In the Eye of the Hurricane/El ojo del huracán/The Fox with a Velvet Tail (1971)

‘Do you often spy on girls through shop windows?’

A rich woman decides on divorce after beginning a new relationship. She moves her young lover into her beach villa for the summer, but a couple of near-fatal incidents seem to suggest that her soon to be ex-husband is capable of murder…

Handsomely mounted, slow-burn Giallo from writer-director José María Forqué working off a script collaboration with Mario di Nardo. This Italian-Spanish co-production attempts a new spin on a setup that was in grave danger of over-familiarity during the early days of the Gallo craze.

It’s love on the rocks for wealthy Ruth (Analía Gadé) and Michel (Tony Kendall). She’s taken up with young stud Paul (Jean Sorel) and wants their marriage dissolved. Kendall is reluctant to accept that it’s over but leaves her to relocate to the beach with Sorel and think it over. The couple’s new romance seems idyllic at first; walks with the dog on the sand, working together on pottery in her private studio, meeting Sorel’s old friend Roland (Maurizio Bonuglia) and inevitable long nights of passion.

Then the brakes on Gadé’s car fail on a mountain road, almost leading to tragedy. It looks like an accident, but she gets into further difficulties scuba diving, thanks to a dodgy gauge on her oxygen tank. Gadé starts to believe that Kendall has murder on his mind and is targeting Sorel, whose absence from harm’s way on both occasions was just a lucky coincidence. Meanwhile, ravishing redhead Daniela (Rosanna Yanni) has moved into the bungalow next door and alternates sunbathing with throwing significant glances in the lover’s general direction.

The basic setup of the rich woman living in isolated splendour but surrounded by evil forces in motion had already been thoroughly explored by director Umberto Lenzi in his series of vehicles starring American actress Carroll Baker, a couple of which had prominently featured Sorel. Unfortunately, Forqué’s effort brings nothing very radically fresh to the table in terms of story, but a pleasing shift in principal relationships in the final act is quite pleasing.

Of course, Forqué’s main objective is to keep the audience guessing, so the cast must work hard to give their characters any shading. Sorel had assayed so many similar roles in a very short space of time that he could have been forgiven for just phoning it in, but, as usual, he provides his usual mixture of handsome boyish charm with a slightly sinister edge. Yanni’s role is almost entirely one-dimensional, but she certainly performs it well when she gets a chance to shine in the final stages. But the stand-out here is Gadé, whose powerhouse performance keeps the audience invested, which is vital as events unfold very slowly at times. Her journey from neglected wife, to carefree lover, to victim and beyond is never less than engaging, thanks to her skillful work.

Fortunately, Gadé’s talent finds its match in the visuals conjured by Forqué and his cinematographers, Giovanni Bergamini and Alejandro Ulloa. The film never looks anything less than superb, with thoughtful, beautifully framed shot that often convey as much of the emotional states of the protagonists as they sometimes uninspired dialogue. The film opens with the estranged Gadé and Kendall, and the status of their relationship is perfectly reflected in their surroundings, a dark room cluttered with antique pieces placed as if on display in a museum. Contrast this with the beach villa in the following scenes, a pastel landscape of bright light and open space dotted with plants and a casual informality echoed in the haphazard arrangements of Gadé’s pottery studio. Such visual metaphors are common throughout the film, and Forqué’s use of splashes of colour in an empty nightclub sequence compares with the work of horror maestro Mario Bava. A superbly understated score by Piero Piccioni completes a high-quality technical package.

Forqué became involved with film through theatre at university, where he was initially studying to be an architect. His debut feature was ‘Niebla y sol’ (1951), a drama set in the world of ballet, which was nominated for an award at the Venice Film Festival. His greatest success followed shortly afterwards when comedy ‘When God Forgives/Amanecer en Puerta Oscurav’ (1957) won multiple awards, including the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. His output of films was prolific until 1980, when he moved into television. Along the way, his credits included Eurospy ‘The Balearic Caper/Zarabanda Bing Bing (1966) and horror ‘Tarot/Autopsy/Game of Murder’ (1973), which starred Sue Lyon, Gloria Grahame and Fernando Rey. He also directed films starring Jon Finch, David Hemmings, and Juliet Mills. The long-running Forqué Awards were established in 1996, honouring the best in Spanish film and television.

