Deadlier Than the Male
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British sleuth Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond plays life-size chess with a tycoon who uses women assassins.
From the Back Cover
Deadlier Than the Male is perhaps the best of the James Bond take-offs produced during the swinging 60s. Richard Johnson stars as Hugh Drummond, a suave insurance investigator trailing a pair of sexy assassins (Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina) who kill for fun and profit.
When a top oil executive dies mysteriously aboard his private jet, the company's board suspects foul play and hires Drummond to investigate. Attempts on his own life lead him to believe the two lovely females are "hit men" for an international crime syndicate. Drummond pursues them from foggy London to the sunny Mediterranean, but finds himself trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the most diabolical mastermind since Dr. No.
This handsome British production deftly mixes action and suspense with dry wit, gently spoofing the Bond formula. The success of this film prompted a sequel, Some Girls Do, the following year.
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Top Customer Reviews
Yes, this is the best of all the Bond knock-offs produced in the mid-to-late Sixties, and there were a lot of them! Unlike spoofs like Modesty Blaise and Casino Royale, Deadlier Than the Male is actually a good movie in its own right. The production values are higher than most other sub-Bond spy films of the period (although nowhere near as high as those of Mr. Bond himself), the acting is good, the action is good, and the script is witty. Elke Sommer (at her absolute hottest!) steals the show as a voluptious assassin, but Richard Johnson makes a darn good hero, too. His character's relationship with his nephew is quite well-done, and a scene where the nephew brings a lady back to his uncle's apartment is a comedic hightlight (somewhat reminiscent of The Pink Panther). The murders are all very creative (think Avengers) and rather violent for the time period. The setpieces are great, especially the climax where hero Bulldog Drummond faces the villain (an amazing Nigel Green) on a giant chessboard filled with oversize pieces. If you like Sixties James Bond movies, or the Pink Panther movies, or TV shows like The Avengers, you'll like Deadlier Than the Male. (The Walker Brothers theme song is amazing, too, on par with many of the great Bond themes!) All in all, a great Bond-style action-comedy. Deadlier Than the Male is to Thunderball as XXX is to Die Another Day (only both those sixties movies are better to their 2002 counterparts). Bond in everything but name. (And budget.)
I'm so glad this movie is finally on DVD! As far as I know, it had never been officially released even on VHS before, so all I'd seen previously was a poor-quality bootleg. The dvd offers no features, and the print is a bit scratchy at times, but the widescreen transfer looks nice and it's infinitely superior to the bootlegs! I'd like to see the sequel, Some Girls Do, released as well, though it's nowhere near as good as this one.
FIVE STARS for an delightfully deft, light, and deceptively clever romp - a thinking man's/woman's take-off on the iconic Bond series.
This inventive, stylishly playful satire features the distinguished, classically-trained, brilliantly versatile Richard Johnson* in the lead. Johnson portrays Drummond effortlessly: with debonaire, masculine charm, sexy intelligence, and perfectly wry humor. His Drummond is sophisticated but sporty, classy but not stuffy, and exudes a charismatic charge/threat that's understated but in no way effete. Not unlike Bond, he moves (and thinks) with sharp, cool grace. But unlike Bond's animalistic, devil-may-care image, Johnson's Drummond has just the right stroke of irony and warmth to keep him interesting. Then there's Nigel Green as a Brit baddie who's more credibly calculating than cartoonish. And Elke Sommer and Sylvia Koscina play the psychopathic sirens who wield their harpoons as perfectly (and lusciously) as their comic timing!
Plus, the relationship between Drummond and his (U.S. American) nephew is refreshing, something rarely seen in movies - a central element that grounds the movie's hijinks (and certain moments of legitimately disturbing violence by the duo of female assassins) with a human, but no less humorous, touch. Then there's Zia Mohyeddin as a young oil heir, and Lee Montague as an erstwhile con-man gone clean, who give brief but memorably likable portrayals against stale stereotype. Convincing, smart, fun performances all around - and the same for the movie's script and direction.
