplying the VietCong with illegal weapons. When an agent investigating in Paris is killed, a top spy is sent to take his place and bust the gun smuggling operation wide open…

This week’s ‘Bond on A Budget’ is American actor Roger Browne (again!), top lining this Italian-Spanish co-production directed by EuroSpy veteran Sergio Grieco under his usual alias of ‘Terence Hathaway’ (brilliantly misspelled in the credits as ’Therence’!) But let’s ignore the first two elements of the usual Eurospy formula of Guns, Gadgets and Girls and go straight to the main attractions: Roslba Neri and Helga Liné. Both actresses had bags of experience in the genre and, together with Browne, constitute what could almost be regarded as a EuroSpy dream team! And with a safe, experienced pair of hands behind the camera, this just has to be good, right? Um…no.

Browne arrives in Paris where he’s kidnapped from a taxi at gunpoint before he’s had a chance to even check in at his hotel. Fast work by the enemies of democracy you might think! But no, it turns out that it’s just his boss who wants to brief him on the mission (this agency seems to have a peculiar idea of ‘covert operations’!) ln no time, Browne has identified his ex-colleague’s important contact, played by Neri. She’s part of some kind of cabaret act that are referred to throughout the film as a Ballet company! Their dance instructor has ‘generic villain’ tattooed on his forehead and some business ensues involving a vital microfilm (or something?)

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)

Q Division always came up with the most sophisticated new spy gadgets…

Then is off to Tripoli for the next stop on the dance tour, and Browne tags along as it seems to be the thing to do (for some reason). There he teams up with Russian agent Liné and both are kidnapped and tortured after running around quite a bit. The villains attempt to double cross each other, a suitcase explodes, people actually fire guns at each other (eventually!), and there’s a final twist that will only surprise someone who has nodded off a couple of times during the film (most people, probably).

But the main problem here is the plot. It’s completely underdeveloped, and often seems to be little more than a series of excuses to get Browne from one punch up to the next. These are quite energetic, if not particularly convincing, the realism not assisted by the intermittent introduction of a fairly obvious stunt double. And far be it from me to question the presence of the always luminous Neri, but her dance moves seem to consist of just teasing her hair and strutting about for a few seconds. That’s not really ballet, love. Actually, her role is rather brief, although there is a scene where Browne ties her up and tickles her with a feather (for purposes of information gathering, of course). Liné is wasted even worse than Neri, with almost her entire contribution to proceedings being to lend her car to one of Browne’s colleagues! The two actresses never share a scene, which may have been down to the logistics of filming, but is a crying shame (or even ‘Kriminal’ if you will). Rather brilliantly, the villains favour the old Hollywood cowboy method of shooting; one handed, hold the gun low and don’t bother to aim properly. Surprisingly enough, they never manage to hit anything. It really highlights some serious shortcomings in our villain’s recruitment policy and henchman training program.

But all these doings prompt an important question. ls this even a EuroSpy film at all? Ok, so we do have a semi-mysterious villain. What is his plan for world domination? He doesn’t seem to have one. ls there a secret base that explodes when you shoot out a control panel? Err…no. ls there a super- scientific weapon ‘that must not fall into the wrong hands’? Nope. But there is lots of ‘Tourist Board’ footage showcasing the local colour of the glamorous locations, right? No. Any action set pieces or notable stunt work? Not really. Gadgets! There must be gadgets? Um…there’s a wristwatch that explodes, does that count? Are there any outlandish trappings at all? No. Well, to be fair, Liné is tied to a table at the climax and some sparks fly about. So there is that.

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)

The rehearsals for ‘Swan Lake’ were going particularly well…

Grieco began his directing career with costume and muscleman features, before jumping on the Bond bandwagon with ‘Agente 007: Missione Bloody Mary’ (1965) (also with Liné) and ‘From The Orient With Fury’ (1965), before following up with this effort, and the underwhelming ‘Special Mission Lady Chaplin’ (1966) (with Liné again!). He also reteamed with Browne for gloriously cheesy superhero flick ‘Argoman, The Fantastic Superman/Incident ln Paris’ (1967) for which the world must always be truly grateful.

