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.
With special guests the Slaymates of the year.
Today we have some beautiful rarities, a set of door panel posters made for the 1968 Dean Martin spy movie spoof The Wrecking Crew. Martin played the wise-cracking and woman-loving Matt Helm, a character created by novelist Donald Hamilton. There have been a lot of loveable drunks in cinema, but Martin certainly was one of the most popular. Boozy Matt Helm was a perfect role for him, and the first film became the launching point for a series that stretched to four entries.The Wrecking Crew was the last film, coming after 1966's The Silencers and Murderer's Row, and 1967's The Ambushers. The movies were populated by a group of women known as “Slaymates,” and the actresses on the posters below are posing as members of that deadly cadre. They are, top to bottom, Sharon Tate, Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise, and a fifth woman no other website seems able to identify, but who we're pretty sure is Kenya Coburn.These posters are 51 x 152 centimeters in size, or 20 x 60 for you folks who measure in inches, and they caught our eye mainly because of Tate. There's been renewed interest in her, including portrayals in two 2019 films—The Haunting of Sharon Tate and Quentin Tarantino's new effort Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Her poster is definitely one of the nicest pieces of Tate memorabilia we've seen.
We glanced at The Silencers a while back and found it just a little too dumb to consider slogging through the series, but maybe we'll have another go at it. We're sort of newly interested in Tate too, and since The Wrecking Crew was her next-to-last screen role, we want to have a look. Allegedly, Dean Martin quit this highly successful franchise because it felt wrong to go on with it after the Tate–LaBianca murders in August 1969. From what we've read about the era, Martin was far from the only person who felt as if that event changed everything. These days Tate's death makes anything she's in seem ironic and portentous, even, we suspect, a piece of fluff like The Wrecking Crew.
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.
Elke escapes the East and probably wished she could have escaped the movie.
Even after seeing hundreds of photos of German goddess Elke Sommer over the years, ocasionally you see come across some and have to hit pause. She appeared on the cover and inside the American magazine Escapade in January 1968, posing for a set of photos taken from her comedy The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, which had premiered in New York City on January 3rd. Sommer plays an East German decathlete who wants to escape to the west, and does so by pole vaulting over the Berlin Wall, which is what the images below depict. Why is she in her underwear? We've seen the movie but we don't remember. We do know it featured Hogan's Heroes cast members Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, and Leon Askin, and that it uses the Hogan's formula, replacing improbably bumbling Nazis with improbably bumbling communists. But before you add this one to your queue, here's something else we recall—it was terrible.
Aussie publisher spices up thriller with an image of Elke Sommer.
Last week we shared some images of Elke Sommer from the debut issue of the French magazine Stop. Those were a deliberate preface to today's post, which shows the cover for Carter Brown’s, aka Alan G. Yates’ mystery Death of a Doll from Australia's Transport Publishing, the paperback division of Horwitz Publications.
You can see that the designer used Sommer for his inspiration. Her normally blonde hair was changed to match the hair color of the story’s redheaded femme fatale, but what’s really interesting about this cover is the yawning pose. At least a couple of images from the Stop layout would have worked better, we think, but that’s just our humble opinion.
At first we thought the designer here was Bernard Blackburn, who made many of Horwitz-Transport’s photo-illustrated covers during the mid-1950s, but then we learned that this “reprint by demand” edition appeared in 1960. So we have no idea who created the cover, but he/she had good taste in models, though we seriously doubt Sommer received any compensation for her starring role. Check out the rest of those rare Stop images here and see if you don’t agree about the designer making a weird choice.
The brightest light in Hollywood.
Elke Sommer speeds through Hollywood during the late hours in this promotional photo from a 1963 issue of the French magazine Stop. She was famous at this point, having appeared in films in Europe, but she wasn’t yet the global icon she would become. In less than a year the hit comedy A Shot in the Dark would make her one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Sommer isn’t over quite yet.
In June we shared a Japanese poster for Elke Sommer’s 1966 comedy Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number and talked about the movie a bit. Today we have an even better Italian promo for the same film. In Italy it was succinctly retitled Un bikini per Didi, and the art is by yet another Italian talent, this time Tino Avelli, who we haven’t featured before. Another version of the poster appears below, and we’ll have more from Avelli later. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1960—To Kill a Mockingbird Appears
Harper Lee's racially charged novel To Kill a Mockingbird
is published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. The book is hailed as a classic, becomes an international
bestseller, and spawns a movie starring Gregory Peck, but is the only novel Lee would ever publish.
1962—Nuke Test on Xmas Island
As part of the nuclear tests codenamed Operation Dominic, the United States detonates a one megaton bomb on Australian controlled Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. The island was a location for a series of American and British nuclear tests, and years later lawsuits claiming radiation damage to military personnel were filed, but none were settled in favor in the soldiers.
1940—The Battle of Britain Begins
The German Air Force, aka the Luftwaffe, attacks shipping convoys off the coast of England, touching off what Prime Minister Winston Churchill describes as The Battle of Britain.
1948—Paige Takes Mound in the Majors
Satchel Paige, considered at the time the greatest of Negro League pitchers, makes his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42. His career in the majors is short because of his age, but even so, as time passes, he is recognized by baseball experts as one of the great pitchers of all time.
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