And what's a Bond-style caper without some martial arts, right? In this one, Drummond first appears on screen practicing judo, then karate throughout. But, at one point, he also slips in a clever move that's rarely seen in mainstream Western movies - voila! What fun it might have been, then, to see Johnson's Drummond and Elke Sommer's psycho-killer-vixen go at it, martial-arts style, one-on-one!
As other reviewers have already noted, this movie is a welcome pleasure of 1960s fun. But it's impressive precisely because its style enhances, rather than diminishes, its approach. As a result, it achieves the incredible: it doesn't feel dated. To that end, it certainly helps that "Deadlier" is more on the lines of credible fantasy-entertainment, versus cheesy, over-the-top, gatchet-ladden ridiculousness. And its sexy (but not sexist), light-brush treatment is consistent throughout. Delightfully, the movie doesn't take itself seriously, yet in its most unflashy moments, it quietly does (when and where it most counts). These elements make "Deadlier" strikingly appealing, and it shows. It's stood the test of time, and gets even better with age. All in all, a bona fide cult classic. A real winner!
ONLY HALF A STAR FOR THE BAD QUALITY OF THIS DVD (by Hen's Tooth Video). I've seen a clean, pristine, digital print of this movie elsewhere. Because of that comparison, I can say that this DVD is not up to standard, and certainly not acceptable for the price of $20. The color is badly off (example: flesh tones are red). The picture resolution is grainy, like a bootleg copy of a bad print. The picture contrast is too strong (example: where color details should be clear, you instead see vague/shadowy/silhouette darkness). The main menu even smacks of a cheap, bootleg product. No special features on the disc, either.
Evidently, no care was taken in the digital transfer of this film to disc, which is a real shame. Because this is one of those truly rare gems of pop-culture cinema: a stylish yet intelligent, classy, and thoroughly unpretentious pleasure to watch. It not only offers a sly interpretation of the Bond 'mythos' and 'mystique', but stands entirely on its own merits. (I agree with other positive reviews here that "Deadlier" is even better than many of the Bond movies.)
For these reasons, this movie is not only of its time, but still delivers nearly 50 years later. And is far superior to most of the pablum and swill that pass for movie entertainment (or 'actors') today. (I wish the same could be said of this movie's sequel, "Some Girls Do," which is outright dreadful, and painfully dated in ways that "Deadlier" successfully avoids.)
* Johnson is a true actor's actor - one of jaw-dropping dexterity and range, unusually thoughtful intelligence, and exceptional nuance and restraint. Devoted to his craft, his performances are marked by naturalness over histrionics or hollow mechanics, grandstanding ego, or pretense. Over a phenomenally impressive 70-year career, to date, he has remained more interested in a passionate yet humble fidelity to the diverse, interesting, often intriguing characters he portrays (and the variety of projects he feels fortunate to be a part of) rather than in stardom or fame. From Shakespeare on stage, to classic Greek tragedies and period pieces, to cult horror and independent/foreign films, he's racked up a dizzyingly wide array of roles. His gifts are in a very elite class, yet few in the U.S. are familiar with him or his lesser-known roles. (He's mostly known for his role in the psychological horror classic "The Haunting." That is, the original 1963 version directed by Robert Wise.) Very, very few actors come anywhere close to Johnson's incredibly nimble, distinctive talent. If you appreciate subtlety, depth, and keen intelligence, seek out his most interesting other work. You'll be blown away.
For those who don't know the history of the Bond franchise, Richard Johnson was, according to various sources, among the choices (if not the first choice) of Terence Young, the director of "Dr. No," to assume the role of Bond. To this viewer, Johnson was the most convincing, compelling 'Bond-who-almost-was'. And I say this as a fan of Connery's Bond (who's suave yet brutally dangerous and sociopathic - as real spies tend to be). Johnson himself has been gracious in openly acknowledging, without regret, that Connery ultimately was the right (and rightly subversive) choice to play the part and for the good of the franchise at its start. The fun for this viewer is in appreciating the distinct contrasts between Johnson's Drummond and Connery's Bond on screen, relative to how author Ian Fleming originally conceived the Bond character, and how various directors, screenwriters, and other actors have presented the Bond image differently and at its best.