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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Comedy > Deadlier Than The Male (1965/Hen's Tooth DVD)

Deadlier That The Male


Picture: C+†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: D†††† Film: B-



In 1965, the Spy Craze in pop culture was huge, with Terence Youngís 1965 James Bond epic Thunderball becoming the biggest ticket-seller in the history of the series to this day.Rank in England was also celebrating with Sidney J. Furieís The Ipcress File, a more serious spy thriller with Michael Caine as Harry Palmer; the character the Austin Powerís franchise is specifically aimed at.That is why, in the following year, Rank decided to try a go at a more commercial Spy genre film.


The result is Ralph Thomasí Deadlier That the Male, which offers the twist of trying to revive one of the characters that inspired Bond, Sapperís Bulldog Drummond.Known simply as Hugh here, Richard Johnson plays him, looking like he borrowed Sean Conneryís hair stylist from Dr. No, the first Bond from 1962.


Executives are finding themselves the subject of a series of unfortunate deaths, but one too many begins to arouse suspicion.It turns out that these men are being seduced and knocked off by two female assassins, played by Elke Sommer and Sylvia Koscina.At first, the film is played more seriously and it has fun moments throughout, but the screenplay by Hammer Studioís legend Jimmy Sangster, David Osborn, and Liz Charles-Williams eventually goes for unnecessary humor in the latter half.Thomasí directing is not bad, though, and one in-joke here is about Sommerís past film work.


Both Daniella By Night (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and A Shot in the Dark (the first Pink Panther sequel in 1964) has Sommer played a woman suspected of being a murderer, but is obviously innocent in both films.Here, she gets to go on a kill, and she is one of the best reasons to see this film.Malcolm Lockyerís music is not bad, but that title song is an unintentional hoot.Johnsonís Drummond is passable, but not written with any gusto as he would have been in the Bulldog books and films before.Underplaying him to be ďcoolĒ is fine, but too much backfires a bit.Add his visiting nephew and you can see where the slide into comedy occurred.


The letterboxed 2.35 X 1 image is not bad, but would have benefited from an anamorphic transfer to enhance the decent print Henís Tooth got of the film from Carlton.The film was shot in the inexpensive Techniscope process, with tiny wide frames at only two sprocket holes a piece on either side.Many such releases have had awful EastmanColor prints going bad, but this one looks more like the original three-strip Technicolor these productions needed in order to avoid the large amounts of grain that would be present in non-dye-transfer prints.M-G-Mís Eastwood/Leone Westerns suffer this in their first DVD version.Another reason this looks good is the camerawork of ace cinematographer Ernest Stewart, B.S.C., who shot this film in between his brilliant work in other feature films and on TVís original Avengers (reviewed on this site).He makes this look lusher than its budget allows, handling colors and locations better than most cameramen could.Only the video red in certain shots is a problem, plus a lack of depth by default in a non-anamorphic DVD and some slight definition troubles that can be attributed to the film frame as well as the DVD.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo essentially offers the film in a clean monophonic presentation with stereo music and some sound effects.Though not perfect, I liked this presentation, which is better than many of the monophonic Bond DVDs, which could have simply dropped the stereo scores into the monophonic film sound.Some of those mono Bonds are being remixed for 5.1, but they are not here yet.The DVD is also without any extras whatsoever.


Running 95 minutes, this is not an epic Spy thriller, but still has many good moments in the hands of some of the best filmmakers in England at the time, so Deadlier That the Male is worth checking out.Letís hope Henís Tooth issues that one sequel Rank and Santor Film Productions did afterwards, Some Girls Do.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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