DEADLIER THAN THE MALE
The return of Bulldog Drummond!
DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967) is a British action-adventure mystery movie. It stars Richard Johnson, Elke Sommer, and Nigel Green. It was produced by Betty E. Box, directed by Ralph Thomas, and the screenplay was by Jimmy Sangster, David Osborn, and Liz Charles-Williams from an original story by Jimmy Sangster.
The film is one of many made to cash in on the secret agent craze started by the James Bond movies. Only this one uses as its hero an already established fictional detective Bulldog Drummond.
Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond is a fictional hero created by author H.C. McNeile under the pen name “Sapper.” His hero is a World War I veteran bored with civilian life who places an ad in a newspaper advertising for excitement and danger, and thereafter becomes a gentleman adventurer. The nickname “Bulldog” denotes his tenacity. Introduced in 1920 in the novel BULLDOG DRUMMOND he went on to appear in novels, short stories, in plays, in movies, on radio, on television, and even graphic novels.
The literary Drummond is very much a creature of his times – ultra-conservative, racist, and fascist. Not a likeable character at all by today’s standards. His cinematic counterpart – played by actors such as Ronald Colman, Ray Milland, Walter Pidgeon, and Tom Conway – was toned down considerably becoming more of an amateur detective like his film contemporaries Tom Lawrence (The Falcon) or Simon Templar (The Saint).
However, the Hugh Drummond that appears in the film DEADLIER THAN THE MALE is very different from his literary origins or even the cinematic Drummond of the 30s and 40s. Borrowing heavily from James Bond and the secret agent craze of the 1960s this Drummond is presented as being a suave and sophisticated man about town. Handsome and a playboy he can outthink, outfight, and outmaneuver any opponent – male or female.
The film is purposely presented with all the glamour of a James Bond movie and is meant to fit in with all the other secret agent films of that time. It has a debonair globe-trotting hero, a despicable super-villain, gorgeous girls in bikinis, fancy cars, gadgets, and just the right mix of action and humor. The problem is that the movie isn’t really a secret agent film – even though it is always listed as a secret agent movie of the 1960s. Drummond isn’t an agent for any government. He is an insurance investigator and there is nothing secret about him. Everyone knows who he is and what he does.
Richard Johnson as Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond
Elke Sommer as Irma Eckman
Nigel Green as Weston
Sylva Koscina as Penelope
Steve Carlson as Robert Drummond
Laurence Naismith as Sir John Bledlow
Suzanna Leigh as Grace
Beautiful assassin Irma kills an oil tycoon with a shooting cigar and then blows up his plane. She parachutes to safety and is picked up in a speedboat by the equally beautiful Penelope. The two go on to murder investigator David Wyngarde. Sir John Bledlow suspects foul play and calls in insurance investigator Hugh Drummond – an old friend of Wyngarde’s.
There is apparently a group for hire that is willing to do anything – including murder – to remove problems and people who stand in the way of big businesses (oil companies) from making profits. In investigating the death of his friend Wyngarde it becomes Bulldog Drummond’s job to stop this group.
In the process, after multiple fights, more bombs, lethal bikini beauties, and lots and lots of mayhem, Drummond finally comes face-to-face with his enemy over a giant life-or-death chessboard – but can he beat the master criminal Carl Petersen?
- Richard Johnson was director Terence Young’s choice to play James Bond in DR NO(1962).
- The British Board of Film Censors objected to the film’s use of women assassins, promiscuity, and torture. They gave the movie an X rating.
- DEADLIER THAN THE MALE produced a sequel SOME GIRLS DO (1969) where Johnson reprised his role as Hugh Drummond. He also played a secret agent in the film DANGER ROUTE (1967).
- The title of the movie comes from an expression: “The female of the species is deadlier than the male.” One of the Bulldog Drummond books is titled THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, and this inspired the title of our movie.
- I dislike that this film is always promoted as a secret agent movie when it is not! Even IMDb referred to Hugh Drummond as a British agent – which goes to show that none of them even bothered to watch the movie. I don’t mind that the film was made to cash in on the James Bond craze, but it is another example of how little thinking goes into Hollywood labeling.
- I really like Richard Johnson as Drummond and would have loved to have seen him play James Bond. He lost out to Sean Connery but here we get to see what he would have been like had he played Bond.
- I think the casting for this film was amazing. I have seen Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina, Nigel Green, Suzanna Leigh, Steve Carlson, and Laurence Naismith in dozens of other productions. In fact, Elke Sommer and Nigel Green appear together again in THE WRECKING CREW (1969). To have them all here together was a personal treat for me. I enjoy it when the cast of a movie are familiar faces.
- Like many literary heroes Bulldog Drummond had a recurring arch-nemesis named Carl Petersen. He is the equivalent to Blofeld for James Bond or Moriarty for Sherlock Holmes. Petersen is the larger-than-life super-villain of our film and I love that the producers included him.
I really like this movie. I remember so clearly seeing it for the first time with my friends back in 1967. Back then we would watch anything action-adventure. I saw it again recently for this article and it has stood the test of time. It is a slick, neat number that does not fail to delight and entertain. And after all, isn’t that what we ask of a movie?
I recommend this movie. I saw it on Tubi but I know it is also available on Amazon. If you enjoy 1960s action-adventure flicks – check it out. If you like high adventure with just the right dash of humor – check it out. If you like larger than life heroes and villains – check it out! You will not be disappointed I promise you.
On our scale of one to five I give DEADLIER THAN THE MALE four and a half gray geeks.
Well, that is all for this time my friends. Until next time be safe – the troubles aren’t over yet. Tune in again, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.