Gadé was born María Esther Gorostiza Rodríguez in Argentina in 1931 and reportedly ‘escaped’ from a convent school to win a Buenos Aires beauty contest at the age of 15, debuting in films the following year. She appeared in a dozen or so more projects and married director Juan Carlos Thorry before relocating to Madrid, taking the lead in León Klimovsky’s comedy ‘Honeymoon/Viaje de novios’ (1956). Remaining in Spain, she appeared across multiple genres in leading roles for two and a half decades. One of these projects was a horror film about cats in which she starred alongside Hollywood’s Gene Tierney and Dan Dailey called ‘Four Nights of the Full Moon/Las cuatro noches de la luna llena’ (1963). Unfortunately, financing collapsed during the shoot, and the film remained unfinished. The existing footage was released in an abbreviated version at one point but is now considered lost. When her big-screen career began to wind down in the 1980a, she became a familiar face on Spanish television. She passed away in 2019.

The lack of a compelling story prevents elevation of the film into the top rank, but the technical aspects and the leading lady are all first class.

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)‘The killer strangled his victim with quite ferocious might!’

A notorious criminal who has terrorised London for years finally meets his maker at the end of the hangman’s rope. However, when his body goes missing, and a woman is killed in a village nearby, people start to believe that state justice hasn’t been so effective after all…

Curious, black and white borderline Giallo from the early days of the genre, which only goes to demonstrate how unformed its conventions were in the early 1960s. Yes, we have an unidentified killer stalking the streets and a mystery to solve, but it’s all wrapped up in endless romantic intrigues and an unconvincing splash of pseudo-science thrown in at the climax.

The time: 1883. The place: London (or some still pictures of it, to be more precise). Super crook Martin Bauer is executed, and the populace breathes a collective sigh of relief. He’d been the scourge of the city for years. However, in a taste of things to come, the film doesn’t elaborate on his various crimes. All we find out was that he was known as ‘The Hyena of London’. A rather bizarre nickname, to be sure. The audience does get a kind of ‘Jack the Ripper’ type vibe about him though, so I guess that’ll have to do.

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

‘After you.’ ‘No, after you.’

Despite the title of the film, we relocate to the neighbouring village of Bradford (in reality, some 200 miles from the capital!) It is much cheaper to film in rural locations, after all. No need to do any period set dressing in a wood. However, the action (such as it is) begins in the darkened streets of the village. A woman is stalked and killed by an unseen assassin. Her drunken husband, John Reed (Robert Burton, real name Mario Milita) is accused of the crime by local plod, Inspector O’Connor (Thomas Walton, real name Gino Rossi). Medical examiner Dr Edward Dalton (Bernard Price, real name Giotto Tempestini) is less convinced of the man’s guilt, but it’s his household that eventually provides the solution to the mystery.

His main headache is beautiful daughter, Muriel (Diana Martin) who’s in love with poor boy Henry (Tony Kendall, real name Luciano Stella). He’s been away for a while, although we never find out why he left or where he’s been. The two lovebirds are meeting secretly in the woods, actions mirrored by Tempestini’s dodgy assistant, Dr Finney (James Harrison, real name Angelo Dessy). He’s having some kind of clandestine affair with rich city girl Elizabeth (Claude Dantes), but he’s much more interested in heroine Martin. When an unidentified corpse turns up in the woods, it seems there’s a serial killer on the loose. Could it be that the Hyena of London has returned from the grave, or is the killer someone much closer to home…?

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

There was trouble in paradise for love’s young dream.

Despite its heroic efforts to appear as an American (or possibly English!) production, this historical thriller manages little more than to lull its audience gently to sleep with its slow and tedious story development. Proceedings are assembled in a flat, lifeless package by writer-director Henry Wilson (real name, Gino Mangini). Most of the time, the notion of a supernatural killer is almost entirely irrelevant, and the emphasis is placed instead on the less than riveting romantic entanglements of the main characters. The fact that Kendall gets banged up for trespassing on Tempestini’s property is a curious way to place him in the crosshairs of Inspector Rossi and only serves as an excuse to bring him into the frame as the possible killer. In the end, things are tied up in a hasty and incredibly lame conclusion that hasn’t been foreshadowed in any way and completely fails to convince.

