Sunday, March 22, 2020
Deadlier than the Male (1967) and Some Girls Do (1969)
The character of Bulldog Drummond saw a huge film life from the 1920s stretching all the way to the 40s, even to the 50s by a toe. Since then it's been pretty dormant, which is a shame. I guess 21 films in under 20 years is a pretty respectable amount to sit on for a few decades, but when we haven't had a new film in the series for 60 years, dont'cha think you producers ought to step it up a bit? Come onnnn! Anyway, today I'm looking at Deadlier than the Male, and Some Girls Do, two Drummond films from the 1960s. A renaissance, perhaps?...
Deadlier than the Male
Several businessmen and board members have been dying inconvenient 'accidents' recently, and insurance agent Hugh 'Bulldog' Drummond is hired on the case. He soon sees something fishy is going on, and together with his young nephew he uncovers a sinister plot by the villainous Carl Peterson...
Deadlier than the Male is an example of an adaption made from all the wrong places. The director admitted to only wanting to do it for money, the producers were only doing Bulldog Drummond at all as an excuse to copy James Bond without getting sued, and even the main star *hated* the books, calling them brutish and fascist, which I've called out before as nonsense. Regardless of whether they are or not though, why would you take the title role of a series you hate? I tried going into this movie with an open mind, but those three elements made it a bit difficult. What really clinched the deal though was the movie itself.
This seems like the kind of movie some/others might enjoy, and goodness knows I hate it when people trash on 1967s Casino Royale, so I don't wanna be too harsh on it, but I found it to be uninteresting from the start, a little boring, and just not that much fun.
The plot feels more like James Bond that Bulldog Drummond, with more gadgets, beautiful women, and death-defying stunts, although with a markedly more simple approach. The plot isn't some grand plan for world domination, but rather just a simple insurance scam. Peterson plans to assassinate an Arab king just for a measly million pounds! Also, who assassinates a king just to further a one-off business deal? Think bigger man, you could supplant him with your own leader and take over the economy of a whole nation, and draw in money from many others too!
It's in the final third when things start getting more fun and theatrical. The plot itself might be as dull as dishwater with its insurance acquisitions and trade mergers, but it's here where we get a baronial castle, Oriental henchman/warriors, and lifesized chess matches to the death. Unfortunately the movie isn't confident enough in/with these tropes to use them with a straight face, and resorts to poking fun at them. This annoys me to no end! Yeah those tropes don't really happen in real life, but this isn't real life, it's a movie! It's just as much a movie as anything from the Fu Manchu series for example, so cut loose and have a bit of fun. Don't be afraid to be silly!
Hugh Drummond is an alright protagonist. I found him to be not very compelling to begin with, and we don't really get a great insight into his character at first. He just shows up like he's always been there. Although I at least began to have a greater respect for Hugh for not fucking his nephew's girlfriend while he's in the next room (thankfully Robert finds better!). It's in the final act where he begins to act more like his book self, with a wry sense of humour that puts/takes his enemies off guard.
Next up is his nephew, Robert. While I resent the inclusion of a handsome young American into the cast (do they have to invade everything?!), I felt that Robert justified his existence reasonably well, and I never hated him. He was a little annoying to begin with, but that was it.
Peterson is an alright villain. He appears periodically earlier on, then is a constant fixture in the last act. He's pretty much a low-rent Blofeld, but is alright. The female assassins have vivacious and fiery personalities, and each get their moments.
This is a pretty bloodthirsty film, with most of its supporting characters getting murdered. The ones of note (i.e. the ones who survive) are pretty decent. The young Arab king is fun and likeable, and the same goes for Drummond's contact. He only gets one scene, but he really shines
There isn't exactly a whole lot of action here (the first fight is 35 minutes in!), but what there is is decent. I dug the first fight scene lack of music and the = of the sound effects really help sell the scene! The final fight is interesting too. The giant sized chess room is weird and probably cost more than it was worth, but I really liked the role it played in the climax. You can really see how Drummond gets the upper hand over Peterson.
The direction in Deadlier than the Male ranges from serviceable, to effective, to too zoomed in and out-of-focus at times. It makes some scenes feel a bit glitched out, like you accidentally sat on the remote, or are watching a bootleg copy. The locations can look quite nice though.
The soundtrack here is ok, but nothing special. = though some of them veer dangerously close to aping Thunderball. The main theme is alright I suppose. I didn't really take to it myself, but there's nothing really wrong with it, and it's got a good hook.
Richard Johnson is an almost satisfactory James Bond, but just not charismatic enough ,at least not with this script and direction. While his mugging could sometimes be a bit annoying, I liked Steve Carlson ok enough. Nigel Green was bizarre as Carl Peterson though! Sometimes he was good, as expected, but his odd mannerisms really =. The various women do sometimes good jobs, and are real beauties (Elke Sommer! *swoons*), but they're quite terrible in places, especially the ending!
