Film Review: Deadlier Than the Male (1967)

Also known as: Deadlier (France alternative title)
Release Date: February 12th, 1967 (UK)
Directed by: Ralph Thomas
Written by: Jimmy Sangster, David D. Osborn, Liz Charles-Williams
Based on: Bulldog Drummond by Sapper Gerard Fairlie
Music by: Malcolm Lockyer, The Walker Brothers (title song)
Cast: Richard Johnson, Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina, Nigel Green, Milton Reid

Santor Film Productions, Rank Film Distributors, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Well I have had men fall for me before but never like this.” – Irma Eckman

Deadlier Than the Male is just one of a slew of spy parody comedies to come out during the height of James Bond‘s popularity. Still, it’s pretty enjoyable and I like these type of movies, anyway. Surprisingly, I hadn’t seen this one until now.

This has similar vibes to the Dean Martin starring Matt Helm films, as well as the original American Casino Royale with Peter Sellers.

For the most part, I liked Richard Johnson as this film’s version of the James Bond character trope. However, I felt like he played the role a bit too dry and didn’t have the charisma as some of the other actors that led similar movies. Granted, it’s hard to compete with talent like Peter Sellers and Dean Martin or the Sean Connery version of Bond, for that matter.

As should be expected and because of the movie’s title, this picture is littered with beautiful, supermodel caliber women. The main one of note is Elke Sommer, a German model and actress that had a good mind and spirit for comedy. Funny enough, she was also in one of those Dean Martin spy movies.

Additionally, Nigel Green, this film’s big villain, also played a similar role in the same Dean Martin spy flick that featured Elke Sommer. Green was always good in these sort of roles, though. While he’s probably not as recognized as he should be, especially by American film fans, he often times found himself in films with great, well-known British film legends. Plus, he always rose to the occasion in the right way and here, he’s just great as a token Bond-styled baddie.

I like the visual style of this movie but at the same time, when compared to other films like it, it’s not all that special or unique. The style fits the time and type of picture that this is. But there are still some neat things in the movie that do stand out like the giant chessboard finale.

In fact, I liked that sequence and that set so much that I felt like it was worthy of a bigger budget spy thriller on the level of the ’60s Bond movies.

For the most part, this is just a lighthearted, stylish and sexy film. Overall, it’s better than average for what it is and because many of these films tend to be pretty bad and unfunny. This one hits the checkboxes it needed to and after the Dean Martin spy comedies, this might be my favorite in the genre for its decade.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other spy parodies, especially those from the 1960s.

Film Review: The Wrecking Crew (1968)

Release Date: December 25th, 1968 (Canada)
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: William McGivern
Based on: The Wrecking Crew by Donald Hamilton
Music by: Hugo Montenegro
Cast: Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate, Nancy Kwan, Nigel Green, Tina Louise, Wilhelm von Homburg (uncredited), Chuck Norris (uncredited)

Meadway-Claude Productions, Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“So this is the place I was gonna get shot in the back. Kind of a stylish pad to take off from.” – Matt Helm

I’ve arrived at the fourth and final Matt Helm film and while the Dean Martin spy comedies have been enjoyable, this one showed me that maybe they had already run out of steam.

That’s not to say that this one wasn’t enjoyable, it was, but it was the weakest in the series and just felt like everyone involved was simply running through the motions and the entire production had become a paint-by-numbers affair.

Sure, Martin is still charming and suave and the women are beautiful. But this really felt like they were dialing it in, trying to get one last glass of milk out of the cow.

However, if they did make a fifth film, I’d still watch it. It’s hard not to like Dean Martin in this role, as it’s tailor made for him and who the hell doesn’t like Dean Martin?

One of the strong points in this film was the villain, who was played by Nigel Green, who is most known for his roles in classic horror films.

This is also sort of bittersweet in that it was Sharon Tate’s last movie before she was murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. I enjoyed her in this but I think that she hadn’t reached her full potential and it’s hard to say whether or not she would’ve grown into a real film star that could’ve carried a production on her own.

The film also featured a bunch of boxers, wrestlers and martial artists, all of whom were uncredited for their small roles. However, it’s worth mentioning that Bruce Lee worked on the film, behind the scenes, and this was also Chuck Norris’ first film, even though he’s so far under the radar that I didn’t even notice him.

Another interesting thing about this movie is that it was directed by the same guy who did the first Matt Helm picture, Phil Karlson. He’s a director mostly known for his fine noir movies and while I enjoy his work in the Matt Helm series, it doesn’t quite live up to the movies he did before them.

The Wrecking Crew was an okay finale to the Matt Helm film series. It could’ve tried a little bit harder and gave fans something better but in the end, it did get this far and that’s something.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The SilencersMurderers’ Row and The Ambushers: the other Matt Helm films.

Film Review: Lisa and the Devil (1973)

Release Date: May 9th, 1973 (France)
Directed by: Mario Bava (as Mickey Lion), Alfredo Leone (English version scenes)
Written by: Alberto Cittini, Giorgio Maulini, Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale, Francesca Rusishka, Mario Bava, Alfredo Leone
Music by: Carlo Savina
Cast: Telly Savalas, Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina, Alessio Orano, Alida Valli

Euro America Produzioni, Cinematografiche, Leone International, Roxy Film, Tecisa, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I prefer ghosts to vampires, though. They’re so much more human; they have a tradition to live up to. Somehow they manage to keep all the horror in without spilling any blood.” – Sophia Lehar

I’m a pretty big fan of Mario Bava’s work. Some of it is brilliant but some of it misses the mark. Unfortunately, Lisa and the Devil is one of the films that fits in with the latter.

I checked it out because I also love Telly Savalas and Alida Valli, due to her work with Dario Argento, most notably Suspiria and Inferno. Also, the premise sounded really cool.

The story is about an American woman who is sightseeing in Spain. She sees a fresco that features the Devil. She then bumps into a man that looks exactly like the Devil from the painting. She tries to avoid him but he keeps popping up. Eventually, after losing her tour group, she takes a ride from some aristocrats who break down in front of a Spanish mansion in the country. The mansion’s butler is none other than the man the American woman kept seeing. Stranded at the mansion, things get interesting.

Well, things should have gotten interesting but they really don’t.

The biggest problem with this movie is that it is so surreal that it is hard to follow. It is also disjointed and takes rapid twists and turns that don’t really do anything other than complicate the narrative. To be completely honest, I have no idea what the hell was happening in this picture from the midpoint on. The American edit of the film is even more confusing, from what I’ve heard, as it had major changes that complicated it further, as it tried to mimic The Exorcist and ultimately got critically torn apart for blatantly ripping off that superior film.

The positives of this film are too scant to really redeem it in any way.

Telly Savalas is cool as the Devil character but he just isn’t explored enough.

Also, the cinematography and use of colors was cool but it didn’t save the cheap looking sets and poor overall design of them. The mansion comes off as just pieces of ornately painted flat walls, which it probably was.

Lisa and the Devil was most likely a failure because it had too many chefs in the kitchen and Bava went too far over the top and needed to reel it in a bit.

Rating: 3.75/10