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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sommer and Koscina emphasize their points.
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.
Koscina worships the sun and the sun worships her in return.
Above, a publicity still of Croatian actress and model Sylva Koscina made when she was filming Deadlier than the Male in the Mediterranean in 1967. She was paired in the movie with Elke Sommer, who we featured as our very first femme fatale with a photo from the same film.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1919—Wilson Suffers Stroke
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He is confined to bed for weeks, but eventually resumes his duties, though his participation is little more than perfunctory. Wilson remains disabled throughout the remainder of his term in office, and the rest of his life.
1968—Massacre in Mexico
Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics
in Mexico City, a peaceful student demonstration ends in the Tlatelolco Massacre. 200 to 300 students are gunned down, and to this day there is no consensus about how or why the shooting began.
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant
, East of Eden
, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause
, dies in an auto accident
at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
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