Intelligence work for centuries has been an important part of a nation’s security. Over the years, the profession of “the spy” was developed and particularly during the Cold War those people – no matter from which side of the Iron Curtain – were interested in securing their respective country an advantage in information or technology.

When some ten years after the introduction of the spy in literature on a broad basis the first James Bond Movie “Dr. No” (1962) hit the cinemas, it was the beginning of an entirely new sort of TV series and movies that borrowed more or less strongly from the Bond movies that were continued the following year with “From Russia With Love.”

Film Fatales will be very instrumental in transporting us back to those old times. Undoubtedly, the names of Nancy Sinatra, Elke Sommer, Raquel Welch or Bond girls Ursula Andress, Karin Dor and Daniela Bianchi will ring a bell with fans of espionage thrillers and secret commando films from the 1960s and early 1970s.

Lovely Dianna Rigg, star of “The Avengers,” will always be remembered for her performance and her mod outfits. But who really remembers the B-movie “The Doll Squad” (1973) or beauties such as Alexandra Bastedo, a first-rate female spy equipped with super powers and telepathic abilities in the British TV show “The Champions”? Or, Rosemary Nicols, another actress who could easily have been a supermodel, but (on TV) chose to be one of the three top agents in “Department S,” a TV series that was abandoned in 1970 to make way for “Jason King”?

A total of 107 gorgeous actresses who either played spies, killers, bodyguards, mistresses or femmes fatales out for revenge are introduced and celebrated here. Some receive lots of attention (and pages), while others are mentioned only briefly; nevertheless, there are many comments, anecdotes and behind-the-scenes bits. Authors Tom Lisanti, cinema buff and 1960s expert, and Louis Paul, film magazine publisher and horror film specialist, also added information usually left out from such works of reference: their entries follow the actors’ biographies, even after they were no longer in the spotlight and did entirely different things.

The volume comes with some 120 photos: movie posters, film stills, press kit shots, a useful bibliography, and brief filmography for each actress. A long introduction takes a look at fictional female spies, the political realities during the Cold War and the many stories that were conceived to follow the success of the Bond boom on TV and in cinemas.
The 300+ pages will also serve as a nice directory of attractive actresses from the 1960s since this is a huge celebration of the dangerous screen ladies of a glamorous and colorful movie era long ago. (This review covers the new 2016 paperback edition).

Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2017

Tom Lisanti and‎ Louis Paul. Film Fatales. Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1963-1973. Foreword by Eileen O’Neill. McFarland 2016 (2002), 352 p.