Femmes Fatales Jan 6 2024
WAVE ACTION
Elke snags seashells by the seashore.


German star Elke Sommer shows her beach bum in this shot made during a photo session in Haiti in 1978, and first published in the the U.S. magazine Eros. Sommer is another of those performers who was huge during her time, but doesn't have what today most film buffs consider many quality efforts among her nearly one hundred movies. A Shot in the Dark and The Prize are probably the best remembered from her mainstream output, while cult fans tend to gravitate toward Lisa and the Devil, The Wrecking Crew, and of course Deadlier Than the Male, which we've seen and written about more than once (feel free to click its keywords just below). We're going to explore a few more of those hundred movies of hers, so maybe we'll uncover a treasure the way Sommer has uncovered the giant conch shell she's hanging onto.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 12 2023
PLUS TWO
Sommer and Koscina add up to one great day.


We've looked at the output of Italian illustrator Jean Mascii a few times. Above you see his work again, this time on a poster for the James Bond-style adventure Plus féroces que les mâles, which first showed in France today in 1967 but had its global premiere months earlier in England as Deadlier Than the Male. Over four decades, working from the early ’50s until the late ’80s, Mascii painted almost 1,500 movie posters, hundreds of book covers, and a copious amount of print advertising. You can click his keywords at bottom to see a few more posters we've shared on our site, or click here to take the express lane to one of his very best.

The “deadlier” in Deadlier Than the Male refers to co-stars Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina, two of the more beautiful products of the mid-century era, who play assassins. We've shared posters for the film from Japantwice—and the former Yugoslavia. Returning to it yet again is mainly an excuse to share some of the many production photos we've found—to go along with this one, this one, and this one. Today we're restricting ourselves to only Sommer and Koscina's bikini shots, because the skin and smiles say summertime to us. There are drawbacks to movie stardom, so we hear, but some days surely must be just fine.
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Femmes Fatales Apr 22 2022
SOMETHING'S GARTER GIVE
Where Elke is concerned a cigar is never just a cigar.


You know the famous quote attributed to Sigmund Freud, right? He's sometimes criticized for having seen phallic symbols and sexual subtext where they didn't exist, but apparently he once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But not in this case. In 1967's Deadlier Than the Male, Elke Sommer's cigar is an explosive she uses to assassinate someone, blowing his airplane out of the sky as she parachutes safely to the ground. It's a cheeseball movie, but her turn as the ultimate femme fatale makes it worth watching. You can read more about it here, and see plenty more Elke here, there, and everywhere.

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Vintage Pulp May 13 2020
BRINK OF EXTINCTION
Males top the endangered species list in 1967 spy thriller.


We've shared a lot of art, including a previous Japanese poster, from the James Bond knockoff Deadlier than the Male without ever actually talking about the movie. Today seems like an opportune time, since we're already on the subject of Bond clones. The film, which premiered in Japan today in 1967 after opening in the the UK earlier in the year, starred Richard Johnson, who actually came close to landing the role of Bond thanks to the interest of Dr. No director Terence Young. It didn't happen, though, and Connery as Bond makes more sense when you see Johnson, who's older, skinnier, shorter, and in less pristine shape. But he has panache, and that may be why Young wanted him. Instead he got Connery, and Johnson got the consolation prize of playing Hugh Drummond, a character that originates in H.C. McNeile novels from the 1920s, but who's updated to the ’60s in order to deal with a Cold War plot to steal rockets and divert them for nefarious means.

Like the Bond films, Deadlier than the Male offers a winning combination of action, quips, exotic scenery, and lightweight sexiness, but the film never quite rises to the upper echelons. Without the Bond budget it's hard to bring a truly thrilling vision to life. At least the filmmakers were smart enough to frontload their assets by opening the proceedings with Elke Sommer, who's second billed, but probably more important than Johnson in terms of increasing the film's watchability. She has a physicality that makes her a nice fit playing an assassin in the employ of the film's ultimate villain. Sylva Koscina co-stars as Sommer's klepto sidekick, which doesn't hurt. The pair's nefarious deeds eventually draw Johnson to their mountaintop stronghold, and there viewers are treated to a final throwdown with the evil mastermind involving a mechanized, life-sized chessboard. While Deadlier than the Male doesn't manage to out-Bond Bond, watch it with friends and beers and you'll maximize its potential.
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Femmes Fatales Jul 31 2018
ENDLESS SOMMER
It's impossible to be on the fence about Elke.


