Director: Ralph Thomas
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster, David Osborn & Liz Charles
Starring: Richard Johnson, Elke Sommer, Nigel Green, Sylvia Koscina, Leonard Rossiter, Steve Carlson, Suzanna Leigh
Running Time: 97 mins
BBFC Classification: 12
Insurance underwriter Hugh Drummond (Richard Johnson) is asked to investigate the deaths of a number of top oil executives who all seem to meet grisly ends after disagreeing with the upcoming purchase of some prize oil-bearing land. What makes each murder even more interesting is that all the men met their sticky ends at the hands of a pair of beautiful female assassins (Sommer & Koscina). Drummond soon learns that the assassins are controlled by an international crime syndicate, which is after a big oil concession for their own shadowy client. Bulldog Drummond and his American nephew (Steve Carson) quickly find themselves in hot water when they are invited to spend some time with a reclusive millionaire who lives in a castle overlooking the sea.
Giving the likes of James Bond and Derek Flint a run for their money, Deadlier than the male sees Drummond involved in shady plots, daring escapes, fist fights, femme fatales and with a megalomaniac with a thing about chess!
Based on Gerard Fairle’s and Herman C. McNeile’s Bulldog Drummond character, and an initial script by Jimmy Sangster, Deadlier than the male literally oozes sixties spy cool and Richard Johnson gives a suave, almost gentile performance as the British ‘Bulldog’ at the centre of these shady shenanigans.
Nicely shot, and quite funny in places, the film breezes through its average running time, all to a rather bombastic film score, and to a Walker Brothers’ theme song. Network have done a good job on the restoration of the film and the picture and sound quality are very good.
Like many of the earlier Bond films there’s an air of casual sexism drifting through the movie, which grates a little for modern audiences, although I have to say that most of the female characters do more than just swoon or look helpless and the two female assassins kick ass – literally – and there’s a slight indication that they might be bisexual too, which makes them more than just one-dimensional instruments of death. They are also at the centre of the thick vein of black humour that runs through the film and get most of the pithy one liners. For example, when the two femme fatales throw a man off the balcony of a high rise hotel Elke says: ‘I’ve had men fall for me before, but never like this!’
Deadlier than the male has its flaws, but is never less than entertaining, in a sexy, daft kind of way and there’s never too long to wait before another silly action set piece comes along, including death by an oversized chess piece! For fans of 60s spy movies that lean towards the less serious end of the spectrum you could do a lot worse than to check this flick out.
Deadlier than the male has just been released on Blu-ray and DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing as part of their ‘British Film’ collection. Extras include: a rather scratched up original trailer, with the catch line: ‘Luscious dolls in every shade and shape’ plus interviews with Richard Johnson, Elke Sommer, Sylvia Koscina, Nigel Green and Suzanna Carlson (all about 5 minutes in length). These are all quite interesting in a very glamourous 60s kind of way and provide us with a bit of insight into how all the main actors saw their characters and what sorts of things they were getting up to off-set, during the shoot.