Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sunday 6th June 2010: Kiss Kiss...Kill Kill!

Kiss Kiss…Kill Kill

Italy/Hungary 1966 colour

aka Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt

Director “Frank Kramer”/Gianfranco Parolini Writer Werner Hauff

Cast Tony Kendall (Jo Louis Walker/Kommissar X), Brad Harris (Captain Tom Rowland), Maria Perschy (Joan Smith), Christa Linder (Pamela Hudson)

Back in the heady days of Sixties genre cinema, each country had their pulp heroes. Italy's Bond knockoffs were too numerous to mention (at last count there were close to a hundred!), France had its post-war agent OSS 117, and in West Germany, two series of phenomenally popular crime novels were turned into successful spy-like film franchises – the Jerry Cotton series, and Kommissar X. The books feature New York private detective Joe Walker, a slightly greasy womanizer in a cheap looking suit, in a constant one-upmanship contest with the frustrated policeman Captain Rowland.

Kiss Kiss...Kill Kill from 1966 was the first film out of seven, featuring American actors Tony Kendall as Walker, and Hercules muscleman Brad Harris as his second banana (and after looking as uncomfortable as an ape in a tux, is eventually given a chance to flex his pecs). Released at the height of the spy craze, it takes very little tweaking to make a crime pulp fit the new formula – an exploding pen here, a miniaturized golf buggy there, a villain's promotion to SUPERvillain – and in the spirit of the Sixties' pan-European co-operation, it represents an Italian-Hungarian production of a German creation of an American character, dubbed into English.

Joe Walker is called to an unnamed European paradise to investigate a missing scientist, and is drawn instead by a beautiful secretary (Spanish horror icon Maria Perschey) into protecting her employer, a former gangster turned millionaire industrialist whose former associates are being eliminated one after the other (one by exploding tennis balls!). The culprit, it appears, is a criminal mastermind holed up on an island lair complete with a private army of goons in red polonecks and machine guns, wigged out femmebots (take THAT, Austen Powers!), and a cache of radioactive gold with which to take over the world. Everything's gold – the gold wigs, the lame sweaters, the Goldfinger references – but the REAL gold is watching an army of liberated femmebots on the loose.

True, it's cliché upon cliché, and even in 1966, decades before Austin Powers, those conventions were already old hat, but for the goofy at heart, Kiss Kiss...Kill Kill is a treat: a blissfully and almost insanely simple-minded pulp-pop pastiche of Bond iconography. Allusions to its inspirations are numerous, from Walker's car groaning with gadgets to the line, “This place is done up in early Ian Fleming!” There's also a theme song, like every good spy film should have, which positively reeks of Nancy Sinatra... “I love you Joe Walker, just like every woman loves you!” And seriously, with the sports cars, the exotic locales, and a cat like Kendall, all Connery angles without a snifter of charisma, how could you resist? Time to pucker up and bunker down for Kiss Kiss...Kill Kill.

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