The overall effect watching Deadlier than the Male had on me was like watching an episode of The Persuaders that sucked.
Some Girls Do
A series of important individuals are killed, and the plans for a subsonic device stolen. A group of mysterious women are orchestrating the assassinations under the employ of a shadowy villain, with plans to use the device to destroy a revolutionary new aeroplane prototype. It's up to Hugh 'Bulldog' Drummond to figure out who's behind this, and put a stop to them, before it's too late...
Say, did you ever want to watch Deadlier than the Male, but worse? Then Some Girls Do is the movie for you!
Some Girls do is a pretty dreary film. It wants to be a fun spy caper, but it never really tries, and the plot is pretty uninteresting. The plot to Deadlier was still leaden, but at least things were happening there, even if it did all bore me. Here though there's a much smaller amount of scenes, making it all the slower. The fact that many elements are copied from the previous film didn't help either.
Once again the villain's plan boils down entirely to insurance fraud, which is pretty maddening. The plan itself here is pretty decent, although a bit too simple when stealing a single boat is the lynchpin of the first hour (it's not even that big of a boat!).
The last third is the most unique, but not in a good way. The film starts getting strange! It's like it morphs into a comedy, as we're introduced to Peterson's army of robot women, and get a comedy montage =. Not even the main characters seem to be taking it seriously, so it's hard for the audience to.
Bulldog Drummond is back, barely even in name only, as he's never referred to by his sobriquet even once. He's ostensibly still an insurance agent, though he may as well just be a secret agent at this point. He's even on call to espionage personnel.
British consulate worker and bodyguard Peregrine Carruthers starts out as an unbearable fop, though I grew to like him more as time went on. Flicky though I grew to like less. She starts out as an alright enough stalker/sidekick, but she disappears for a good chunk of the movie, only to suddenly reemerge as one of Peterson's henchmen out of nowhere, then it turns out she's a double agent, then a triple agent for another side altogether, and then my brain exploded. Maybe it all could've worked if she did more, and was woven into the story better.
The supporting characters are mixed. The corpulent male chef/spymaster Miss Mary is a bit weird, despite Robert Morley's brave attempts to stay afloat. = is cool though! Informative, a great spy, and a real badass! She only gets one scene before an unlucky end though. Same goes for everyone not named Drummond, really! Only he and his main sidekicks make it out alive. Everyone else is stuffed!
Peterson is an ok villain when he's onscreen, but that's only in the last 20 minutes or so. Where I felt the film really got convoluted was in his disguises. Torrenson is Baroush and Baroush is is Peterson. A bit confusing, right? At least he's shown as a master of disguise, but it can be annoying when the movie leads you on into thinking three when it's obvious. Everyone talks in gushed tones about the mysterious Baroush, but since we already know Peterson is behind this we know who it is.
[As far as villains go,] he's a bit manic at times. There's a bizarre moment where in fancy dress he talks about fulfilling Napoleon's great dream of conquering the universe, =, but when asked why he's dressed as the Duke of Wellington, he just says "I never back a loser". So does he like Napoleon or what? On that note, will either of these movies realise Peterson isn't supposed to be British?!
When compared with the Bulldog Drummond books, this is not only more 007 than Drummond, but it verges on Austin Powers at times! If it had've take a leaf out of that then-nonexistent movie they could've leaned in more with the comedy and farcical nature of the film. Could've worked, if this wasn't based on a grounded PI series.
For all the star's talk about how supposedly bigoted the books were, I began to find these movies a little skeevy after a while. Every single woman is without fail a wagging bimbo eager for sex, or a psychotic murderer using sex as a weapon. Everyone is catty, =, and victim to every other 'womanly failing' you can think of. For all the talk people make about the Bond movies being sexist (I strongly disagree), I felt this came close to fitting that bill. Then it becomes The Stepford Wives, but without the irony/a hint of irony.
The tone of Some Girls Do is a bit weird. It's never a serious film of course, which is fine, but it seems to not quite know what it's going for, whether =, or full-on comedy. Some scenes are quite weird as a result, such as the vehicle assassination.
The actors all do alright, for the most part, although some seem to overdo it, and others don't seem to be trying hard. That goes for Richard Johnson. He's not bad, and isn't sleepwalking through the movie, but he's never really energetic. At about the halfway point he just gives up the pretense entirely and copies Sean Connery to the letter. Same clothes, same attitude, same kind of dialogue. It's pretty blatant!
The music in this film really takes a downturn compared to its predecessor. The opening theme is weird! The singer is so froglike and throaty. Fine in some spots, but = for the most part. I dug the slower instrumental take later on though. It's groovy!
The direction here is ok, and the scenery and sets nice, though the [choreography] (what little of it there is) isn't that great. A bit too zoomed in.
Some Girls Do is about on par with Deadlier than the Male. In many ways it's worse, but I rank these two films pretty equally. Neither are worth watching if you ask me. Go watch something fun, like Danger! Death Ray!...