The young Kendall went onto become quite the stalwart of European Cult Cinema over the following couple of decades. He’d already played the thankless ‘handsome hero’ role in Mario Bava’s creepy, gothic horror ‘The Whip and the Body’ (1963) and was only two years away from his first appearance as agent Joe Walker in the ‘Kommissar X’ series of Eurospy films. He also took time out to appear as one of ‘The Three Fantastic Supermen’ (1967) and as Western gunman Django in ‘Django Defies Sartana’ (1970). Further roles followed for Spanish director Amando de Ossorio in ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’ (1972) and ‘Blind Dead’ sequel ‘Return of the Evil Dead/El ataque de los muertos sin ojos’ (1972). There was also cheap and cheerful ‘King Kong’ knock-off ‘Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century’ (1977).

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

‘You mean I’m stuck in stuff like this for the rest of my career?’

Elsewhere in the cast, there’s a welcome appearance by Luciano Pigozzi, playing a servant, and well on his way to assembling a credit list of Cult Cinema titles unrivalled by almost everyone in the business. Dantes also turned up in a supporting role in Mario Bava’s seminal ‘Blood and Black Lace’ (1964). Although she and Martin seem to be the only members of the cast not hiding behind Anglicised pseudonyms, the two actresses managed less than a dozen screen credits between them and, with no biographical information available, it’s quite probable that both of them were Italian as well.

It’s is hard to stir up much enthusiasm for a film where so little happens and, by the time the film limps to its weak conclusion, most of the audience are likely to have checked out.

The Loreley’s Grasp/Las Garras De Lorelei (1973)

The Loreley's Grasp (1973)‘These pieces are anatomical. I get them from the hospital to carry out my experiments.’

A small town by the Rhine in Germany becomes the scene of a series of horrific murders. Fearing for their charges, the headmistress of a local finishing school for girls hires a hunter to kill the wild beast that everyone believes is responsible. However, he’s happier spending time with the strange, green-eyed woman who he meets down by the lake…

Rather messy, unsatisfying Euro-Horror from Spanish director Amando De Ossorio, who enjoyed his greatest success as creator of the ‘Blind Dead’ series. Those stylish horrors featured the murderous exploits of a band of Knight Templars coming back from beyond the grave in glorious slow motion. Here, he takes a crack at the myth of the Lorelei (spellings vary), a female beast who tore the hearts out of sailors and bossed a crew of sirens on the banks of the Rhine. Sadly, despite popular belief, the tale isn’t really a myth at all, having its origins in a ballad composed by Clemens Brentano as recently as 1801 and popularised by a Heinrich Heine poem just over twenty years later. So the character actually has no origin in folklore at all but that didn’t stop De Ossorio trying to tie it in with the epic tale of Siegfried, the legendary dragon-slayer.

At first, things develop along fairly predictable lines. A young bride-to-be is slaughtered when a strange creature smashes its way into her bedroom the night before the wedding. The killing is pretty gory as the victim has her heart torn out, and De Ossorio doesn’t skimp on the claret. As a result, hunter Tony Kendall gets the gig of guarding the local girl’s school, an appointment that doesn’t meet with the approval of uptight teacher Sylvia Tortosa. Just for once it would be nice to see a film where the roguish charmer and the stunning ice-maiden don’t end up making goo-goo eyes at each other before the final credits roll but, predictably enough, this isn’t it.

The course of true love doesn’t run smooth, though, as Kendall starts a thing with the mysterious Helga Liné, who favours a skimpy dark-green bikini with tassels and hanging around in damp places. Although we suspect this relationship is not going to end in a church wedding and Sunday morning trips to the garden centre. De Ossorio’s script also throws in a scientist researching cellular mutation, a torch bearing mob who give up after a couple of minutes, a blind violinist who seems to know more than he’s telling (he doesn’t), and the Lorelei getting all gnarly and eating hearts during a cycle of seven full moons (is she a werewolf then?)

‘Wanna go for a swim, babe?’

