Thursday, 24 September 2009

RICH LIST # 2 : Ten Femme Fatales

A list of ten femme fatales. All from different decades, genres and even countries. The one thing they all have in common is they're born to kill. And do so for money, occasionally love but mainly because they like it. As usual loads of plot spoilers.
1) Mona Demarkov (Lena Olin) in ROMEO IS BLEEDING (1994). Neo Noir meets tragicomedy directed by Peter Medak involving cops on the take, endless adultery, bungled hits, outrageous dream sequences and three possible femme fatales but only one real contender. Hey Mona. Ms Demarkov is the Russian assassin marked by the mob due to an unnecessarily violent (well not to Mona) hit. Gary Oldman (the adulterous cop on the take) is coerced into making that hit, but he's dealing with a woman who cannot be charmed, and is a hell of a lot smarter and crazier than him. The main points you need to know about her are this : she laughs when she's killing people, she attempts to strangle one of her victims with her legs, and is prepared to lose an arm to fake her own death. Oh and she's quite prepared to wear as little as possible when doing so. In a way Mona is the ' Uber Femme Fatale '. Her character takes all the qualities you'd expect from a femme fatale, but takes everything up to the next level.

2) Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) in BODY HEAT (1981). Meet Matty Walker. She wants to kill her husband, and use the insurance pay out to be rich and live in an exotic land. She also prefers men who aren't too smart. Matty uses her body and her substantial sex appeal to lure and manipulate William Hurt's not too smart, morally corrupt lawyer into making that dream come true. She smokes cigarettes more confidently (hers stuck out, his flat). She dresses more confidently. She's richer and smarter and not a loser. Once she has him, she keeps on having him. He barely has a moment without her on top of him or with his dick in her hands. She's in control but he's too stupid to realise this or maybe just doesn't care. My favourite moment - she waits behind the locked door to her house, waiting with fevered anticipation for her hapless lover to smash his way into the house. He's just dumb.
3) Lily Carver/Gabrielle (Gaby Rodgers) in KISS ME DEADLY (1955). A sly duplicitous dame obsessed with money, and the 'great whatsit'. She first appears in the guise of Lily, room mate to the unfortunate Christina who is tortured and killed for information at the start of the film. Christina was on the run from unseen gangsters/commies/renegade scientists, and is picked up on a lonely highway by the tough as nails, thick as shit private eye Mike Hammer. Mike, looking for information himself after being dragged into this case, finds Lily at Christina's old flat and is fooled into believing those who killed Christina would be after Lily/Gabrielle too (you still with me?). Hammer finds out what everyone is looking for, gets hit on the head a lot, and Lily/Gabrielle (now just Gabrielle, the real Lily drowned) makes off with a box hidden in a locker by Christina. Now hiding out in a beach hut with the annoyingly pompous Dr Soberin, and the prospect of making off with a lot of money courtesy of the 'great whatsit' is too much for her so she kills the doctor (the mastermind behind the whole gruesome affair), and takes a peek inside the box. Wrong move.

4) Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945). Motivated by jealousy, the vain and selfish Ellen Berent has driven her parents apart. Her unhealthy obsession with her own father pushes her mother away and sends him off to an early grave. She then breaks her fiance's heart (you can't do that to poor Vincent Price), and drags the startled Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) off to the altar. All because Richard, a successful novelist, bears a passing resemblance to her father (uh oh). Ellen's obsessive behaviour worsens as she develops a problem first with her husband's disabled brother, then her sister and finally even their unborn son. Even death doesn't stop her.

5) The Mystery Woman (Carrie Fisher) in THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980). Her true identity is unknown but she was stood up at the altar by 'Joliet' Jake Blues and for that he must die. Either by grenade launcher, flame thrower, machine gun fire or just about anything. Only trouble is he and his brother are impossible to kill. In each scene she appears with a different hairstyle and look perhaps to confuse, disguise or turn us on. Pigtails, ponytail, some times down but never like bread rolls stuck on either side of her head.

6) Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) in ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993). The Addams Family need a new nanny to attend to their latest arrival Pubert, a baby with a moustache. They employ Debbie but Debbie is actually a 'black widow' serial husband killer who is looking for hubby no. 4 to maim. She takes a shine to Fester (brother to Gomez) and his enormous fortune, who interprets her attempts of murder (electrical surprises in the bath, a bomb in a box) as signs of affection (well, you would). Occasionally dances to the Village People with a bunch of sailors and the guy who plays 'Monk'. Not deterred by disembodied hands called 'Thing' as she's good with her hands. Oh and, if you have to blame it on any one, blame it all on Malibu Barbie.

7) Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) in BATMAN RETURNS (1992). Hello Selina. Secretary to the evil Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) whose plans to drain Gotham City's power supply are uncovered by Ms Kyle. He, of course, tries to kill her by flinging her from the top of his office building, but she lands on her feet and embarks on a course of robbery and terrorism to revenge herself on Schreck. She makes a leather costume, a costume she is practically sewn into, uses a whip, tries to eat a budgie, cleans herself with her tongue and even purrs. Oh and I think Batman might have been in this film somewhere too.

8) Christine Halslag (Renee Soutendijk) in THE FOURTH MAN (1983). Gerard Reve ( Jeroen Krabbe) is a bored, bisexual author whose fantasies of murder and interest in alcohol lead him to the world of Christine Halslag. Christine is a beautician and book groupie by day, dissatisfied with her lover Herman and intent on having an affair with Gerard, and fiendish man hating killer (well more murder loving) by night. But Gerard is more interested in Herman who he tries to warn when it becomes obvious of Christine's real motives - to find the fourth man, her fourth victim. Christine's too clever for either of them though. Paul Verhoeven, the great maverick Dutch director, would a few years later go on to Hollywood with a similar tale in BASIC INSTINCT. Not sure if Michael Douglas would be as happy as playing Jeroen Krabbe's role though (a few changes were made).

9) Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) in THE KILLERS (1946). Kitty Collins - the role that made a star of Ava Gardner. It's easy to see why. She dominates the film. The last, lingering image you will have from this film will be of her in that black dress. Kitty is caught between two men Swede Anderson (Burt Lancaster), and gang leader Colfax whose plan to rob a payroll brings them all together. Swede is killed by 'The Killers' and an insurance investigator sets out to find out why and by whom. Kitty sings, wears black dresses, slouches provocatively on beds, and never really does anything too evil. But a femme fatale doesn't have too. Sometimes just looking THAT good is enough. And her looks and presence are certainly deadly for Swede, and typify the archetypal femme fatale (even if she is a good gal at heart).

10) Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino) in THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994). Bridget the Queen of the Crop. Smarter than Matty. Deadlier than Ellen. And less reckless than Mona. Best of all like Matty she gets away with it too, and the guy she ruins - poor old Mike (Peter Berg) - is a good guy. But he's a guy with a shameful secret and one his macho, small town image cannot abide even if it does result in lots and lots of sex with Bridget. So he's doomed just like her drug dealing husband Clay (Bill Pullman) who she's stolen 700 grand from, and who tracks her down to Beston with loan sharks in tow. None of them stand a chance.

Honourable mention : Alida Valli in THE PARADINE CASE, Peggy Cummins in GUN CRAZY, Jane Greer in OUT OF THE PAST, Barbara Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY, Ann Blyth in MILDRED PIERCE, Jessica Rabbit in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, Jeanne Moreau in THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, Joan Bennett in SCARLET STREET, Hilary Swank in THE BLACK DHALIA , Patricia Arquette in LOST HIGHWAY, Nicole Kidman in MALICE, Theresa Russell in BLACK WIDOW, Sharon Stone in BASIC INSTINCT, Louise Brooks in PANDORA'S BOX, Marlene Dietrich in THE BLUE ANGEL, Rita Hayworth in GILDA , Mary Astor in THE MALTESE FALCON, Gene Tierney in LAURA, Glenn Close in FATAL ATTRACTION, Drew Barrymore in POISON IVY, Linda Fiorentino in GOTCHA, and all the assorted femme fatales of SIN CITY and THE SPIRIT.

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