Bullshot

The 1969 follow-up to DEADLIER THAN THE MALE is called SOME GIRLS DO, and it’s both better and worse. Better, because it’s more consistently silly, rather than nasty, and the annoying American sidekick has been replaced by an annoying British sidekick called Reggie, as should be. Worse, as the script by David Osborn and Liz Charles-Williams lacks the occasional plot felicities of Jimmy Sangster’s original — indeed, it sometimes seems a straight rip-off. Both films begin with a glamor girl disguised as an air stewardess assassinating a passenger, unmask their villain as a would-be Mabuse called Petersen, and spend a lot of time with “Bulldog” imprisoned by Petersen as the madman monologues away about his plans for world domination or whatevs.

Petersen, who died in the previous film, has mysteriously returned, and is played by a different actor, the droll James Villiers, which suggests a fast-and-loose approach to continuity. Virginia North (Vulnavia in DR PHIBES), who played the useless nephew’s girlfriend in the first film, here plays a murderous fembot with an “off” switch on her neck. Also appearing as background crumpet are Joanna Lumley and Yutte Stensgard, with Daliah Lavi as lead femme fatale. Goo-goo-eyed babe Sydne Rome is a sort of femme foetal, with a berserk comedy performance that finally convinced me that she’s not a dumb blonde, just very good at playing one. I should know better than to be taken in by the bimbo act. Her work in Polanski’s WHAT? is so artfully artless as to suggest an entirely empty head atop a curvaceous body, being skillfully moved about by unseen off-camera-hands. But she’s a proper actress, or at least a real performer. What she does may not be subtle, but it shows the only real enthusiasm in the picture.

The idea of a maladroit female sidekick was trotted out again in THE WRECKING CREW with Sharon Tate providing the sexy bumbling, and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN gave the blonde business to Britt Ekland. On the one hand, at least it gives the actresses something to play. On the other, it’s not exactly empowering. Sydne Rome’s ditzy ebullience does take some of the curse off it.

Villiers, sad to relate, is hampered by a series of ridiculous disguises, and proves to be no master of accents. Only when he’s unmasked and can swan around, exulting in his own nastiness, do we get the full, unfettered J.V.

Richard Johnson raises an eyebrow here and there and is mercifully unsupplied with quips. A plot point involving the “robotizing” of girls — fitting them with artificial brains — seems tacky and unpleasant, unmasking the dehumanization fantasy of so much swinging sixties sex stuff: the idea of the perfect woman being brain-dead and compliant. Objectification is a tricky point — human bodies ARE objects and it seems fair enough for artists to explore their physical properties, but when the storyline drools over the idea of reducing a person to an animate automaton, something more sinister is going on. The fact that the mastermind of all this is played by the strikingly camp Villiers is just another note of nonsense.

This movie seems to have killed off “Bulldog” for good — not even TV has tried to resuscitate the old bigot. A 1983 spoof, BULLSHOT, from Handmade Films, was really quite bad: it took George Harrison quite a while to realize he couldn’t replace the Monty Python team.

A reader sends me this image of her striking James Villiers tattoo — “Jimbo” shares arm-space with Jonathan Frid from DARK SHADOWS.

13 Responses to “Bullshot”

  1. The fellow narrating this trailer has made the colossal mistake of pronouncing Jimbo’s name incorrectly… it’s “Vill-ers”. However, it does NOT stop me from watching it over and again!

    “Nev-vah be-ack ah looo-sah!”

    Nobody sounds like James Villiers!

  2. The closest thing is probably Robert Stephens. Or maybe Tim Curry. I like all those plummy thesps, the Fox Bros also.

  3. Absolutely adore James Villiers. He’s the cinema’s most elegant upper-class twit.

  4. The best “open mouthed Brit twit” role Jimbo played, to my knowledge, was Dinsdale Gurney in The Ruling Class”. A film I return to time and again to get a plummy voiced fix.

    Still, “Pygmalion” will forever be my favorite bit of his work. He is pristine in Shaw’s original inception of Higgins– elitist, rude, intelligent, cruel, charming and a totally entitled arse!

  5. Eva/Eve was featured in Shadowplay’s Losey Week, but it will certainly be high on my list of Loseys to revisit. Beautiful filmmaking.

    Jillers the tattooed lady has been asking after obscure Villiers movies and I’m startled to discover I own nearly all of them. It’s not really intentional, although he’s someone I always get a kick out of, like finding Elisha Cook in an American noir, or Glenda Farrell in a precode. One perks up immediately.

  6. Back in the mid 80s… when I was a young yeg in school, I saw “The Scarlet Pimpernel” with Anthony Andrews (having been a huge fan of Leslie Howard)– that was back in 1985. Jimbo had a minor role as the Baron du Baatz… and I haven’t forgotten his voice from that year to this! It’s amazing what films he pops up in! The fact that I have his image tattooed on my arm is not the real testament to my ultimate fandom… it was my sitting through “King Ralph”!

  7. Maybe Eve should be revisited as part of a James Hadley Chase week — with both versions of No Orchids For Miss Blandish plus Patrice Chereau’s sublimely wacko Flesh of the Orchid

  8. I already reviewed the goofy Jack LaRue Blandish… I went off Chase when I discovered that not only was Blandish ripped from Faulkner’s Sanctuary (also filmed with LaRue), but he swiped the entirety of a great little ghost story, Room 13, from Edith Nesbitt.

    For ghost story fans, I recommend E Nesbitt most heartily. Her children’s books are great too, of course.

  9. AND… Available on DVD– “The Edwardians”, an episode called “E. Nesbit” starring our very own Jimbo Villiers.

  10. Excellent! Edith had a very interesting life… feminist and socialist and open relationship/menage a trois thing going on.

  11. It was a very interesting little vignette; and very risque, even by today’s standards! I loved seeing Nesbit’s husband (played by Jimbo) discussing his daughter’s frillys at the lunch table! Took me a full week to send that back to Netflix!

  12. Certain kinds of sexual weirdness were, I think, looked on with LESS distruct in the 70s than they would be today.

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