Browne himself had already done the EuroSpy thing for real on several occasions; partnering up with Liné for ‘Operation Poker’ (1965) and with Neri for Umberto Lenzi’s ‘SuperSeven Calling Cairo’ (1965). As you may have gathered, Liné appeared in a truly heroic amount of films, especially in the 1970s, and, although her credits include a lot of comedies, notable cult films include ‘Kriminal’ (1966) and its sequel, ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, ‘The Vampire’s Night Orgy’ (1973), ‘Vengeance of the Mummy’ (1973) with Paul Naschy, and ‘The Lorelei’s Grasp’ (1973) for ‘Blind Dead’ director Amando de Ossorio. She also found the time to star opposite legendary silver-masked Mexican wrestler El Santo in ‘Santo Contra el Doctor Muerte’ (1973)!

Neri is perhaps best remembered as the rather naughty ‘Lady Frankenstein’ (1971) and was unlucky enough to star in Jess Franco’s hopeless ‘The Castle of Fu Manchu’ (1969) with Christopher Lee. Actually, the actress worked in lots of different genres; principally Westerns and comedies, although more horror roles followed in the 1970s after her turn as the Baron’s daughter. Usually, in films where there appeared to be a limited budget for clothes.

If I’ve seemed to focus a little too much on the career history of our three principal actors, it’s mainly to emphasise what a missed opportunity we have here. All in all, this film is more of an international spy thriller than anything else; too vaguely silly to bear the stamp of Cold War realism but far too mundane to even be called a James Bond knock-off.

And a complete waste of everyone’s time.

The Big Blackout/Agent Perry Grant/Perry Grant Agente Di Fermo (1966)

Agent Perry Grant (1966)‘One day soon I’ll be dealing with the world’s most important rulers – and they’ll accept my decisions!’

An American agent investigates the possible connections between a counterfeit gang, a fashion house in Rome and the persistent leaking of state secrets. His first point of contact is a beautiful brunette who has used some of the dodgy currency to buy a priceless brooch.

Cookie cutter Italian Eurospy finds this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ Peter Horton wrestling with guns, girls and gadgets in the glamourous capital cities of the world. Well, New York and Rome at least, New York making a particularly fine showing as a series of cutaway shots of Manhattan skyscrapers. So, just Rome then. Anyways, not to worry! Who needs fine locations when there’s a lot of other things to enjoy. Take all Horton’s gadgets, for instance. Well, someone obviously did as there aren’t any. Well, there is some microfilm hidden in the button of a jacket! Does that qualify? Oh, and he has that gun that never needs reloading but I guess that was standard issue to all secret agents in the 1960s.

Ok, so we’re lacking glamorous locations and gimmicks, but there’s plenty of stunts and action, right? Well, Horton gets involved in fisticuffs from time to time and he does fire his gun a bit (when he’s not getting it knocked out of his hand because he’s holding it too far away from his body). He also puts the moves on heroine Marilù Tolo, who doesn’t fall straight into his arms and his bed, which makes a pleasant change. He also locks lips with bad girl Seyna Seyn but their relationship hits a rocky patch when she tries to kill him. Even better, he gets to groove to the hep sounds of cool combo The Planets, who are real outta sight. Unfortunately, their set does include a drum solo, which would probably work well as an interrogation technique.

This is all (very) mildly diverting stuff and just about gets a pass but what doesn’t is the rest of the film, which is seriously underwritten. Our secret super villain is completely colourless, and his world domination strategy consists of making money (literally) and a gizmo that kills all the electrical power in New York, hence the film’s US title. But don’t get too excited, we don’t see much of that (hey, it’s too dark!) and the device is just a hand-held box with a couple of knobs on it. Still, the villain does have an underground lair and there is a fiery climax, although less kinder commentators than myself might point out the fact that it’s just a few flames in a couple of caves. In fact, the film mostly comprises of a  series of dull fight sequences, punctuated by Horton tracking down clues by the exciting method of talking to a lot of people in rooms.

