Deadlier Than The Male (1967) - Sylva Koscina Harpoons My Heart November 24, 2018 09:00

Sylva Kosina, Elke Sommer & Nigel Green

From the director of Hot Enough For June, and Hammer Horror alum writer Jimmy Sangster comes the twenty-third film in the Bulldog Drummond series, a character (and series) you've likely never heard of unless you're a die-hard fan of the films and novels that date back to the 1920's.

Sylva Koscina & Elke Sommer disposing a body

Deadlier Than The Male features a cast of very lovely assassins played by two well known cult international actresses Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina.  They are apart of an organization headed by Carl Petersen (the Drummond series version of Blofeld) played by Nigel Green.  Petersen uses his vast array of beautiful and deadly women to create for himself a personal fortune.  This is done by having them kill those in key positions of corporations and then reaping the financial rewards whether it be collecting a fee from their competitors for removing some competition or intentionally benefiting from the company's stock plummeting.  Drummond becomes a target when Petersen begins pulling the strings of an oil company that his firm insures.

Elke Sommer in lingerie

At first glance Deadlier Than The Male might seem like a glorified James Bond ripoff, the suave Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, whose actually an insurance investigator (in this film) not a secret agent, a cast of extremely lovely (and deadly) ladies, and an over-the-top mastermind villain.  I would hasten to guess the writers of this modern take of the series definitely took some inspiration from the first four Bond films as there are too many similarities for them to have not.  With that said you'd probably be surprised to learn that Bond may have actually been inspired by the original Drummond novels, as its said James Bond author Ian Fleming was an avid reader of them in his childhood.  So while this film version might have taken some pages from the Bond films to draw audiences, a valid case could be made that without the existence of Hugh Drummond, James Bond may have never been!

Richard Johnson as Hugh Drummond

On the surface Deadlier Than the Male has a lot of campy aspects, especially when you consider in this rendition Drummond isn't a spy but an insurance investigator.  In prior films, and the actual novels, Drummond is a private investigator which is a little more plausible than insurance investigator taking on a crime syndicate!  Drummond is played by Richard Johnson, who interestingly enough was initially offered the role of James Bond back in 1962 for Dr. No but turned it down because he wasn't interested in signing the required multiple picture contract (wonder if he ever regretted that decision).  Ironically he went on to star in a bunch of Bond style knock-offs, the two Drummond films and Danger Route

Richard Johnson as Hugh Drummond Sean Connery wannabe

If the writers weren't trying suck off the success of Bond they sure didn't try very hard, Johnson's look and mannerisms give off a very strong Sean Connery vibe.  And many of the villains seem to be inspired from Goldfinger, like Chang the beefy henchman / man servant to doesn't talk, or Petersen's arsenal of female agents.  In terms of Peterson, Nigel Green is definitely a Bond worthy villain as the snooty Carl Petersen, very dry yet extremely intimidating at the same time.  Supposedly this isn't far from what he was like in real life as actress Elke Sommer stated she didn't enjoy working with Green that much, he wasn't very nice and had an extremely bad temper.  Green must have had some personal demons as about five years later he died due to an overdose of sleeping pills at the age of 47.

Elke Sommer & Sylva Kosina

Of course what makes this film truly great is the women.  Considering the title, Deadlier Than The Male, it should come as little surprise the film focuses quite largely on the fairer sex, and oh boy do they give every Bond Girl a run for their money!  Elke Sommer is the lead assassin, Irma Eckman, and plays a villain quite convincingly.  Sylva Koscina plays Penelope, Eckman's ditsy sidekick whose always getting on her nerves because she's constantly stealing her things (something that later in the film plays an important role in the film's conclusion).  

Elke Sommer & Sylva Koscina in bikinis

The casting of Sommer and Koscina was perfect and without them this would have be a forgettable film.  They play off each other so well.  It also doesn't hurt they spend half the film in bikini's or lingerie displaying their perfectly toned bodies.  In short they are better than anything the Bond franchise has ever put out, both in looks and character substance.  Suzanna Leigh also makes a sizable appearance, probably most known by cult film fans for her role in Hammer's Lust For A Vampire.  Typically seen as a blonde she's barely recognizable here as a brunette.  

Carl Peterson checkmate

This was actually my second viewing of this film, eight years ago my first, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I found myself enjoying the film even more.  The first time around I hadn't known that the director and producer were also behind one of my favorite British euro-spys, Hot Enough For June, which also featured Sylva Koscina, but it makes sense considering the nice blend of comedy, action and suspense that both of these films share.  As a whole the characters are interesting, the women are stunning and sinister, and the film boasts some pretty innovative methods of offing people, such as the "loaded" cigars, shooting people with harpoons or crushing them with giant chess pieces.  

Sexy Sylva Koscina

My only real criticism of Deadlier Than The Male is if you haven't been exposed to Hugh Drummond before the writers don't do the best job of setting up who he is and the premise of the film.  It's very easy to get confused and think you're watching a spy film, until you start to put all the pieces together 30 minutes in.  This is because the vast similarities between this film and its progression to those of the Bond franchise that sort of automatically force you to think that.  Personally I believe they should have simply made Drummond a spy, they were already taking a lot of liberties with the character, go the full mile accept your making a Bond style film and it would have made everything gel a lot better.  Aside from that if you're a fan of euro-spy or an admirer of Elke Sommer or Sylva Koscina (who I think is absolutely amazing in her role) this film is not one to miss.


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