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Deadlier Than The Male: Femme Fatales Of 1960s And 1970s Cinema by Douglas Brode (book review).

Having covered a special edition of ‘Retro Cinema’ on femme fatales last year, it seemed appropriate to have a look at Douglas Brode’s book, ‘Deadlier Than The Male: Femme Fatales Of 1960s And 1970s Cinema’ where he looks at 108 actresses who played femme fatales in their acting careers. As Brode points out in his introduction, he omits those who only acted once or twice, so a few but not all Italian actresses are missing. I should point out that there are lots of black and white photos in this book with some limited nudity and all genres are covered, including horror and a little SF. Just the kind of book you want to read in the current winter spell we’re having, although, as you might be reading this review later in the year, weather is optional. For those who need reminding, a femme fatale is a dangerous seductive woman who often lures men to their doom.

Error alert swung into motion after the introduction where a three woman photo showed someone couldn’t tell their left from their right with Imogen Hassall (who isn’t in the book) and Magda Konopka (who is and quickly photo verified) identified incorrectly. Granted, at 500 pages, errors are bound to creep in but they are often with things that should have been right. Brode, as an American, might not have seen the ITV series ‘The Champions’, but he surely shouldn’t have mistakenly had the trio of agents working as enemies of Nemesis as they were the organisation’s star team. Likewise, to call Diana Rigg’s character in ‘The Avengers’, ‘Mrs Emma Steed’ in the Honor Blackman entry, he gets it right under her own entry, should have been spotted. Some of us do read every entry and I’m not doing my job right if I didn’t know my subject. Speaking of Diana Rigg, her leather apparel in her first season of ‘The Avengers’ was to stay in the same kind of clothing Honor Blackman’s Cathy Gale wore although this was softened up as the season progressed. Brode misses the point that Mrs. Peel was a widow and hence her title.

In reference to the original ‘Star Trek’ episode ‘Whom Gods Destroy’ and Yvonne Craig’s role, Gareth (actor Steve Ihnat) wasn’t in charge of the asylum but an inmate who broke out and he took over.

It’s a bit disconcerting have Mary and Madeleine Collinson under the first twin’s name than together.

Brode uses a selected bibliography of films for each actress, which does include the part names. However, I’m surprised under the Shirley Eaton entry, he didn’t include ‘The Girl From Rio’ (1969) her last film which had her the most devious. I should point out that many of the actresses played against type although there are a few surprises that didn’t.

With the Caroline Munro entry and Brode’s comment about the lack of her not being noted as Victoria in the ‘Dr. Phibes’ films, it was more a blink and miss her comatose scenes. Non-speaking parts in UK films tend not to be given credits. Likewise, I doubt if Pamela Stephenson ever played Purdey in ‘The New Avengers’ as that was Joanna Lumley’s role.

I did have to giggle at the caption of an 007 promo photo under the Eunice Gayson entry where the caption points out where Sean Connery is standing as if the reader couldn’t identify him with three actresses. This also happens again in the Tania Mallet entry as well. I do think the reason why Gayson was dropped from the Bond films are after appearing in two of them was to move the regular female attraction to Miss Moneypenny.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of useful information here and I was forever making a point of checking on the availability of some films I hadn’t seen and disappointed by how many have been edited down when in this day and age, uncensored editions would still seem tame. A number of them also have been made from poor copies so resist going for them and hope the studios might get their act together for a proper release. I found out that ‘The Red Queen Kills Seven Times’ is being released in the UK in April this week so this book definitely tunes you into titles you’ve never heard of before or seen on TV. You would have thought how many of the horror films would be tame by comparison to today’s output that the full versions would have been released on DVD.

Some things he’s very right on. Ursula Andress’ singing voice in ‘Dr. No’ was Diana Coupland. As indeed, Barbara Jefford dubbed voice for Italian actress Daniela Bianchi in ‘From Russia With Love’.

Something that does stick in my head from all the entries was the number of actresses associated with horror legend Countess Ersbeth Bathory and her need to keep young by bathing in virgins’ blood in the various films. Whether this makes Bathory the ultimate femme fatale, it does make me wonder if there ought to be a book out there based on characters as well.

I had to give a serious think as to who was left out of this list. I might have considered the young Helen Mirrin but her career was only building up in the 1970s. I was surprised Karen Black wasn’t considered but then there is no list in this book for the potential runners-up.

Please don’t treat my error finding as making this book something to avoid. The number of black and white photos and filling the pages alone makes this book worth having. Much of this book is reasonably accurate and will fill you in on much of the history of femme fatales in films. These days, the femme fatale seems like a stereotype lost in the past but it might be because films have run out of ideas what to do with them other than seducing men. All the signs for a revival.

GF Willmetts

January 2017

(pub: BearManor Media. 509 page illustrated enlarged paperback. Price: $24.95 (US), £16.79 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59393-184-1)

check out website: www.bearmanormedia.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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