Agent Perry Grant (1966)

In his spare time, Perry designed table lamps…

Curiously enough, Horton has only one other acting credit; a supporting role as a sheriff in the snappily-titled spaghetti western ‘Guifo E Li Uccise Ad Uno Ad Uno…Pilik ll Timido’ (1968). Given the common practice of anglicising the names of lead actors to sell European films to U.S. distributors, it’s quite possible that he has a more extensive filmography under another name. Tolo, on the other hand, has quite a few recognised credits, including previous Eurospy experience in ‘Espionage in Lisbon’ (1965).

Director Luigi Capuano (here credited as Lewis King) had a long career in the domestic Italian film industry. He mostly worked in Westerns, along with some costumes pictures in the Peplum genre. Later projects often involved imported American stars, so there is always the possibility that Horton was one of them. However, he’s certainly not as big a name as ex-Tarzan’s Gordon Scott and Lex Barker or Hollywood cowboy Guy Madison. Rather bizarrely, Capuano also seems to have made a musical starring Marc Lawrence, an actor who played in many a Film Noir in the 1940s and 1950s as small-time hoods and gunsels.

A lot of Eurospy pictures may be forgettable, production line entertainment, but there’s usually something that’s at least vaguely memorable about them. Not so here.

Perry Grant did not return for further adventures. At least I hope not.

Code 7 Victim 5! (1964)

Code 7 Victim 5! (1964)‘He’s gone off to a marauding lion over at Moto.’

A private detective arrives in South Africa after being hired by a wealthy industrialist to look into the murder of his butler. The local police inspector shares the only clue; an old photograph left by the body, which depicts the victim, his employer and two other men.

Looking at the marketing for this film, audience members could be forgiven for expecting to see ex-Tarzan Lex Barker wrestling with guns, gadgets and girls as this week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’. After all, there’s plenty of bikini-clad babes on the poster, Barker with a pistol and a tag line that reads ‘A very special agent with a code that means he can go all the way!’ Unfortunately, this is not another entry in the somewhat over-crowded Eurospy arena, instead being a very pedestrian mystery-thriller, which isn’t all that mysterious and certainly not very thrilling.

Barker arrives in Cape Town at the behest of copper magnate Walter Rilla to investigate the murder in question. Local (and very British) Police Inspector Ronald Fraser is keen to co-operate, as he believes that Rilla knows far more than he’s telling. When another man in the photo is killed, suspicion falls on members of Rilla’s household, including his promiscuous adopted daughter Veronique Vendell. From there it’s a slow trudge through lots of scenes of Barker driving around the countryside, teaming up with pretty blonde Ann Smyrner, and dealing with some cursory action scenes that are thrown his way every now and again.

By the far the most interesting aspect of this dull and soggy enterprise are the locations and the photography. Some of the landscapes are truly gorgeous and it’s no wonder when you realise that the cinematographer was Nicolas Roeg, working on this in the same year that he shot the sumptuous visuals for Vincent Price-Edgar Allan Poe classic ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ (1964). Roeg first took the director’s chair six years later on Mick Jagger’s starring vehicle ‘Performance’ (1970) and followed that with nightmarish horror classic ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1973) and an alien David Bowie as ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ (1975). Sadly, Roeg’s career lost steam in the 1980s, and eventually culminated in shooting feature length editions of ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’!

Aside from the scenery (the movie was shot in Mozambique), there’s simply not much on offer. There’s only about enough plot for a 50-minute TV episode, which becomes especially noticeable during the long, endlessly drawn-out climax; a sequence weakened all the more by the emotional unravelling of our main villain. This lacks any credibility at all, given the meticulous planning of their scheme over a great many years. However, there is some interesting information on ostrich farming if you’re interested in that.

Code 7 Victim 5! (1964)

‘Don’t worry, it’s only an empty old car being pushed off a cliff…’

The musical soundtrack is also very clumsy, punctuating every ‘big’ moment with a blaring of horns and a crash of instruments. Barker and Smyrner are ok as the leads, but they have little chemistry and the idea of them as lovebirds is very hard to swallow. Acting honours are grabbed by Fraser, who seems to be channelling Claude Rains from ‘Casablanca’ (1943).

