Death Is Nimble Death Is Quick (1966)

Country: Germany
Directed by Rudolph Zehatgruber
Tony Kendall, Brad Harris, Ann Smyrner, Dan Vadis, Sigfried Rauch, H. D. Kalatunga
Music by Gino Mariukki
‘I Love You, Jo Walker’ written by Bobby Gutesha, performed by Angela Monti

This, the third entry in the popular Kommissar X series, is set in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). The over riding reason for the success of the Kommissar X films was the pairing of Tony Kendall as the smarmy detective Joe Walker and Brad Harris as the straight laced police officer Tom Rowland. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, even when the characters are arguing and bickering at each other.

The film starts in Columbo and a festival called the Parahini is taking place. Through the streets there is a parade of elephants, dancers and musicians. Armed with a film camera is beautiful heiress Babs Lincoln (Ann Smyrner). Accompanying Babs on her tourist jaunt is a US Embassy official named Rogers.

As Rogers checks in at HQ, Babs is kidnapped by a bald slab of beef named King (Dan Vadis) and his cronies. Rogers pursues King and tries to rescue Babs, but is killed by a karate blow by King, who happens to be a martial arts master. But Rogers intervention has provided an opportunity for Babs to escape.

Babs father, Jefferson Lincoln has plenty of money to throw around, and to protect his daughter he hires the best detective in the world, Joe Walker (Tony Kendall). Those who are familiar with the character Joe Walker know that he walks around with a permanent smug grin and an erection. Naturally Walker spends as much time trying to get into Babs pants as he does protecting her.

Meanwhile in Singapore, Captain Tom Rowland is attending a karate convention. It appears that Karate is new to the Western world at this time, and this convention is extolling the virtues of karate as a law enforcement tool. Upon hearing about the death of Rogers, due to a karate blow, Rowland is sent to Ceylon to track down Roger’s killer.

The prime suspect for the kidnap attempt and killing are a criminal organisation called Three Golden Cats. The organisation was originally founded to fight against oppression and colonialism – namely the British – but now, many years later, they have been reformed and are not quite so noble in their pursuits.

Death Is Nimble, Death Is Quick is a small step down from the first two Kommissar X films (Kiss, Kiss, Kill, Kill and So Darling, So Deadly) Plotwise this is not one of the better entries in the series either, but it has a few things going for it. The first is a sequence in the eerie ‘Death Lake’, where Walker and Babs have to escape from an aquatic variation of the fire breathing dragon from Dr. No. The second is the showdown between the two karate masters, Rowland and King at the climax of the film. Actually, in some ways this climax also is a failing in the film, in that it is set up so early in the film that Rowland and King will meet, that the viewer can sit watching and waiting (and waiting) for this inevitable showdown. But once it starts, it was well worth the wait. In fact the choreography in this installment in the Kommissar X series is of an exceptionally high standard. This can be attributed to both Brad Harris and Dan Vadis who worked out all the stunts in the film.

Harris and Vadis were both bodybuilders who made the trip from America to Rome to star in films. Both appeared in various pumped up peplum films. After the sword and sandal movies dried up, Harris would reinvent himself appearing in Eurospy films and westerns. Vadis on the other hand wasn’t quite so successful and eventually ended up back in the United States. Vadis would regain a small level of prominence as a member of Clint Eastwood’s troop of Malpaso stock players appearing in both orang-utan films – Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can – as one of the Black Widow bikie gang. He also appeared in High Plains Drifter, The Gauntlet and Bronco Billy as Chief Big Eagle, a native American Indian snake charmer.

I am quite fond of the Kommissar X series (the films that I have seen), and many people consider this one of the best due to is competent action scenes and stunt sequences. I personally find the plotting rather weak and prefer So Darling, So Deadly. But that in itself should tell you something about the series and it’s longevity – seven films – each entry is extremely enjoyable.

2 Comments Posted in Film and Cinema


  1. Gamini Wijekoon

    I watched this film long ago.It was titled Three Yellow Cats when it was screened here. In Fact it was dubbed in Sinhala – The main language of the people in Sri Lanka (at that time Ceylon)and the dubbed version was screened titled in Sinhala as “Kaha Balallu” meaning yellow cats.I believe most of the people in Sri Lanka came to know about the martial art called Karate for the first time after watching this film.(Judo,China Footing and Jijithsu were known to the ordinary people by then and were practiced in small groups but not Karate.)some time later in a small cinema I watched this film again (English Version -Three Yellow Cats) and that print was not of very good quality. But helped me to revive my memories.That was well over 25 years ago and after that I never saw this film anywhere in the country even as a CD/DVD version.This film became immensely popular at the time of first screening due to its action scenes especially the final fight, appearance of the local actors and also for being a colour film.(By then no more than 2-3 colour films had been produced in the country. At the beginning the festival shown in the film is a Perahera (procession) and as I can remember it was the annual Kelani Perahera that was taken for the film.(The most famous Perahera in Sri Lanka is the world famous Esala Perahera also known as Dalada Perahera (Procession) of The Dalada Maligawa- the Temple of Tooth in Kandy).Many a friends of mine used to imitate the actions and the yelling of Dan Vadis in the final fight when we as school children were playing mock fights.After watching thousands of films of different genres I would not say it is a great film but it certainly was a very special film for every film fan who used to watch films at that time. I really look forward to watching that film again. ( Gamini Wijekoon-Sri Lanka)

  2. Anura Padeniya

    This movie is available at Amazon with other Kommisar X movies. Not available in the Internet for free download. I also saw this movie (two times) when I was a school boy. We really enjoyed this movie as it was a new experience to us at that time.

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