Some Girls Do

In addition to flying sports cars and a machine that mixes the perfect martini, one of the accoutrements of worldly masculine adulthood that impressionable young boys weaned on sixties pop culture grew up to expect is the ready availability of pliant female robots. What surprises me about this particular trope is not just how much it turned up in movies, TV shows and dime fiction throughout the decade, but how much it showed up in stories that were ostensibly set in the then present day. It’s as if the people who cooked up these ideas were somehow convinced that the technology already existed to create fembots, but that some self-appointed guardians of knowledge were conspiring to keep the discovery away from the general public–perhaps out of some misguided fear that people might use such an invention irresponsibly.

Of course, whenever these girl-tomatons appeared, it was almost invariably at the pleasure of some effete super-villain–and so they served the dual purpose of providing both audience titillation and an unflattering contrast to the manly hero, who, unlike his obviously hard-up nemesis, was fully capable of making actual flesh-and-blood women fall under his spell. These forty-some years later, science has still not–at least, to my knowledge–cracked the secret of producing fully functioning electronic women. I guess that an effete super-villain in the real world of today would have to settle for simply staffing his secret compound with a contingent of those creepy Real Dolls.

Which brings me to Some Girls Do, the second of British producer Betty E. Box’s attempts to bring Herman Cyril McNeile’s two-fisted 1930’s fictional hero Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond into the late twentieth century. The first attempt, 1966’s Deadlier Than the Male, was a film of many charms (Elke Sommer as a bikini clad assassin, a set piece involving giant robotic chessmen–a theme sung by Scott Walker, for God’s sake!), and if you enjoyed that one, there is no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy Some Girls Do, because this sequel brings with if all of the joys–as well as the flaws–of its predecessor. In fact the two films are so similar in almost every way, that its hard to believe that there are three years separating them.

Star Richard Johnson and director Ralph Thomas both return for this outing, as do writers David Osborn and Liz Charles-Williams (though this time without the help of Jimmy Sangster). Also returning is Drummond’s arch nemesis, Carl Peterson, this time portrayed by James Villiers. As in Deadlier, Peterson has at his bidding a small private army of mercilessly efficient and stylishly under-dressed female assassins. Whereas Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina lead that squad of killers in the first film, they are here replaced by Dalia Lavi and Bebe Loncar. I can only see that change in casting as an upgrade, because, as fetching as Sommer is in Deadly, for me nothing can compete with the dark beauty of the Israeli born actress Lavi–and that is an opinion that was fixed in my young mind many, many years ago, by the vision of Lavi strapped nude to a chrome table, verbally reducing Woody Allen to chum, at the end of Casino Royale.

As with Deadlier Than the Male, the tone of Some Girls Do is very similar to that of the Diana Rigg-era Avengers, in that where the plot ultimately leads us is really secondary in importance to the various tongue-in-cheek situations and quirky characters that we meet up with along the way. In that spirit we’re given Robert Morley as an undercover ally of Drummond’s who runs a cooking school under the name Miss Mary, and Ronnie Stevens as a bumbling fellow agent who tries to cover up the fact that he’s a hopeless mama’s boy with pathetic attempts to appear “with it” 1969-style. My favorite of these cameos is Florence Desmond’s turn as Lady Manderley, a heroic (and, singularly among the rest of the female cast, middle-aged) female undercover operative who provides a nice counterpoint to the rest of the women on display, all of whom are either man-eaters or dim-bulbs. Or robots–specifically of the kind that are in every way identical to real women, except with large, elevator style “off” and “on” buttons on their necks (which I guess would put them squarely in the “tongue-in-cheek situation” category).

This is not to say that Some Girls Do‘s preoccupation with such zany business prevents it from delivering a fast paced–if somewhat preposterous–adventure narrative. A device that destroys by means of infrasonic waves is the macguffin here–and as Drummond tries to track it down, we’re treated to that classic sixties spy movie scenario in which the villains, rather than sensibly staying on the down-low until the heat wears off, make repeated and increasingly brazen attempts on the hero’s life, leaving a handy breadcrumb trail of botched assassination attempts that ultimately serves to lead the hero right to them. This, of course, makes for some exciting action set pieces–and I’m more than happy to forego character logic if by way of compensation I get Richard Johnson in a sleek, space-age glider being buzzed by a murderous Dalia Lavi in a bi-plane.

