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Location: Prague, Bohemia
Member Since: Tue Apr 06, 2010
Posts: 1,506
Subj: Eurospy review #1: Deadlier than the Male (1967)
Posted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 at 05:10:13 pm EST (Viewed 199 times)

My film noir interest kind of naturally bled into an interest in the Eurospy films of the 1960s. (Sometimes called "spagetti spy"). If you're not familiar with these, they were the immitators, mostly set in Europe, riding on the coattails of James Bond film success. Like most immitators, there are both plusses and minuses.

I always remember that after Raiders of the Lost ark was successful, a silly copycat came out called "King Solomon's mines". As a youngster, I was surprised that King Solomons mines" was based on an older character, Allan Quartermain. Like a lot of copycats, "Deadlier than the male" goes to an older source than Ian Flemming. It is based on an old pulp novel character called Buldog Drummond. While Drummond wasnt a superspy like the suave bond, he did have some of Bond's antecedents.

But the Dummond character in this film is James Bond in everything but name. He is played by Richard Johnson, the original actor selected to play Bond in the films. He manages to feel even more "Bondian" than Sean Connery, as Richard feels much more upper-crust of society. (Not to say he's bad at all, he looks really comfortable in the role.)

While slightly cheesy, the film actually feels very similar to 1960s Bond films (which had their share of cheese). In fact, the plot is much less over the top than most bond films. Rather than a government agent, Drummond is an investigator for an oil company. Several top executives have turned up dead and the oil company is being blackmailed by a beautiful woman. Drummond starts an investigation in London that takes him to scenic Lucca, Italy.

The action is low key, a few fist fights, and the head villain, while eccentric lover of chess with a giant motorized chessboard, doesnt want to rule the world, he just wants to get rich on oil, making him more realistic than most bond foes.

The highlight of the film, in addition to the fantastic Italian scenery, is that the villain's henchmen are all beautiful women, who carry out his assassinations. The two main henchwomen are serious Irma, played by Elke Sommer and kleptomaniac Penelope, played by Peplum actress Slyva Kocina. The women are almost too beautiful and they get loads of screentime, appropriately, often in bikinis.

The only real difference between this and a Bond film, is that Drummond has a young 18ish year old American nephew called Robert who tags along on his adventures. You can almost feel the producers felt the need to inject hip youth into the cast. We often forget that even in 1960s, James Bond was considered "old-fashioned" in the face of 60s youth.

While Robert thinks his old uncle is a square and tries to outdo him, we see that hes a piker when it comes to attacting the ladies. In fact, when Robert tries to romance a teenage girl, the girl instead falls for the suave uncle. The filmmakers really play around with us, giving us one scene where it looks like Drummond is about to bed the teenager, something that made an old foggey like me squeemish (Spoiler: Drummond doesn't bed the teenager, thankfully. He instead makes love to the henchwomen, as a proper eurospy should)

Overall, the film is better than it should be, considering the sappy title. In fact, if you'd like to watch want is basically another Bond flick from the 60s with more beautiful Bond girls, I'd recommend this one fully.

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