Thursday, April 21, 2022

Women Are Like That (1960)

Women Are Like That (Comment qu'elle est?) is the fifth of the Lemmy Caution movies starring Eddie Constantine. It was released in 1960.

Peter Cheyney was one of a number of English crime writers in the 30s and 40s who aped the American hardboiled style (another notable example being James Hadley Chase). Their knowledge of the American underworld, American police procedures and American culture in general was gleaned entirely from Hollywood movies and American novels which gave their books an odd distinctive quality. Cheyney enjoyed his greatest success with his Lemmy Caution thrillers. Lemmy Caution is an American FBI agent. He likes whiskey and he likes women. He also likes getting into trouble.

The books were hugely popular in Britain but even more popular on the Continent and the French film adaptations enjoyed immense success. They made gravel-voiced granite-faced American singer-actor Eddie Constantine not just a star but a pop culture icon.

Like the books the Lemmy Caution movies have a definite tongue-in-cheek quality. They’re hardboiled but with an emphasis on action and wisecracks.

Most of the movies were directed by Bernard Borderie and he wrote or co-wrote most of the screenplays. Women Are Like That was based on Cheyney’s novel I'll Say She Does.

In Women Are Like That Emmy is on assignment in Paris. His orders are to keep a low profile. Lemmy has his own ideas about what keeping a low profile means. The first thing he does is to start a brawl in a girlie bar. That gets him arrested. The French police are irritated and they’re even more irritated when they discover that they are going to have to co-operate with this impossible man. They have their orders.

The case involves a super-spy named Varley. No-one knows what Varley looks like, but the police have a lead and Lemmy has a contact in Paris who knows something. Lemmy meets his contact in an art gallery (after trying to pick up the lady who runs the gallery).

The frail in the art gallery is Isabelle (Françoise Prévost). She gives Lemmy the cold shoulder, and then suddenly she’s interested. He should smell a rat. To his credit he is suspicious, but not suspicious enough.

There’s another dame who could be involved. Lemmy is working with French cop Demur and Lemmy suspects that his secretary Danielle is working for Varley.

But there’s yet another dame mixed up in this, Général Rupert’s niece Martine (Françoise Brion). The general is in charge of the French end of the investigation. Martine happens to bear a striking resemblance to a glamorous lady spy of Lemmy’s acquaintance and it occurs to Lemmy that this could be useful. He needs a break, given that the man who could have helped him break the case has been murdered.

A case involving three beautiful dangerous women. They’re the cases Lemmy really enjoys.

There’s a pretty decent plot here, with the necessary spy thriller twists.

Much of the success of these movies is down to Eddie Constantine’s wonderful performances. Maybe he wasn’t the world’s greatest actor but he knew how to play Lemmy Caution. He also knew how to make a character who was on the surface arrogant and pushy into someone audiences would love. The more obnoxious Lemmy is to his colleagues and his superiors the more we love him. We also don’t mind his outrageous womanising because he’s so blatant. No woman is going to get mixed up with Lemmy unless she really wants to. And lots of women do want to get mixed up with him.

These movies are I’m afraid rather politically incorrect, but they’re so shameless and unapologetic about it that no reasonable person could object.

Unfortunately the only option for seeing these movies still seems to be grey-market English dubbed versions. Luckily they’re the sorts of movies that are even more fun in grainy prints. And the dubbing is quite well done.

If you’ve never seen any of the Lemmy Caution movies you’re in for a treat. They’re clearly modelled on American crime B-movies but with a French twist. And if you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of the great Eddie Constantine you’re in for an even bigger treat. This is what B-movie acting is all about.

Women Are Like That is wonderful entertainment. Highly recommended.

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