As for Johnson, I think that perhaps the decision to rework Drummond as a Bondian hero puts an unfair burden of expectation upon him. With his posh accent and relatively formal bearing, there’s something slightly old world about him that prevents him from completely embodying the same fast-paced modernity that Connery’s Bond does. At the same time, I think that this quality may in fact make him perfect for the role, because he manages to straddle both the bygone era of his character’s origin and the modern era in which the filmmakers seek to place him. In any case, seeing as Drummond works for an insurance company, rather than some international spy organization, having him be a bit more on the conservative side serves less to strain credulity than were he to be presented as another Flint or Matt Helm.

While I can make peace with Johnson’s performance, however, one thing that does get in the way of my enjoyment of Some Girls Do – just as it did with Deadlier Than the Male – is the producers’ determination, presumably as an attempted capitulation to the American youth market, to team Drummond with a youthful American comic foil. In Deadlier, this role was filled by Steve Carlson as Drummond’s American nephew Robert–and while Carlson managed not to be too annoying, he was distractingly unnecessary. On the other hand, in Some Girls Do, actress Sydne Rome–in her portrayal of “Flicky” (um, what?), an apparently love-struck American girl who ends up shadowing Drummond’s every move–manages to be at once both unnecessary and annoying.

Still, it seems unfair to pick at Some Girls Do too much–because, like it’s predecessor, its a film that’s very generous in its intentions. Or at least it is if you’re someone who appreciates a nicely appointed sixties espionage caper filled with international locations, outlandish set pieces, and beautiful women. That’s not everyone, I know. But if it’s you, Some Girls Do will be all over you like an eager-to-please robot love slave. And I’m sorry to tell you that that’s about the closest you’re ever going to come to that experience.

10 thoughts on “Some Girls Do”

  1. are you telling me that the words to “electric lady land” by Fantastic Plastic Machine are lying, and that a robotic Nomiya Maki is never going to materialise in my low budget batchelor pad, and salsa dance to Martin Denny with me? Say it aint so………

  2. Your reference sent me into such a deep Shibya-kei revery that I am unable to respond coherently. Whatever happened to Cornelius, anyway?

  3. Unnecessary and annoying? Todd, thank you for summing up every Sydne Rome performance in any film.

  4. Please don’t worry. Shibuya-kei is alive and well. I can send you oodles of pictures of DJ FPM looking like a panda and playing his regular live DJ set in Shinsaibashi, which might not have the drop-dead cool of Shibuya, but still exists.

    So, for your satisfaction, Cornelius, Towa Tei, Natsuki Mari, Kahimi Kari are still doing things and even have occasional club nights in my home town. I even have photographs!

  5. Thinking more about this…..
    Fembotology was very much a product of Sci-Fi and feminism from the late-60’s……and oddly, satanism too. There’s a big chunk of Anton LaVay that’s all about “politically correct slavery” and how you can rationalise the idea of a slave that wants to be a slave. Which is obviously an idea so politically rancid as the culinary idea of a meal that wants to me be eaten (like the genetically engineered edible animal in “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”)

    The idea of a feminine creature that positively desires to be raped and owned is not new, and actually isn’t unique to third-generation feminist crit/lit/clit. I think fembots have been around since at least “Metropolis”, and someone better schooled in modern art could probably tell me me more about it. If so, please do.

  6. I hate to be coming to this review even a little late, because I’ve always been incredibly attached to this one. In spite of being such an escapist movie – or maybe BECAUSE of being one – it’s full of things that countless other adventure films shy away from (not only “gritty” ones but OTHER escapist ones). A lot of these things are big SPOILERS, of course.

    For one thing, Drummond bedding the Helga character twice, and escaping getting killed by her twice (maybe that was a friendly jab at the Bond movies themselves, since Bond did that frequently, but not with the same femme fatale twice!). Then of course there’s the Pandora character. Even more than DEADLIER THAN THE MALE, this movie gives you a pair of femme fatales who are both equally bad, but look and act so differently, sophisticated Helga and comical “dumb bunny” Pandora. And of course there’s the pretty out-of-left-field ruthless way Drummond deals with not only Carl but the two of them, more or less making sure they both get killed. I get so incredibly tired of those heroine / villainess showdown scenes in adventure films because it seems like I’ve seen a thousand of them, and in spite of her being such a comic relief kind of sidekick, you more than half expect one of those between Flicky and one or both of the girls. But instead, it’s Drummond who does it. So in spite of this being Bulldog Drummond given the Bond movie treatment, it’s almost like one of those early DESTROYER books – in spite of the bed scenes, the hero has no problem putting the hot villainess out of the way, or the hot ditzy villainess either!

    I’m just glad this story didn’t go ALL-OUT with the “fem-bot” idea by making the two of them machines too. And I’m very glad it didn’t make them unwilling female helpers just waiting to be won over by the hero. That particular spy movie cliché is nice some of the time, but it gets overdone.

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