Death Is Nimble, Death Is Quick (Kommissar X - Drei gelbe Katzen) was the second of seven in the Kommissar X series of eurospy films, based on a series of novels by German author Paul Alfred Mueller. He apparently wrote several hundred of them!
This Austrian-French-Italian co-production was shot in German and appeared in 1966 at the height of the eurospy craze.
This time American private eye Joe Walker (Tony Kendall) and his buddy New York cop Captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris) are investigating strange goings-on in Ceylon. A terrorist group called the Golden Cats which was active in colonial days has sprung to life again. Being a eurospy movie the trail will of course lead to a mad scientist/diabolical criminal mastermind who has invented a deadly bacteria.
It’s impossible for me to describe the plot in any detail - to do so I would have had to understand it all! Luckily in a eurospy movie the plot is secondary to the fun.
The mad scientist is trying to extort a million dollars from a rich plantation owner, money which will enable him to continue his grisly experiments. He naturally has some colourful henchmen including a very large and very nasty karate expert named King (at least that’s what he’s called in the English dubbed version). There’s also an American gangster nicknamed Nitro (again I’m not sure what he was called in the German version) whose favourite weapon is nitro-glycerine. He never goes anywhere without a bottle of this high explosive. He loves blowing stuff up, which makes him right at home in a eurospy flick.
Naturally Joe and Tom (although mainly Joe) will become involved with various beautiful women, including Babs Lincoln (Ann Smyrner), the daughter of the plantation owner who is the extortion victim. The bad guys will make various attempts to kidnap her in order to make her father come across with the money.
There’s a series of slightly confusing double-crosses, many of which involve Philip Dawson (Philippe Lemaire) who spends most of the movie drunk. There are several murders and plenty of fight scenes. There’s also a local police inspector who may or may not be trustworthy.
This one takes a while to get going. The real eurospy goodness doesn’t kick in until quite late in the movie but when it does kick in it does so quite satisfactorily. There’s a standard mad scientist’s laboratory and a pretty cool and rather sinister-looking temple which provides the setting for one of the climactic fight scenes. There are sequences which seem to have been lifted more or less directly from Dr No, with an armoured explosive-firing trimaran in a swamp, a device the locals naturally mistake for a malevolent monster.
Being set in Ceylon it’s vital that elephants should play a part in the plot, which they do quite wittily. There are enough explosions to keep fans of the genre happy (with all that nitro-glycerine being hurled about).
Tony Kendall, despite his name, was an Italian actor (real name Luciano Stella). He’s an ideal lead actor for this type of movie, investing the character of Joe Walker with a cheeky charm and always ready with a wise-crack, and always ready to chase the ladies when perhaps he should be concentrating on chasing the bad guys. He had a successful career in all the popular European genres from spaghetti westerns to giallos. Brad Harris really was American and he provides the necessary muscle for the good guys, proving a good foil for Kendall. The women get to do a bit more than just look glamorous, and the diabolical criminal mastermind is adequate if not spectacular.
It’s all low-budget stuff but it gets the job done.
Sadly Retromedia’s DVD presentation is absolutely ghastly - a horribly butchered pan-and-scanned and very faded English-dubbed TV print. This is particularly unfortunate since the Ceylon locations probably looked quite magnificent. Of course if you’re a eurospy fan you’re used to seeing these movies in this kind of very substandard form.
This is not a top-tier eurospy movie but it’s reasonably entertaining. Recommended for fans of the genre but the DVD release is so awful you might want to rent this one.