In puzzling developments, Kendall is the reincarnation of Siegfried (I think!) and a trio of sirens wrestle for his affections. The mayor admits they should ‘probably start an investigation’ after his town suffers the fourth brutal murder in as many days. Where are the police? I have no idea. Still, we can leave it all to Kendall who rocks a white suit, rifle and motorbike combo, following up with a bare chest and blue & white striped flared trousers that he stole from a fairground.

The girls at the school show some skin at the swimming pool, fawn over Kendall, and form an orderly queue to be the next victim while poor Liné freezes her bits off attempting to exhibit grace and poise gallivanting about half naked and barefoot on a muddy lakeshore. Toward the climax, the Lorelei (Loreley?) talks about spending eternity with Kendall in Valhalla (perish the thought!) but, hang on, isn’t that Norse mythology anyway? Finally, everything comes to a rather soggy and abrupt conclusion, courtesy of everyone wanting to get back inside in a hurry where it’s nice and warm.

It’s fair to say that De Ossorio’s strengths were in his visual style, rather than his scripts, but even that seems to have deserted him here. There are a few good shot compositions (particularly the landscape down by the lake) but, most of the film betrays little of his talent in that regard. Together with the hopelessly muddled storyline, there’s more than a little flavour of a project hurried into production before everything was ready. The tale had been tackled on the big screen before (a 1927 German silent) and it has potential, but sadly this is little more than a mash-up of old horror tropes and half-formed ideas.

The Loreley's Grasp (1973)

‘You do remember my ‘safe word’ right?’

De Ossorio returned to his ‘Blind Dead’ series, the second of which ‘Return of the Evil Dead’ (1973) also starred Kendall in the lead. In fact, several of the cast appear in both films and, as locations in and around Madrid are another common factor, it’s quite possible that the two projects were shot back to back. If so, it’s pretty obvious where De Ossorio’s heart lay (and even the attentions of the Lorelei couldn’t change his mind!)

Arguably, Kendall and Liné both left their best days behind them in the previous decade; Kendall as James Bond wannabe ‘Kommissar X’ and Liné in other Eurospy projects and two films featuring supervillain ‘Kriminal’. Having said that, the German-born actress remained very active in Spanish film and television until 2006. Although less regularly employed, it’s pleasing to report that Tortosa is still working, and is currently attached to a forthcoming project starring Alexander Siddig; familiar to ‘Star Trek’ fans for his regular role on ‘Deep Space Nine.’ And who can forget that she took a ride on the stylish ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and a wildly overacting Telly Savalas?

Not a terrible film by any means, but one that squanders a potentially interesting idea and delivers instead an occasionally entertaining but rather generic experience.

Supermen Against The Orient/Crash! Che Botte…Strippo Strappo Stroppio (1973)

Supermen Against The Orient (1973)‘Don’t worry, I have a wonderful ointment made out of donkey fat.’

An incompetent FBI agent is sent to the Far East to investigate the disappearance of half a dozen of his colleagues. To solve the mystery, he must team up with two criminal ex-partners and members of a martial arts school in Hong Kong.

Curious hybrid of infantile comedy and chop socky action that formed part of a loose series of movies began by director Gianfranco Parolini with ‘The Three Fantastic Supermen’ (1967). The original starred Tony Kendall and Brad Harris from his ‘Kommissar X’ series, and was a cheerful amalgamation of Bond knock-off and caper film with nods to comic book and superhero genres. It was humorous without being an out and out comedy, an approach that was discarded when Parolini passed the baton to writer-director Bitto Albertini, the man behind the somewhat underwhelming ‘Goldface and The Fantastic Superman’ (1967).

So what’s new? Well, for a start, Kendall and Harris have been replaced by Robert Malcolm and Antonio Cantafora in the leads. And Kendall’s suave efficiency has apparently given way to complete incompetence. You see, according to the higher echelons at the bureau, Malcolm is a total disaster as an agent but always gets the job done (somehow?) So he’s hijacked from his wedding and packed off to Bangkok to begin this important mission. After ensuring he’s pointlessly strolled around plenty of nice-looking tourist board landmarks, he’s sent off to Hong Kong by mysterious femme fatale Shih Szu where he meets jovial crooks (and old friends) Cantafora and Sal Borgese. Borgese had replaced Aldo Canti from the original movie in the series as Canti’s film career was somewhat limited due to his links with organised crime, consequent time spent in jail and eventual murder in 1990. Borgese was actually the series’ only constant in front of the camera, having played a bit part in the original Parolini film.

