Island of Lost Girls (1969)

Island of Lost Girls (1969)‘Do you want to look at my crocodile?’

A New York policeman visiting Thailand for a crime conference is engaged by an American tourist to find her daughter, who has disappeared. Somewhat reluctantly, he calls on old friend Joe Walker to help. Together, they uncover a sinister organisation operating a white slavery ring from a remote island.

It’s business as usual in the penultimate film in the ‘Kommissar X’ series. Tony Kendall and Brad Harris settle into their well-worn groove without breaking into any kind of a sweat. After five films, the audience certainly isn’t expecting any new character wrinkles or serious dramatic engagement. Instead, there’s the usual mix of light-hearted thrills, pretty girls, mild danger and smarm from Kendall.

He’s now a private investigator apparently rather than a secret agent; and it would seem a fair assumption that all the later films in the series follow a similar storyline to this entry. In fact, plot wise, this is almost a carbon copy of ‘Death Be Nimble, Death Be Quick’ (1966); the 3rd entry. Harris is on business at an exotic locale, he gets roped into a local case, calls in his old friend to help and the two take on a local crime syndicate (in this case ‘The Three Serpents.’)

Island of Lost Girls (1969)

You know, I get the strange feeling this has all happened before…

The results betray gaps in narrative flow and logic and look loosely assembled. The impression is that the unit turned up on location with a working script and just ‘winged it’ from there. The climax arrives all of a sudden and is fairly idiotic anyway; villains and heroes wallowing about on mud flats after the cavalry turn up. Along the way we’ve enjoyed (endured?) a fair sprinkling of the usual clichés; death by blow dart, drugged cocktails, minor fisticuffs and a villainous dragon lady. It’s all fairly underwhelming really.

Although basing a thriller around the sex trade may seem a little ahead of its time; that element is really little more than window dressing rather than a major factor in the plot. What remains is a tatty scribble of a crime thriller; a typical product of independent European commercial filmmaking of the late 1960s and early 70s.

Death Is Nimble, Death Is Quick (1966)

Death Is Nimble, Death Is Quick (1966)‘There’s a frightening monster there! I’ve heard how it breathes fire and big trees the size of houses are crushed by it. That’s why they call it Death Lake.’ 

A U.S. Police Captain is dragged into a local murder when visiting Singapore on assignment. Washington sends special agent Joe Walker to the scene and the two team up again to fight the bad guys.

Th third in the Eurospy ‘Kommissar X’ series moves a step away from straight James Bond knock off territory to embrace Martial Arts, probably at the prompting of co-star Brad Harris, who worked on the fight choreography for the series. So the film abandons much of the gadget play/super villain trappings for a crime story where our heroes take on the ‘Three Yellow Cats’, a local syndicate, whose aim is more plain old extortion than world domination. However, there is a definite nod to ‘Dr. No’ (1962) in some later scenes set in a ‘haunted’ swamp. The inclusion of Karate (the gang’s weapon of choice) is unusual and a little ahead of its time. It makes for the film’s standout scene; the climactic face-off between Harris and the gang’s chief assassin in a crumbling mountain temple. Sadly, this is immediately followed by ‘dummy falling off a cliff’ which is not quite so impressive.

And that’s about your lot really. This is drab, dreary stuff, so clumsily plotted that it never achieves any internal logical or real audience engagement. The story rambles lazily from one barely connected scene to another with characters being almost randomly introduced and then discarded as quickly. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the script was written ‘on the fly’ when the filmmakers arrived on location and saw what they had to work with. Story exposition is poorly delivered and dialogue is often clumsy, as if it were taken from an early draft.

Death Is Nimble, Death Is Quick (1966)_2

Kendall and Harris investigate another important clue…

The Singapore locations are different, which is nice, but that’s not much compensation for the general untidiness on display. Kendall is reliably smug in the lead and still tugs his right ear lobe a lot (I guess it was a character trait) and Harris is his usual stoic self. The two shared some screen chemistry but efforts at playing them as a light comedy duo here have little impact.

There were four more films in the series, but given the dip in quality here, it’s quite frightening to consider what the later entries might be like.

So Darling, So Deadly (1967)

So Darling So Deadly (1966)‘Alright, let’s stop talking about bananas.’

