The femme fatale is one of the most alluring characters in a novel, comic or film. They are usually beautiful, charming and seductive. She uses her exquisiteness and deep sexual attraction to manipulate men in order to reach her goal. She flaunts, flirts and switches between seductress to damsel in distress at the drop of a hat. More than capable of changing the tyre on her car, but would rather wait by the roadside and let some man run to the rescue and do the dirty work. She looks on, powdering her nose and contemplating what other uses the hapless fool may have.
Like a black widow spider, weaving a web of emotion and tempting you in with offers of love, money or sex in return, then sucking you dry, leaving an empty husk. The victim falls for it hook, line and sinker; more often than not the victim is left broke, heart broken and in more sinister cases, dead. The femme fatale is always entertaining; manoeuvring through plots, leaving a trail of sweet destruction along the way. They dress like they're parading the catwalks of Milan and smell as sweet as Chanel No.5 What hot-blooded male wouldnt fall victim to such exquisiteness? They certainly add a bit of spice to the plot and shove 2 (perfectly manicured.) fingers up to political correctness.
Here is ZANIs Top 5 Femme Fatales
Linda Fiorentino: The Last Seduction
Linda Fiorentino plays Bridget Gregory; she's gorgeous, smart and married to a doctor. But it's not enough for the girl. She persuades husband Clay (Bill Pullman) to sell medicinal cocaine to drug dealers, buggers off with the money and goes into hiding in a small town in mid America. Her husband has to pay off loan sharks, who are threatening severe retribution, so he sends a string of detectives after her, in a bid to retrieve his cash. So begins a game of cat and mouse. Along the way she picks up a naive local boy in an out of town bar, Mike Swale (Peter Berg), using him for sex as like he's a cheap, bedside vibrator. A lifetime of male domination has left her cold, calculating, sharp tongued and unscrupulous
Glenn Close: Fatal Attraction
Every man's worst nightmare. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Glenn's portrayal, certainly made any would-be Casanovas think twice, and was responsible for bringing the phrase "bunny boiler" into common use. Michael Douglas plays happily married, New York lawyer, Dan Gallagher. Bored and lonely whilst his wife and child have gone away for a weekend, he decides to go out on the razz. He meets up with a colleague, Alex (Close) and they share a steamy, but meaningless, weekend in bed. When the wife returns, he calls the affair off, assuming that Alex will find another horny pick up in a bar. This is wishful thinking on his part and the beginning of his nightmare.
Whether Glenn Close's character was psychotic prior to the affair remains unanswered, but Close gives a complex and compelling performance tormenting the family. From befriending his wife to the infamous boiling of the rabbit, some of Close lines such as “I love animals” and “ I am great cook” add more depth to this tense thriller. Alex Forrest may be not your classic femme fatale, yet she uses her sinister charm to wreak havoc. And we see the torment she faces when rejected and the revenge she feels necessary. Made in 1987, there is a strong indication that the film was made to instill a few moral virtues in the face of the panic of aids sweeping worldwide and Regan’s school of "return to family values" campaign. The film was instrumental in Glenn Close in becoming an iconic figure in the world of femme fatales, landing roles in Dangerous Liaisons and Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians.
Barbara Stanwyck: Double Indemnity
Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson is one of the great film noir super bitches, Joan Collins in Dynasty aint got nuthin' on Phyllis. Prior to this role, Stanwyck had mainly appeared in melodramas and sentimental comedies, but this became her tour de force. She plays a rich, bored, ruthless, sexy and man-eating lady of leisure in 1940’s Los Angeles. She persuades insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) to sort her husband out with an accident policy then murder him and collect the cash on it's "double indemnity" clause. Neff is so enraptured by Phyllis, he's putty in her hands; he doesn't stand a chance.
Stanwyck's performance is pulsating. She uses all her feminine wiles to get exactly what she wants; she stays cool throughout the whole film. Never raising her voice, just calmly calculating her next move, whilst MacMurray becomes a nervous wreck. He is enthralled but out of his depth, in a world he can’t understand. Throughout, Stanwyck glides through the film in long evening dresses, minks, silk pyjamas and lip-gloss. Showing no emotion when her husband is murdered, and being cold hearted to her lover. Only when a gun is pressed to her head does she show any remorse, albeit briefly. Her performance has become a blue print for many femme fatale roles, homage indeed. A cautionary tale for any insurance salesmen out there.
Ingrid Pitt: Countess Dracula
The search for eternal youth is something that we all yearn for. In a fight with her maid, the haggard, ageing Countess is splashed by the wench’s blood; and she finds that the blood of the young virgin makes her face youthful again. And so the frenzied quest for virgin blood begins, and for the villagers, it really is time to lock up your daughters.
The title might be slightly misleading, as the Countess is no relation to Dracula and her need for blood doesn’t fit the usual vampire genre. But, it was a Hammer film that had already gained worldwide success with the Dracula franchise starring Christopher Lee. The Countess in question is based on 16th Century legend of Transylvanian noblewoman Countess Elizabeth Bathory who bathed in virgin’s blood to maintain her youth. Hammer changed the name from Bathory to Elizabeth Nadasdy, and used the film as platform for one of it’s rising stars. A young beautiful actress called Ingrid Pitt, who had already gained much attention from playing Carmilla in Hammer's "The Vampire Lovers.”
On that basis alone, it makes compelling viewing seeing Pitt demented in determination to stay young and without any regard for human life. This film is no masterpiece, but it's the blatant sexuality and pure wickedness of Ingrid Pitt’s performance that makes her worthy of our top 5, and because she’s worth it.
Cruella De Vil: All Formats
Let's face it, we all like a bit of self indulgence, but to slaughter 101 innocent Dalmatian puppies for a fur coat is a little extreme, to say the least. As a child, reading the original novel by Dodie Smith, I was terrified. (Come on, I was young and impressionable..). Killing innocent animals in order to look glamorous? I thought the whole concept of this story alone would make people see how nasty and pathetic it is to kill animals for their fur.
She is a luvvie around London town, with her black and white hair, black and white dresses and black and white rolls Royce. When she spots the Dalmatian puppies for the first time. Her only thought is, how better those spots would look on her. Fur coats are the only love in her life, and she'll stop at nothing until she gets what she wants. Fear not folks. Thanks to the puppy’s parents' and their networking skills, the canines of England use the Twilight Bark, and scupper her dastardly plan.
She is not only a femme fatale, but also one evil bitch. Self-importance is her only concern…food for thought. Here’s Mel Leven’s Song from Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, which I think sums her up the best, Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil
If she doesn't scare you no evil thing will
To see her is to take a sudden chill
Cruella, Cruella De Vil
The curl of her lips, the ice in her stare
All innocent children had better beware
She's like a spider waiting for the kill
Look out for Cruella De Vil
At first you think Cruella is the devil
But after time has wore away the shock
You come to realise, you've seen her kind of eyes Watching you from underneath a rock
This vampire bat, this in human beast
She ought to be locked up and never released
The world was such a whole-some place until
Cruella, Cruella De Vil
Theyve scared us, outwitted us, turned us on, and been an inspiration to ladies looking to get one over on an unsuspecting male population. Always entertaining in what ever media they appear in, they always leave us with a lingering thought. They are vital part of the entertainment industry. I bet any actress worth their salt would relish the chance to play a femme fatale and the authors have a field day when they bring a juicy, complex woman into the plot.
For many years a female in a film or book was just a filler, there for the hero to rescue at the end. The femme fatale broke the mould, opening doors for the heroine and a more powerful portrayal of women. The top 5 here are across the board from cunning to down right brutal but, nevertheless, a joy to us all. © - Words – Matteo Sedazzari