The most interesting thing about the film are the circumstances of its production and how that influenced the finished product. This was an Italian-Hong Kong co-production, involving the world famous martial arts studio of the Shaw Brothers. They were looking to send their films overseas due to new censorship issues in local markets like Singapore. Similarly, Thailand had introduced a quota system to protect their local film industry, which probably explains the diversion to Bangkok. The result of this is that we get lots of tiresome knockabout comedy (the Italian element) periodically relieved by some well-choreographed scenes of hand to hand combat, particularly those involving local stars Lo Lieh and Lin Tung. Their climactic confrontation, although far too short, is quite easily the best sequence on offer. Szu was also a rising star in the genre so she gets to show off some of her moves, and that really is a young and unbilled Jackie Chan in one of the mass brawls…and he was involved in staging the fights.

Unfortunately, aside from the Kung Fu action, what we get is a truly painful trawl through lots and lots of dumb gags and painfully laboured attempts at humour. There’s a pointless and excruciating subplot about Cantafora and Borgese robbing the safe at the U.S. embassy (an idea actually lifted from the first film). What makes this much, much worse, is that this development means extended exposure to the comedy stylings of Jacques Dufilho as the American Consul, who mugs and flaps his way through proceedings as if begging the audience for laughs. The entire plot is sketchy at best, Albertni seemingly assembling random elements almost like he was putting together skits for a TV show.

Supermen Against The Orient (1973)

‘I thought there was only supposed to be 3 of us and, hang on, but aren’t you a girl?’

In the plus column, there’s possibly the most over-sung film theme of all time as Ernesto Brancucci squawks, growls and yelps through a demented number that almost defies description. There’s also a curious bit in a nightclub where traditional dancers wave their scarves on a dancefloor that looks strangely reminiscent of the one stalked by John Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (1977) four years later.

Albertini was still on board with the series in the mid-1980s, and other entries include the trio heading back to the Wild West in a time machine! One curious note here; star Malcolm appeared in only three films; this one, ‘Sinbad and the Caliph of Baghdad’ (1973) and ‘Charity and the Strange Smell of Money’ (1973). He was the lead in all three, but has no other credits whatsoever. lt’s also highly likely that Robert Malcolm was an alias to help sell the film to U.S. distributors. I wonder who he really was?

Fast forward through the film and stop every once in a while for the martial arts action. And be sure to check out the theme song. If you dare.

Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century/Yeti – Il gigante del 20° secolo (1977)

Yeti Giant of the 20th Century (1977)‘They’re having lunch with that Yeti.’

A rich industrialist bankrolls an expedition to the frozen wilds of Canada, where they discover a giant yeti frozen in the pack ice. Thawing it out, they put it in a glass box hanging from a helicopter, and bring it back to life. It forms a bond with the tycoon’s grandchildren, but goes on the rampage when they are threatened by rival business interests…

Dino Di Laurentiis’ remake of ‘King Kong’ (1976) was always going to sell tickets, irrespective of the quality of the finished film. The visionary producer was one of the first to realise the potential of the ‘summer blockbuster’ after Steven Spielberg had cleaned up with ‘Jaws’ (1975) a year earlier. To that end, he mounted a publicity and merchandising campaign that was unparalleled for its time, and the hype ensured box office success. Obviously, this did not go unnoticed in other parts of the world, and several filmmakers were quick to ‘pay tribute’ with such similarly themed projects as ‘The Mighty Peking Man’ (1977) from Hong Kong, ‘A*P*E*’ (1976) from South Korea and the ‘comic’ antics of ‘Queen Kong’ (1976) from the UK.