A secret agent and a police captain travel to Singapore at the request of a brilliant scientist. Surprisingly, the boffin has invented a device that ‘could be deadly in the wrong hands’ and international bad guys are after it.

Agent Joe Walker (Tony Kendall) and Captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris) return in the second ‘Kommissar X’ spy caper/light-hearted Bond rip-off. The formula is pretty much unchanged since ‘Kiss Kiss… Kill Kill’ (1966) as two attempts are made to kill our heroes between the time they get off the plane and register at their hotel. More attacks follow before they even find out what it’s all about! The scientist has the obligatory beautiful daughter and the screenplay trots out all the other usual clichés without apology.

So Darling So Deadly (1966) 2

‘If you’re ‘The Golden Dragon’ why have you got a red bag on your head?’

Our villain is the Golden Dragon, a man who hides his obvious secret identity by wearing a red bag on his head. One of his main associates in the usual ‘white man in an Asian role.’ Kendall is too smug in the lead as before but, then again, we’re not seriously invested in the characters. This is pure escapist nonsense and not supposed to be anything more.  The budget doesn’t stretch to any big set pieces as such, but there is plenty of gunplay and the pace is quick enough that you can forgive the predictable plotting and lack of any original flourishes.

In the funniest scene, Harris cuts a mean rug at a hotel party before someone is killed with a dart gun poking out through a pair of curtains. How do assassins take aim in those circumstances? I’ve always wondered. Harris also choreographs all the action, mostly fistfights, and these are a cut above similar work of the period. Also, the explosive climax is surprisingly well realised. On the debit side, the jazzy soundtrack is too intrusive and a potentially great scene with Kendall trapped in a cage and menaced by falling blades is poorly executed.

This is a typical entry in the EuroSpy cycle of the 1960s. Although it avoids the worst aspects of the genre, it fails to achieve anything more than that.

Kiss Kiss… Kill Kill (1966)

Kiss Kiss... Kill Kill (1966)‘As for you, Mr Walker, you’re going to regret sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong really. It’ll be a pleasure watching you die…’

Secret agent Jo Walker and his police captain buddy Tom become involved in the mysterious murders of three businessmen, seemingly by a gang of beautiful women. It all turns out to be about a hidden cache of gold bullion.

The first of the ‘Kommissar X’ series of Eurospy movies of the mid-1960s. The film sets its stall out straight from the opening as handsome secret agent Tony Kendall speeds around picturesque mountain roads in his flash car while a lusty woman warbles a sub-Bond theme on the soundtrack. Some of the requisite fisticuffs follow but it turns out just to be a training exercise; the supposed bad guy is actually a police captain and Kendall’s unofficial sidekick, played by Brad Harris. Meanwhile, some top international businessmen are blown up in various ways.

Acceptable but fairly tepid spy games with the requisite number of guns, gadgets  and girls (most in silly wigs for some reason). Kendall (real name Luciano Stella) shrugs and smirks his way through the film, finding secret panels, unmasking the super villain and getting women to change sides just by using a smart suit and a smile. The film verges on a spoof but never quite takes the step into outright comedy. It’s all dreadful ’60s and dreadfully sexist, of course, although it’s pretty much impossible to ignore the charms of such beautiful women as Christa Linder.

Kiss Kiss... Kill Kill (1966)

The silliest wig contest had reached a crucial stage.

The businessmen have hidden the gold on a secret island and then contaminated it with radioactivity. One of them has decided he wants it all for himself, so he knocks off his partners and kidnaps a brilliant nuclear physicist to decontaminate it (why contaminate it in the first place you might ask). It’s never explained but then the film is badly dubbed so that plot point may have got lost along the way.

Of course, there’s an underground base and it actually looks quite impressive. Unfortunately, as per usual, you only have to throw one switch for it all to blow up. There is a notable absence of large action set pieces and stunt work, but, all in all, the film delivers an acceptable level of entertainment, provided you’re not expecting too much.

The adventures of Kendall and Harris didn’t end here. They returned for 6 more films, most with director Gianfranco Parolini (credited as Frank Kramer). He also wrote most of them and performed the same function on some of the ‘Sabata’ spaghetti western series, most often with Lee Van Cleef but once with Yul Brynner. Apparently, later films in the series do not follow the ‘Bond’ template so closely but few of them seem to be readily available.