Bulldog Drummond predates James Bond by four decades or so. Yet in the late 1960’s, his adventures somehow suggested to producers that he’d be the perfect Bondian analogue. This would be the 23rd movie with Bulldog in it, but his name was featured nowhere in the title. Instead, it refers to Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Female of the Species,” as well as an earlier Drummond adventure, The Female of the Species.
You may recognize the song, “Deadlier Than the Male,” which was recorded by the Walker Brothers. It’s essentially a Scott Walker solo song and was sampled by the band Space for their song “Female of the Species.” Their song was used in the closing credits of the first Austin Powers film, which sort of brings its history full circle.
This movie was directed by Ralph Thomas, who was behind the Doctor series of films. He’d also come back to make a sequel, Some Girls Do. Betty Box, who was married to Carry On producer Peter Rogers, was this movie’s producer.
Jimmy Sangster, who would direct Lust for a Vampire and write nearly every major Hammer film, along with The Legacy; Scream, Pretty Peggy and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? among many others.
This starts off with a bang — quite literally. Irma Eckman (Elke Sommer, Lisa and the Devil), disguised as a an air hostess, murders an oil baron with a cigar, then parachutes to safety. After being picked up by Penelope (Sylva Koscina, So Sweet, So Dead; the wife to Steve Reeve’s Hercules), they go off and kill another man, making it look like a spearfishing accident.
The goal? To take over Phoenician OIl. Any executive that gets in the way is going to pay. And the girls also try to kill Bulldog (Richard Johnson, the original choice to play Bond in Dr. No) when he gets pulled into their caper.
Virginia North shows up here. She’d come back to appear in the next Bulldog movie as Robot Number Nine and in the same year, would become a Bond girl thanks to a short scene in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Perhaps you’ll know her better as the deadly Vulnavia, the assistant to The Abominable Dr. Phibes.
Nigel Green — the same man who was the Electric Messiah in The Ruling Class — plays the villain here. He has a gigantic robotic chess set that’s a marvel of practical filmmaking.
Check out this article to see what eventually happened to the pieces — it’s amazing how long they survived!
As the villain plays Bulldog in a deadly game — with the life of one of his girls named Grace (Susanna Leigh, who was the love interest of Nilsson in Son of Dracula) in the balance — one of the bodyguards attempts to murder our hero. Bulldog gets the best of both of them and emerges intact.
The bodyguard is played by Milton Reid, who once wrestled professionally as The Mighty Chang. You’ll recognize him from three Bond roles — a guard in Dr. No, a temple guard in Casino Royale and as Sandor, who Roger Moore fights on a rooftop in The Spy Who Loved Me. Legend has it that he wanted to play Oddjob so badly that he challenged fellow pro wrestler Harold “Tosh Togo” Sakata to a shoot match for the role. The producers wisely stepped in and just gave Sakata the hat tossing role that made his career. He also shows up in Terror and Dr. Phibes Rises Again.
The ending explosion of this movie basically comes down to who is wearing a hairclip. Yes, sometimes hairstyle choices can determine who lives and dies.
Deadlier Than the Male was given an X rating for the brutality — and promiscuity — of its two female villains. Today, it could play on regular television.
You can watch this for free on Tubi.
The cigar thing is actually pretty cool, creates some real tension here!
LikeLiked by 1 person