Deadlier than the Male (1967)

Rating: B-

Dir: Ralph Thomas
Star: Richard Johnson, Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina, Nigel Green

After the Bond films’ success, cash-ins inevitably followed, of greatly-varying quality. This had a better pedigree than most, with hero Bulldog Drummond (Johnson) dating back to the 1920’s, in print, screen and radio versions. This naturally adopts some 007-isms, such as a bevy of dolly birds and quips, but not others – exploding cigars are about as far as the gadgetry goes, though the Walker Brothers’ title-song is about as Bondesque as possible. Drummond is an insurance investigator looking into the death of an oil executive; he uncovers an international conspiracy, using assassins Irma and Penelope (Sommer and Koscina, both excellent) to do their deadly work. Can he stop them, before his nephew gets caught in the crossfire as an Arab king is targetted for death?

Even 40 years on, this has a freshness that’s still entertaining; while obviously a product of its era, the script (co-written by Hammer stalwart, Jimmy Sangster) has some great lines, and the bickering between the hit-women even has a fine payoff. After starting with a bang, it is a little slow in the middle, and it doesn’t help that Drummond’s nephew is extremely irritating, but when the villain (Green) turns up, things accelerate again nicely. How can you not love a film where the bad guy has a room-sized mechanical chess-set? Surely an essential for any self-respecting evil overlord – along with his vicious, Oriental henchman, naturally… And the great Leonard Rossiter has a supporting role too, falling, literally, for the girls. If not much more than a Bond ripoff, with few original ideas, it’s still an entertaining Bond ripoff.