Veteran Italian director Gianfranco Parolini was also quick to rise to the challenge, delivering this effort tied in with the legend of the Abominable Snowman, and persuading old mate Tony Kendall from their ‘Kommissar X’ series to take part. Parolini (under his usual Frank Kramer alias) opens his tale with disgruntled Professor John Stacy being approached by friend and filthy rich capitalist pig Edoardo Faieta with a proposition to mount an expedition to the frozen wastes. The script, which is cheerfully vague throughout, never mentions why or what they might be looking for, but it doesn’t matter as Stacy refuses outright. Only in the next scene he is supervising a gang of flame throwing goons who are toasting a pair of giant hairy feet sticking out of a block of ice. Nice cut, Mr Editor.

This is the giant yeti, of course, who was apparently discovered by Faieta’s young nephew Herbie (Jim Sullivan) in a scene that we don’t get to see. Looking on are his teenage sister (Antonella lnterlenghi) and mysterious, suave and ruggedly handsome company executive Kendall. When old hairy wakes up, he’s naturally a bit unimpressed, what with hanging in a big box from the bottom of a strange, noisy flying machine. The poor guy doesn’t have a lot of cultural reference points, having been frozen millions of years ago in the Himalayas before floating to Canada, thanks to the disintegrating ice floes, which we saw as stock footage beneath the opening credits in a different aspect ratio from the rest of the film.

Yeti Giant of the 20th Century (1977)


Anyhow, Old Hairy gets all ‘touchy-feely’ once he meets the kids and their dog Lassie. It’s good news for the audience too as he finally stops screaming like a bargain basement Godzilla. Stacy reasons this sudden friendship is because they’re all wearing furry coats (including Lassie). Bravo, Professor! Pick up a Nobel Prize on your way out.

Unfortunately, Faieta exploits the creature’s fame via his new clothing line and various other bits of tat, including ‘Yeti Petrol’. This doesn’t go down well with his business competitors, especially as he rapidly corners the market in tacky t-shirts and monster-themed motor fuel products. So various goons attempt to sabotage the Yeti’s visit to Toronto; framing him for murder and being rather unpleasant to the kids once they tumble to what’s going down. Old Hairy takes exception to this, of course, and much mayhem follows…

Not surprisingly, this is a pretty wretched project. The Yeti is realised by dressing bearded actor Mimmo Crao in an all over furry body suit, and getting him to clamber over a few unconvincing model skyscrapers. Most of the time, though, he’s simply badly superimposed onto other footage, usually not colour corrected. Interactions with other members of the cast are limited to his big, furry hand, and lots of the crowd footage looks sourced from a film library. It’s nice to see Kendall in a different kind of role, but he seems to be just phoning it in, along with the rest of the cast. The only exceptions are Crao and lnterlenghi, who at least seem to be trying (although a little too hard in Crao’s case).

Yeti Giant of the 20th Century (1977)

‘What? The Yeti’s fallen down the well again?’

The film wasn’t a career boost for anyone. Crao never acted again, and it was a decade before Parolini made another movie. Kendall and Stacy never recaptured their 1960s glory days, when Stacy had a role in ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy’ (1965) with Charlton Heston, and Kendall ran around glamorous European capitals with Parolini and a bevy of gorgeous girls, pretending to be James Bond.

Sixteen year old lnterlenghi was making her debut here, and hers was a brief career, remarkable only for a major supporting role in Lucio Fulci’s notorious splatterfest ‘City of the Living Dead’ (1980).

Of course, if you love bad movies, this is well a worth a watch, but it’s one of those films where the laugh-out loud moments decline rapidly due to the endless repetition of the same faults. On the bright side, at least the young Herbie does get a slow-motion ‘lovers’ reunion with a blood-splattered Lassie at the climax.

And ‘The Yeti Song’ is performed by ‘The Yetians’. So there is that.

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.

The Three Fantastic Supermen/The Fantastic Three (1967)

‘Watch out! One of the three Supermen is following in a Yellow Cab!’

Two thieves who rob high-profile targets wearing special bulletproof costumes are joined by a third member for their latest heist. Their plan to rob a foreign embassy of millions of dollars goes off without a hitch, until they realise that their new colleague has his own agenda…

Cheerful 1960’s comedy-adventure that combines elements of the Superhero genre, James Bond and the caper movie. Producer-Director Gianfranco Parolini (hiding under his usual alias of Frank Kramer) had previously teamed actors Tony Kendall and Brad Harris in decent Bond knock-off ‘Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill’ (1966). That movie launched them in the successful ‘Kommissar X’ spy film series, which ran until 1971, but, in the meantime, Parolini put the performers together again here.