Barker had quite the European career due to a facility with languages, particularly in Germany where he appeared in a couple of the 1960’s ‘Dr Mabuse’ pictures (as did Rilla, but not in the same ones!) Smyrner tangled with ‘ReptiIicus’ (1962) in her native Denmark, took a ‘Journey To The Seventh Planet’ (1962) with b-movie legend John Agar and visited with Vincent Price in ‘The House of A Thousand Dolls’ (1967). Vendell was briefly touted as ‘the new Bardot’ but her career fizzled after a featured supporting role in ‘Barbarella’ (1967). Director Robert Lynn did 2nd Unit duty on Christopher Reeve’s first two Superman films, but is best known for UK TV work, including episodes of ‘The Saint’, ‘Space: 1999’ and ‘Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons.’

But the real ‘star’ of the piece is probably producer Harry Alan Towers. This was only his second movie project (albeit uncredited) but he went onto a career of more than 100 features over an incredible 40 years. These included the Fu Manchu series with Christopher Lee, terrible ‘Star Wars’ knock-off ‘H G Wells’ The Shape of Things To Come’ (1979), appalling sword and sorcery flick ‘Gor’ (1987), ‘Howling IV: The Original Nightmare’ (1988), and many, many others.
Perhaps unfortunately, he wrote most of them as well under his pen name of Peter Welbeck. He provides the story here, and it’s hard to imagine anything more generic, uninspired and formulaic.

A nice travelogue spoilt by having a movie attached.

Come Spy With Me (1967)

Come Spy With Me (1967)‘l like etchings, l don’t even mind running out of gas occasionally. l love Poinsettias.’

A boat captain runs skin-diving charters off the coast of a tropical island, little knowing that a world peace conference is scheduled to take place nearby. Unfortunately, the location has been leaked, and he finds himself caught up in the world of international spies and intrigue…

Dreary, insipid espionage antics that seemingly attempts to mix the tired trappings of the Eurospy genre with a 1950’s drive-in sensibility. Our ‘Bond on a Budget’ (or square-jawed sea captain if you want to be pedantic) is Troy Donahue, an actor with a less than stellar reputation in the thespian arena. There are no gadgets and no guns, but we do at least get a couple of girls; blondie Andrea Dromm and the raven-haired Valerie Allen. Our big bad is Hollywood veteran Alfred Dekker, playing a rich businessman intent on wrecking the conference with an underwater bomb. Typically, for a terribly underwritten film, we never find out why. He’s just evil, l guess.

Anyways, we open with Donahue’s latest charter arriving by plane to take part in a skin-diving competition and to test some new breathing equipment. This bevy of curvy beauties includes both Allen and Dromm, who is actually a spy working for some shady guys she meets on the beach. We never find out who they are exactly, but we just have to assume that they’re the good guys. Luckily, one thing we do know for sure is that it’s the Sixties, baby!

Come Spy With Me (1967)

‘Are we doing ‘The Shark’?

Early on, we get whole crew are a-movin’ and a-groovin’ as they take a ride to the beach in Donahue’s open-top jeep! lt’s a sequence that seems to go on forever, but, to be fair, it probably doesn’t last that long. However, we regularly stop for scenes just like it; the supporting cast do ‘The Shark’ and frugg to various night club bands (mostly the same one, actually). Donahue joins in! lt happens so often that you start to expect Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello to turn up!

Yes, we’re on the lower end of production budgets here; with an awful lot of the ‘action’ accompanied by our old friend, VoiceOver Man, who seems determined to perk up some of the slower scenes by providing a running commentary which includes some of the lamest gags you’ll ever hear. Sometimes, he even talks over dialogue. In fact, at one point, I wondered if he was ever going to shut up! Perhaps it was an effort to hide the banality of the dreadful script, where conversations are often either inane beyond belief or exchanges of information that the audience supposedly needs to know.

Dromm was actually a model by trade, and this was her second, and final, film appearance. After this, she returned to the world of the catwalk and magazine shoots before stepping out of the spotlight when her career was done. Actually, she does have a fairly lively screen presence, which is more than can be said for Donahue who has all the personality of a piece of furniture. Predictably enough, Dekker is the best thing in the film, as his filmography begins in 1933 and has some notable credits; ‘The Man In The Iron Mask’ (1939), ‘Beau Geste’ (1939), ‘The Killers’ (1946), ‘East of Eden’ (1955) and the title role in science fiction/horror ‘Dr Cyclops’ (1940). His final appearance was in Sam Peckinpah’s all-time classic Western ‘The Wild Bunch’ (1969). Of course, there’s not much he can do with this material; after all, his super villain doesn’t have a secret base (it’s a pokey little cave) and only a handful of minions, even if one of them is Louis Edmonds, who found fame as part of the Collins family on TV horror-soap ‘Dark Shadows.’

