Roger Kemp (Bernard Holley) is a British businessman who leaves the house this morning with a view to going on a trip abroad for his job, so kisses goodbye to his wife and young daughter and heads off to the airport. Once he reaches there, he checks in, buys a couple of magazines, and settles in the departure lounge to await his flight only to get distracted by the woman (Rula Lenska) sitting next to him who asks him for a light for her cigarette. She engages him in conversation, offers him one of her smokes, then gets up and walks away - but Roger doesn't.
That's because the cigarette was poisoned (well, more poisoned than it's supposed to be usually) and Roger is dead! Sounds like a beginning to a tense thriller, doesn't it? Imagine it: a troupe of killer female assassins cutting a swathe through Britain's great and good, devising ingenious ways to kill them, sitting about chatting, drinking cups of tea - here, wait a minute, this isn't exciting at all. That was the problem here, that in trying to conjure up a state of the nation look at the way the United Kingdom was falling into violence, the film's creator Donovan Winter didn't half get distracted by decidedly non-enthralling material.
With the result that The Deadly Females when compared to something like The Doll Squad, for example, from the other side of the Atlantic came up lacking - not even as good as a Ted V. Mikels movie was not a slogan that anyone would want on their poster, but there was such an ordinary tone to much of what we saw, the brief bursts of brutality apart, that you might as well have been watching a contemporary soap opera. Not that the actual brutality was especially shocking for all the claims from the head of the death-dealing agency Joan (Tracy Reed) that these were "The Savage Seventies".
Indeed, there's an almost perverse lack of anything approaching excitement here, as if Winter was so caught up in his drive for Something To Say about society that he forgot to add in much that would be entertaining. As with his previous films as writer and director there was a sexual element, yet here that was presented in largely casual fashion, one scene of a businessman getting "punished" by a naughty nun aside. There was nudity, but not an extensive amount, leaving much of the action relegated to acres of dull chat, some of it between actors in the buff, but more often over those cups of tea as the hits are set up.
Those hits see the ladies of the title offered quite a large amount of screen time, a sure way of dissipating any promise of tension as for the most part they were biding their time until the moment came to strike. Therefore a typical sequence would see a woman inviting a market researcher into her home, they talk, have tea, she walks her around the house (this feels as if it's been going on for half an hour) until a swift karate chop to the back of the neck from the killer sees the housewife tumbling down the stairs (er, offscreen) and deceased. Topping that for listlessness was a following bit where a nurse arrives at a Lord's apartment to give him a massage - I never ordered a massage, quoth he, there must be a mistake she replies, do you want a drink he asks, yawn goes the audience, you get the idea, although this is actually an excuse to get the middle-aged actor out of his clothes rather than the nurse. No matter how many lurid newspaper headlines we saw, it's hard to make a worthwhile connection, glum (if eerily detatched) as this is.