Kendall (real name Luciano Stella) is the leader of this criminal enterprise, always ready with a knowing smirk, smart chat for the ladies, and a useful pair of fists. Sidekick Aldo Canti is an acrobat who can’t speak but giggles hysterically throughout, in what is a somewhat puzzling artistic choice. Their schemes are backed by boffin Carlo Tamberlani, who has invented their bulletproof suits (and capes!), a self-driving car and a ‘Universal Reproducer’ (of which more later). He also has a pretty young niece, of course, played by Bettina Busch, which gives rise to all sorts of kidnapping possibilities for chief bad guy Jochen Brockmann and his gorgeous sidekick Sabine Sun. Kendall also runs a spy school for beautiful women, and may be an English nobleman working for British Intelligence (although, like a lot of plot points, that isn’t exactly clear).

When our heroic duo become a trio for their latest blag, they’re joined by American Brad Harris. Unfortunately, it turns out he’s an FBI Agent and he’s after their swag because he suspects it to be counterfeit (and a little bit radioactive). That’s because it’s been created by Tamberlani’s ‘Reproducer’ which has ‘fallen into the wrong hands’ as these great inventions always do. The villainous Brockmann doesn’t want to stop at such petty larceny though, conscripting Tamberlani (through the unexpected medium of kidnapping his pretty niece) to modify his device to create copies of people. Yes, he needs zombie soldiers for his army so he can conquer the world!

This is all supremely silly, of course, and the film proceeds at the sort of helter-skelter pace designed to both maximise the entertainment value and paper over the gaps in the screenplay, which is sometimes more than a little incoherent as well as deliberately ridiculous. Unfortunately, Parolini doesn’t have the sort of budget necessary to achieve the swashbuckling style he’s aiming for, with both fight choreography and action set pieces lacking in execution and thrills, although there is some decent stunt driving.

Three Fantastic Supermen (1967)

Audiences thought the ‘Dance Off’ was too close to call…

Perhaps the most surprising aspect is the presence of Canti. Most of his acrobatic feats are performed in a mask, so it could have been a stunt double, but it does seem he had at least some gymnastic ability. Why is this a surprise? Well, apparently, Canti was a real-life criminal with ties to the Mafia. ln fact, he was a full-time resident of the local prison during production but was allowed out during the day to film his scenes!

Two sequels followed; ‘3 Supermen in Tokio’ (1968) and ‘Supermen’ (1970). Kendall didn’t appear in either, but Harris showed up for the last of the short series. Unsurprisingly, Canti was a no-show on both occasions too, his role being taken by Sal Borgese, who turns up here as an FBI Agent with a bazooka!

Good, undemanding fun if you can look at the other way and forgive the technical deficiencies.

Return of the Blind Dead/Return of the Evil Dead/El ataque de los muertos sin ojos (1973)

Return of the Blind Dead (1973)‘You wretched bastards! You will die, you evil warlocks!’

In the middle ages, a cult of murderous Knight Templars imposed a reign of terror on a rural district of Portugal, before being blinded and burned to death. Every year, the descendants of the villagers responsible celebrate their delivery from evil with a drunken festival. Unfortunately, the custodian of the local churchyard plans to resurrect the Templars and have them crash this year’s party…

Spanish director Armando De Ossorio had enjoyed considerable success with his first movie featuring the undead Templars, ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead’ (1972), so a sequel was fairly inevitable. However, rather than continue the narrative of the first film, he opted instead for starting from scratch and developing a plot along the lines of George A Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968).

Our main man is Tony Kendall, late of the ’Kommissar X’ Eurospy/Crime series, who swaps his trademark smirk for a sheepskin jacket, moody stubble and a permanent cigarette. He’s the pyrotechnic expert brought in to give the celebrations a bit of a punch, but instead winds up on the wrong end of some fisticuffs, courtesy of Town Mayor Fernando Sancho and his pet goon squad. The problem? Kendall has previous with Laurette Tovar, who happens to be the Mayor’s intended, and the two rekindle their romance with a wrestling match in the abbey ruins. But all this backstory is quite perfunctory really, as De Ossorio knows exactly why everyone is here, and we get to it pretty quickly.

