Death Trip (1967)

Death Trip (1967)‘Welcome to the headquarters of the Green Hounds, Captain Rowland!’

A New York City police captain is delivering a canister of specially doctored LSD to allied forces in Turkey for safe keeping. Meanwhile, his erstwhile colleague Joe Walker is also in town, and has the local drug kingpins in his sights.

The fourth movie in the ’Kommissar X’ series sees the franchise leaving its ‘Bond on a Budget‘ origins behind, and making a definite move from the ’Eurospy’ genre to the ‘Euro-crime’ arena. It must have seemed a smart decision after tatty 3rd entry ‘Death Be Nimble, Death Be Quick’ (1966), and the gamble paid off, giving the adventures of suave Tony Kendall and sidekick Brad Harris a much needed shot in the arm. Sure, things eventually deteriorated to a rotten finish with ’Kommissar X Jagt Die Roten Tiger/The Tiger Gang/FBI: Operation Pakistan (1971), but that was still to come and, in the meantime, this film is certainly the best in the series since opener ‘Kiss Kiss Kill Kill’ (1965).

There are several reasons for the higher level of quality, although it’s certainly not the script, which is hopelessly muddled in the early stages, as per usual. Nor is it theme song ‘I Love You, Joe Walker’ which had already overstayed its welcome by the previous film. Neither is it the science, which informs us this new strain of deadly LSD will put a whole city to sleep when introduced into the local water supply.

What raises this above many contemporary entries of a similar stamp is the action sequences. The fight choreography is endlessly inventive and quite witty, although obviously far removed from reality. This is the only real echo of the franchise’s more fantastic beginnings, but it really works, helping to provide a nice balance of humour and thrills.

Death Trip (1967)

‘I’m sorry I don’t know where the soap is…’

Local colour is also allowed to play its part without looking like a mini-advert for the local tourist board, and the location manager deserves huge credit for finding places for the company to shoot that are both visually interesting, and inform the action. Indeed, the climactic scenes and stunts in ‘The Valley of a Thousand Hills’ are simply the best work of the entire series by quite some margin.

Female lead Olga Schberovà seems to be cosying up to Harris rather than Kendall, which is a bit of a surprise, until you realise that she and Harris actually married in real life shortly afterwards. Schberovà enjoyed a brief spell of fame in the late 1960s as the first international star from Czechoslovakia, which even led to her appearance (as Olinka Berova) in the title role of Hammer’s ‘The Vengeance of She’ (1968). Unfortunately, Ursula Andress was an impossible act to follow, and the film was generally panned. It was a shame it killed her overseas career, as she’d certainly displayed some talent with comedy in the Czech Science Fiction gem ‘Who Wants To Kill Jessie?’ (1966).

Director Rudolf Zehetgruber is helped out by series regular Gianfranco Parolini (uncredited), and together they deliver a fast paced, undemanding and fun ride. It’s not a triumph by any means (and the U.S. dub track doesn’t help) but, amongst the sea of mediocre Euro-pudding of the 1960s, it certainly sits above the fold.

Who Wants To Kill Jessie? (1966)

Who Wants To Kill Jessie? (1966)‘l have no objection to that, but kindly dream off the premises!’

A top female scientist invents a machine that removes bad dreams from people’s minds while they sleep. Unfortunately, the dreams all have to go somewhere, and that somewhere turns out to be the real world…

Delightfully creative and witty Science-Fiction comedy from Czechoslovakia, that takes an original premise and just runs with it. Scientist Diana Medricka fails to link the sudden infestation of flies in her laboratory with her successful experiments on dreaming cows, so she decides to try her formula out on her henpecked husband Jiri Sovak. Unfortunately, he’s been dreaming about pretty blonde comic strip heroine Jessie (Olga Schoberová) and the villains Superman and Pistolnik (Juray Visni and Karel Effa) who are after her. Soon they are all running about the city, terrorising the public and tangling with the police, all with Sovak dragged along for the ride.

ln one of the film’s finest conceits, all the dream people are mute, delivering their dialogue in animated speech bubbles appropriate to comic strip characters! It’s a wonderful idea, and fully exploited for comic potential by writer-director Václav Vorlícek. He’s ably assisted by fine technical support in every department; photography, production design and costuming are all excellent. The performers are spot on too; keeping the straight faces required to make the comedy fly.

Who Wants To Kill Jessie? (1966)

‘I don’t care what you do to me, I’m not doing your housework!’

Schoberová became an international sex symbol, appearing in Playboy and starring in euro-spy outing ‘Death Trip’ (1967). She also married that film’s co-star Brad Harris. But she is best known for Hammer Studio’s ill-fated ‘The Vengeance of She’ (1968) where she was billed as Olinka Berova. This sequel/remake of the Ursula Andress hit ‘She’ (1965) was not a success and Schoberová’s performance in the title role garnered poor notices.

Vorlícek travelled to the U.S. in the mid-1970’s to work in TV but returned home soon afterwards, where he has enjoyed a long career in both film and television with a new project announced in 2015.

lt’s quite surprising that no one in Hollywood has got hold of this property for the inevitable remake/reimagining, although that’s probably a good thing. Whether such a light and joyous concoction as this would survive the ham-fisted big studio treatment is more than a little debatable.

A surprising joy and a pleasure to watch.