The Gentle Sex

Watch out! It’s Britain’s answer to the femme fatale…

“Most ladies who murder prefer to quietly poison” – Raymond Durgnat

From controlling matriarchs to demure ladies whose apparent frailty masks evil intentions, tales of wicked women abound on British screens.

Join us as we unleash a host of lawless ladies, from the out-and-out horror of Lust for a Vampire (1970) to the more subtle machinations of Ann Todd in David Lean’s 1949 film Madeleine. Some of our wicked women revel in crime as a means of escaping dull domesticity, like Margaret Lockwood in The Wicked Lady (1945), and Faye Dunaway in Michael Winner’s 1983 remake. The more mature femme fatale is well represented, with Hammer’s The Anniversary (1967) starring the inimitable Bette Davis at her acid-tongued best, while three decades after wreaking havoc as the Daughter of Darkness (1948) Siobhan McKenna makes a second appearance as an elderly woman with a penchant for unusual pets in The Landlady (1979).

Five to try

Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944)

Phyllis Calvert’s split personality transforms her from prim Florentine lady to jewel-thief’s mistress. Stewart Granger co-stars in this slice of 1940s escapism.

Yield to the Night (1956)

Diana Dors proved she was more than just a pretty face as a death-row dame awaiting execution for murder.

The Rough and the Smooth (1959)

Tony Britten risks losing his pert fiancee when he’s led astray by a wily foreign femme (Nadja Tiller) in this rarely seen feature.

Christiana Edmunds (Saturday Night Theatre, 1970)

Anna Massey stars as the Chocolate Cream Poisoner in this Victorian true-crime drama.

A Girl Can’t Always Have Everything (Tales of the Unexpected, 1980)

Two Collins’ – Joan and Pauline – vie for the affections of a wealthy toy manufacturer with tragic results.

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