The undead Templars are as impressive as in the first movie, their slow-motion gallop across the screen providing genuine chills, although, I couldn’t help but wonder where they get their phantom horses? After they scythe their way through the town square and the local population, a small group of survivors barricade themselves inside the local church, and we are firmly in Romero territory. There isn’t a lot of story development after that, which is the film’s main weakness. From the start, there’s been a sense of characters being introduced simply to be killed off, and even the leads are so sketchily presented that it’s hard to have much emotional investment in what happens to them.

Return of the Blind Dead (1973)

Some people had been waiting a long time in the queue for the new iPhone 7

The Templars are a scary proposition but, aside from them and the excellent music by Anton Garcia Gabril, there’s not a lot else to get excited about. The action is no more than competently staged, and there are one too many shots of dummies that would have been better consigned to the cutting room floor.

There’s also a disappointing lack of fireworks. After all, that’s why Kendall’s in town in the first place, so it would seem reasonable to expect some interaction between the undead and the pyrotechnics at some point. But it never happens. Furthermore, the resolution of our remaining heroes into a makeshift family unit is so predictable that you see it coming from the moment the Templars surround the church.

De Ossorio certainly had a fine visual sense and there are some truly memorable moments here involving the Templars. They look very impressive and may have inspired SFX man Rob Bottin’s work on John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ (1980). However, De Ossorio’s screenwriting ability couldn’t match his directorial flair, and having created the undead horseman, there’s a suspicion that he didn’t really know what to do with them. His script is a procession of very obvious beats; not the worst you will ever see by any means, but bereft of any true invention or personality.

A good, solid Euro-Horror of the period, but with a few more ideas, it could have been so much more.

Kommissar X Jagt Die Roten Tiger/The Tiger Gang/FBI: Operation Pakistan (1971)

KommissarX‘Take this and knit yourself a new car.’

Joe Walker is called in by a family in Pakistan to investigate a mysterious tiger attack, which has left a prominent man dead. At the same time, his old partner Captain Rowland is brought in by the authorities to investigate the local dope trade which may be run by an exiled Mafia kingpin.

By the time of this, the seventh and final entry, the ‘Kommissar X’ series had moved a long way from its origins as a ‘Bond on a Budget’ franchise, and had firmly entered the arena of the straightforward crime drama. There are no spies or gadgets here, although we do get some guns, and a couple of girls for star Tony Kendall to smarm over in the best ‘Bond’ tradition.

The formula was well established by now; Kendall and police captain Brad Harris would fetch up in an exotic locale for different reasons, and then reluctantly combine to take on a local secret society involved in organised crime. The main villain was always a mysterious figure to be unmasked at the climax, and the gang would have a name with an animal motif based on a dangerous piece of local wildlife; a serpent, a panther, etc. Here we get the Red Tiger gang, whose main area of activity is smuggling drugs across the border into Pakistan. ln the film’s only nod to creativity, their mules of choice are actually goats!

Other familiar elements of the series are present and correct; the plot is muddled and choppy, there is some unspectacular gunplay, and a lot of local colour crowbarred in on behalf of the appropriate national tourist board. Some of the hand to hand combat is actually speeded up a little in the later stages here, although it’s unclear as to whether this is for comedic purposes or because it was so unexciting at normal speed. Even Kendall and Harris seem flat and lifeless, and their banter is half hearted at best. The villains also must have been tired, taking 25 minutes to make an attempt on the lives of our heroes, instead of the usual five or ten, although they do get points for originality as they try it with an exploding barrel.


If I upgrade my mobile now, I win half of Antarcita? That’s amazing!

The film wears out its welcome long before the credit roll, and, given that the first 6 films were made in a four year period ending in 1969, it does seem to be very much an afterthought. The only real surprise is that the director was Harald Reinl, who was the men behind the second wave of Dr. Mabuse films that came out of Germany in the early 1960s. Given the thematic similarities, it probably seemed that he was a good fit for this picture, but that certainly isn’t reflected in the final release.

At best a routine crime drama of little interest. A somewhat ignoble conclusion to a series that was entertaining on occasion if not regarded too critically.

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.