Deadlier Than the Male

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For the 1966 song, see Deadlier Than the Male (song). For the 2005 television episode, see Ultimate Force.
Deadlier Than the Male
Deadlier Than the Male - UK film poster.jpg
UK cinema poster
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Produced by Betty E. Box
Sydney Box
Written by Liz Charles-Williams
David D. Osborn
Jimmy Sangster
Starring Richard Johnson
Elke Sommer
Sylva Koscina
Nigel Green
Music by Malcolm Lockyer
title song performed by The Walker Brothers
Cinematography Ernest Steward
Edited by Alfred Roome
Distributed by J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors (UK)
Universal Pictures (USA)
Release dates
  • 21 February 1967 (1967-02-21) (London, premiere)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Deadlier Than the Male is a 1967 British crime mystery film.[1] It is one of the many take-offs of James Bond produced during the 1960s, but is based on an already established detective fiction hero, Bulldog Drummond.

Richard Johnson (director Terence Young's original preference to play James Bond) stars as Drummond, updated to a suave Korean War veteran, now an insurance investigator, trailing a pair of sexy assassins (Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina) who kill for sport and profit. Drummond's American nephew, Robert Drummond (Steve Carlson, then a Universal Pictures contract star), becomes involved in the intrigue when he comes to visit.

The title is a reference to the 1911 Rudyard Kipling poem "The Female of the Species," which includes the line, "The female of the species must be deadlier than the male", and also refers to Sapper's earlier Drummond book, The Female of the Species. The working title of the film was The Female of the Species.[2] "Deadlier Than the Male", the song featured in the film`s opening credit sequence, was performed by the Walker Brothers.

Filmed in Technicolor and Techniscope, portions of the film were shot in Lerici, La Spezia, Liguria, Italy.

There was a sequel, Some Girls Do, in 1969.


Irma Eckman (Elke Sommer) assassinates oil tycoon Henry Keller. Later, she and the equally beautiful Penelope murder David Wyngarde, making it look like a spear fishing accident. Sir John Bledlow (Laurence Naismith), one of the directors of Phoenecian Oil, suspects that both deaths were the result of foul play; he had received an urgent message from Wyngarde that he needed to get in touch with Keller regarding a "matter of life and death". He asks Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond to investigate. Wyngarde was Drummond's friend.

A representative of an unknown party had approached Phoenecian and offered to overcome Keller's opposition to a merger with Phoenician within six months for one million pounds. Irma shows up at a board meeting to collect. However, the board is divided - with Henry Bridgenorth being the most vocal in opposition - and the vote is five to four against paying. That night, Irma and Penelope (Sylva Koscina) visit Bridgenorth, with fatal results. When the board reconvenes, the directors vote unanimously to pay.

Carloggio, Wyngarde's servant, delivers a tiny bit of a taped message Wyngarde had recorded. Only part of one sentence remains (the assassins stole the rest). Then Penelope delivers a box of deadly cigars to Drummond's flat while he is out. Brenda, a girl Drummond's nephew Robert has brought back to the flat, narrowly escapes the same fate as Keller. Later that night, another attempt is made on Drummond's life.

The next day, Irma makes Phoenecian another proposition: to get them the oil concession in the country of Akmata, despite the King's determination to develop the oil fields himself, for another million pounds. Drummond realises that the King's assassination is what the garbled tape was referring to.

Meanwhile, Penelope abducts and tortures Robert, but he can tell her nothing. Drummond follows Irma back to their flat and is able to rescue his nephew before he is blown up. He is then astonished to discover that Robert is an old college friend of the Akmatan king.

Irma does away with Weston (Nigel Green), another Phoenecian board member. Drummond travels to the Mediterranean coast. After meeting and warning King Fedra (Zia Mohyeddin), he is invited to a castle owned by the wealthy Carl Petersen, the genius behind the assassinations. It turns out that Petersen is none other than Weston. Drummond is not allowed to leave the castle.

Grace, one of Petersen's women, confides her desire to leave to Drummond, but Petersen is watching and listening electronically. Petersen gives Grace a "second chance"; she uses the opportunity to board the King's yacht as soon as she has the chance, just as Petersen had planned. While playing chess against Petersen with giant motorized pieces, Drummond learns that Grace is unwittingly carrying the bomb intended for the King. He kills Petersen's bodyguard Chang (Milton Reid) and drops Petersen into the hole through which a chess piece is removed from play.

Drummond races to the King's yacht, capturing Irma and Penelope along the way and bringing them along. He searches Grace for the explosive, finally stripping her naked; when the guard holding Irma and Penelope at gunpoint is distracted by this, the pair escape. As they race away in a speedboat, Irma reveals that the bomb is in Grace's hairclip. Penelope is aghast; having envied Grace's chignon, she stole it and is wearing it. The two assassins are killed when it explodes.



It was publicity announced in December 1964[3] but it wasn't filmed until 1966. In an interview, Ralph Thomas stated that the film was intended as a pilot for a television series.[4] It was filmed in three months with Thomas admitting he did it for "greed".

The producers battled the British Board of Film Censors who strongly objected to the film's use of women assassins, torture and promiscuity, earning the film an X rating.[5]


  1. ^ Deming, Mark. "Deadlier Than the Male (1967)". Allmovie. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  2. ^ p. 197 Spicer, Andrew Sydney Box Manchester University Press, 05/09/2006
  3. ^ p. 57 Films and Filming, Volume 10, Issues 7-12 Hansom Books, 1964
  4. ^ Dixon, Wheeler W. Ralph Thomas Interview Collected Interviews: Voices from Twentieth-Century Cinema 2001 SIU Press
  5. ^ p.197 Spicer

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