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  Kiss Kiss... Kill Kill I Love You, Joe Walker
Year: 1966
Director: Gianfranco Parolini
Stars: Tony Kendall, Brad Harris, Maria Perschy, Christa Linder, Ingrid Lotarius, Nikola Popovic, Giuseppe Mattei, Jacques Bezard, Danielle Godet, Olivera Katarina, Liliane Dulovic, Giovanni Simonelli
Genre: Comedy, Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Speeding down the highway in a snazzy sports car, to the sound of no less than his own theme song (!), wisecracking, skirt-chasing private eye Joe Walker (Tony Kendall) pursues a muscular miscreant in a breakneck car chase. A quick car crash, punch-up and shootout later and it turns out this is just a training exercise so Joe can help his straight-talking, by-the-book Interpol agent buddy Captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris) hone his crime-fighting skills. Which is just as well for soon afterwards Joe returns home to find a beautiful purple-wigged woman waiting in his apartment with a curious case. Meanwhile Tom investigates a string of murders prominent politicians and scientists carried out by a mysterious hit-squad of gorgeous platinum blonde femmes fatale. Could these two be connected? You betcha.

Also known as Hunt for the Unknown and, in its original West German title: Kommissar X – Jagd auf Unbekannt, Kiss Kiss... Kill Kill was the first in the Kommissar X series of Euro-spy films popular throughout Europe and Asia though little more than a cult footnote in English speaking countries. The films were inspired by a series of German pulp novels centered on private detective Joe Louis Walker, a counterpart of another pulp hero popular in Germany FBI special agent Jerry Cotton. Following the international success of the films based on Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and Germany's own string of Jerry Cotton adaptations starring George Nader, seven Kommissar X films reached the screen. Each one paired Italian actor Luciano Stella (who as per tradition adopted the more Anglo-American-friendly screen name of Tony Kendall) and American stuntman Brad Harris, a veteran of the Italian sword and sandal or peplum craze and future spaghetti western and giallo stalwart. The dynamic duo had already appeared together in two so-called 'sauerkraut westerns' inspired by the successful Karl May series: Pirates of the Mississippi (1963) and Black Eagle of Santa Fe (1965). As louche, sly and wryly humorous Joe Walker and square-jawed, no-nonsense Tom Rowland, the pair share an easygoing chemistry and jokey banter that adds a unique flavor that distinguishes the otherwise derivative espionage antics.

Taking its cue from the James Bond series of course, Kiss Kiss... Kill Kill combines comedy spy-jinks, pulp adventure, science fiction and Playboy fantasy to create a dream realm of the Swinging Sixties that never was, all mod fashions, mad scientists and colorful comic book action. Whilst brawny, athletic Tom handles the more spectacular stunts, the self-consciously smarmy Joe charms an impressive array of beautiful women with an absurd ease even Bond might envy. Yet the film is notably far less misogynistic than Bond was through the Sixties and Seventies. The female characters are sassy and appealing and don't let the boys get the best of them all the time. One kiss from Joe Walker is all it takes to convince a total stranger to lend him her sports car or betray her evil boss, but all this playful flirting comes refreshingly minus Ian Fleming's trademark sadism. On the downside the heroines are all but interchangeable given the film gives their own individual subplots short shrift and adopts the eccentric conceit of having many don identical purple or platinum blonde wigs.

Nevertheless there is a playfulness at work here that routinely delights. Take for example the scene played as a giallo pastiche where a woman is ambushed by a maniac with a disfigured face and black leather trenchcoat. It turns out to be a theatrical performance but then the woman dies for real much to the 'killer's' surprise! The man at the helm was Italian action-adventure stalwart Gianfranco Parolini who arguably kick-started more European franchises than any other director: If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death (1968), Sabata (1969), Three Fantastic Supermen (1967) – which re-teamed Harris and Kendall yet again – and this. Regardless of genre Parolini routinely proved a dab hand at staging an athletic action sequence. His surreal staging adds an undeniable comic book flair that melds well with the glamorous locations and even more glamorous women in chic Sixties fashions. The murder mystery plot lifts choice bits from Goldfinger (1964) and Dr. No (1962) but runs closer to Tony Rome (1967) by way of The Wrong Box (1966). It is contrived and often preposterous but clever, witty and flows with style and strangeness. Once heard the Joe Walker theme song is almost impossible to dislodge from your brain: "I love you, Joe Walker! Just like every woman loves you and you love every woman. Every happy, beautiful woman!"

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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