If you watch an Elke Sommer movie you notice immediately how athletic she looks. It was a trademark, and it made her unlike most of her mid-century peers. In fact, in the film Deadlier Than the Male her co-star Richard Johnson specifically disparages her body, opining, “Well, it's not bad. A little bit muscular perhaps, but then you've got to expect that with the violent sort of exercise you undertake.” Sommer was ahead of her time, that's all. Check here and here to see for yourself. This shot of her is from 1959 and appeared in the West German magazine Smart

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Vintage Pulp May 3 2016
THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES
Any evil a man can do she can do worse.


This colorful poster was made for the Australian release of Deadlier Than the Male, known elsewhere in the world as Born To Kill. The movie stars Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney. We had seen Trevor in several roles over the years, including in Murder My Sweet, Johnny Angel, and 1948's Key Largo, but for some reason had never learned to appreciate her talent until seeing her here. Lawrence Tierney, who you may remember as Joe from Reservoir Dogs, is also excellent, if inordinately repellent (as required by his role). A cold-hearted woman meets her match in a brutal man, and the two become entwined in both a murder coverup and adultery. Money is the backdrop but it's jealousy that is the catalyst for every terrible event that occurs. Not a perfect movie, but very good, sprinkled with engaging secondary characters—including Walter Slezak as a sleazy detective—and Trevor knocks her bit out of the park. Deadlier Than the Male premiered as Born To Kill in the U.S. today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 13 2015
TEAM SPEAR IT
Making the world a safer place one skewered man at a time.

Above and below you see some Yugoslavian promo cards for Opasnije od muškaraca, aka Deadlier Than the Male, a film we’ve talked about a few times before. The text is in Serbian, and you’ll notice it describes the movie as “Američki." Actually, it was British. But Brits, Americans, who can tell them apart, really? We imagine the Yugoslavian distributors of the film knew quite well it came from Britain-based Greater Films Ltd., but that they labeled it Američki to make it more marketable. As if Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina aren’t sufficient. See more from the film here.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 22 2013
BITS AND PIECES
The name doesn’t mean what you think.

The magazine Titbits was once so popular it was the first paper to sell more than a million copies a week in Great Britain. The “tit” part isn’t what you think, though this cover image might lead you to jump to conclusions. But actually, the magazine was launched in 1881 as Tit-Bits, and its full name from back then clarifies matters: “Tit-Bits from all the interesting Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers of the World.” So basically, it just rewrote news items—tidbits—from other sources, packaged it all together and sold it off as original content. That successful formula would be emulated by many later magazines, including some of the mid-century tabloids we love to share. This Titbits, which appeared today in 1968, features Pulp Intl. fave Elke Sommer in her famous Deadlier Than the Male bikini. See more of her wearing it here, here and here.

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Intl. Notebook Dec 10 2012
PICTURING SOMMER
There's nothing quite like a perfect Sommer day.

Here’s a random little something we ran across at an auction site, a duotoned cover of Picture Show from today 1968 with Elke Sommer. No interiors, but we thought we’d share it anyway because Sommer has been on our minds since we watched her in Deadlier Than the Male a couple of weeks ago. She really has to be seen to be believed in that. More from Sommer later.

Update: Actually more from Sommer sooner, because we just realized there was another photo of her from the same shoot, which we've uploaded below.
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Vintage Pulp May 13 2012
SPEAR GUNS AND ROSES
Sommer and Koscina are rare sea creatures that hunt on land.

Above, a nice Japanese poster for the 1967 crime thriller Deadlier Than the Male, with Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina. We uploaded a couple of promo shots from this production a long while ago, and you can see them here and here.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
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