Friday, 9 July 2010

Deadlier Than the Male (1967)

I have a weakness for 1960s spy spoof movies. Deadlier Than the Male is an interesting British entry in the genre. Bulldog Drummond is a character about as far removed from the spirit of the Swinging 60s as you could possibly get so trying to update him as a 60s secret agent was a bold move. And it works fairly ell.

OK, he may not have much connection with the original character but Richard Johnson makes a good very British secret agent. For some obscure reason he’s been given an American nephew who doesn’t serve much purpose. Presumably he’s there to give the movie a transatlantic feel.

The plot is classic 60s stuff. It opens with a spectacular assassination of an oil magnate named Keller. And the assassin is Elke Sommer so I’m already disposed to like this movie. Elke is Irma Eckman, and she then turns up at a board meeting of a rival oil company. Keller had been blocking a major deal they wanted to pull off and Irma had made them a tempting offer. She guaranteed that he would withdrew his objections to the deal within a month, if they paid her a million pounds.

The executives of this rival company aren’t entirely convinced they should pay up since Keller’s death was apparently an accident, but Irma points out that the contract merely stipulated that if Keller withdrew his objections the money would be paid, and Keller’s death had certainly had the effect of withdrawing his objections. They’re still not all that happy, but Irma soon finds a way to bring them round to her point of view. A couple of further nasty accidents and they’re only to anxious to write her a cheque.

But who is this Irma Eckman? Is she working for some other individual, or some organisation? She soon turns up in other boardrooms, with similar attractive proposals for finding very final solutions to awkward business problems. Bulldog Drummond is on the case.

This movie doesn’t have the kinds of spectacular stunts and gadgetry that you find in Bond movies. It does have a nice sense of style though, and it’s well-paced with the right mix of humour and action. The chess game is the sort of scene that makes these 60s spy thrillers so very appealing.

Johnson is an engaging enough hero, much more of a conventional British gentleman than someone like Bond, although he does have an eye for the ladies. And Nigel Green, one of my favourite 1960s cult actors, is there as well and in fine form.

And of course such a movie has to have beautiful girls. The glamour and sexiness in this one is provided by Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina, and they’re very well qualified to provide those commodities. Elke has great fun being a villain and she’s terrific. And Sylva Koscina makes a great partner in murder and mayhem for her.

Ralph Thomas was a very experienced director in a variety of genres, including the superb Hitchcockian thriller The Clouded Yellow and the delightful Dirk Bogarde spy spoof Hot Enough for June. And he does a fine job with this film. There’s some nice use of exotic locations in Lerici in northern Italy.

Network DVD’s release (a two-movie pack that also includes the highly entertaining sequel Some Girls Do) features interviews with the leading actors recorded during the filming of the movie in 1967. Elke Sommer tells us about the importance of glamour, and who am I to argue with her? And the movie gets a splendid widescreen transfer.

It’s a fun movie. I personally think Some Girls Do is even better, so this two-movie set is really a must for fans of 60s spy/adventure movies.


Samuel Wilson said...

I've read the first of Sapper's Bulldog Drummond novels and most of the 1930s B-movie series that Paramount produced. Those films get closer to the actual character, who's basically an upper-class twit who can kill you (or a gorilla) with his bare hands. But I saw Deadlier Than the Male before any other Drummond media and enjoyed it quite a bit, pretty much for the same reasons you did. It's undemanding fun and easy on the eye.

dfordoom said...

Samuel, I haven't seen any of those 1930s Bulldog Drummond movies. But I'd love to. I assume they're not on DVD though?

Samuel Wilson said...

They're in public domain. You can see six of them in Mill Creek Entertainment's Mystery Classics box set, if that's an option for you.

dfordoom said...

Samuel, I have Mill Creek's Dark Crimes 50-movie set and it's great fun. And mostly the picture quality is quite acceptable even if it's not exactly pristine. At around 35 cents per movie who's complaining? So I'll probably pick up the Mystery Classics set as well.