It really is hard to find anything to recommend in this flat, lifeless effort, even if the theme song comes courtesy of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles! In fact, the film sank so far into obscurity that, at one stage, it was thought only to exist in a Spanish-dubbed black and white print. There are much worse films out there; films with tinier budgets, more senseless plots, and greater levels of technical incompetence on both sides of the camera.

But there aren’t many as dismal and boring.

Kill, Panther, Kill! / Kommissar X – Die Blaue Panther (1968)

Kill Panther Kill (1968)‘Confucius say: He who has cheese for brains doesn’t think.’

A career criminal escapes custody so he can meet with his brother and reclaim the proceeds of a big jewellery heist. Police Captain Tom Rowland is on the case, but his old friend, and sometime rival, Joe Walker has been employed by an insurance company to recover the gems…

The fifth in the seven-film ‘Kommissar X’ series finds main man Tony Kendall doing the usual: running around the glamorous capital cities of Europe as ‘Bond on a Budget’ juggling the usual guns, gadgets and girls. Only it doesn’t. The last of the secret agent trappings departed with previous entry ‘Death Trip’ (1967) and, from this film onwards, it was strictly criminals targeting a profit motive, rather than world domination. Yes, spies were ‘out’ and international crime thrillers were ‘in.’ And, instead of Paris, Rome and London, the action is centred on Calgary and Montreal.

Unfortunately, without those Eurospy quirks or outlandish touches, the script is the definition of safe and predictable, and the finished item is more than a little mundane. All round bad egg Franco Fantasia stages a breakout that leaves his guards dead, and joins up with the other two members of his old gang, the smooth but nasty Siegfried Rauch, and the slightly wacky Gianfranco Parolini (who also directed under his usual alias of Frank Kramer). The swag was left with Fantasia’s twin brother (Fantasia, again) and a quick identity swap becomes necessary after the straight arrow refuses to co-operate. Rowland (Brad Harris) already has the hots for the twin’s wife (Erika Blanc), while Kendall is busy getting flirty with the man’s secretary (Corny Collins).

And so the stage is set for the usual round of double crosses, a bit of gunplay and some underwhelming fisticuffs. As per usual with this series, the storytelling is a little sloppy in places, but things hang together in a neater fashion than in some of the other entries. Kendall and Harris conveniently run across the members of a martial arts school, which provides an opportunity for Harris to show some of his moves and pepper the soundtrack with some of the most over-the-top punching sounds ever heard outside of a Kung Fu film. Oh, and the Panther of the title is actually a little blue statue, so there’s little chance of it actually hurting anyone unless someone drops it on their foot.

Rauch began his career in his native Germany and had already appeared in the third film in the series, ‘Death Be Nimble, Death Be Quick’ (1966). He went onto major supporting turns in big Hollywood productions such as ‘Patton’ (1969), ‘Le Mans’ (1971) with Steve McQueen, ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ (1976) and ‘Escape to Athena’ (1979). As of 2017, he’s still working regularly on Germany television at the age of 85. Blanc took the lead in Mario Bava’s ‘Kill, Baby, Kill’ (1966), the title of which may have inspired the rather inaccurate name this project received on its U.S. release.

Kill Panther Kill (1968)

Brad Harris (1933-2017)

Unfortunately, whilst researching this post, l discovered that Harris passed away just a few weeks ago at the age of 84. His daughter, Sabrina Calley, carries on the family tradition in the costume and wardrobe department, working on big hits like ‘Maleficent’ (2014)‘Salt’ (2010), and as set costumer on ‘The Greatest Showman’ (2017) with Hugh Jackman.

This film marks the point where the series moved from the Eurospy arena to the international crime thriller. The results are stubbornly unremarkable, but the series carried on for two more films anyway.

Not the worst of the ‘Kommissar X’ films, but probably the dullest.