As we can all agree that Barbara Steele is the ultimate Scream Queen of all time for the output of her work in classic horror movies, we can only be disappointed that Martine Beswicke never got the chance to be next on the throne, as the later sadly never got the opportunity to elevate herself to such a position. It’s not for a lack of talent nor beauty that Martine never got to the top, but rather some poor choices of roles in the second half of her career, certainly due to nonexistent quality parts in genre films. With more luck, she could’ve become a top player in fantastic cinema. But even today, we can judge that she left us with a most interesting filmography, nevertheless.
She was born on September 26, 1941, in Port Antonio, Jamaica, where she lived until 1953, year that she traveled to England to study dramatic arts, as her family dearly hoped that she would learn “real” English, instead of the slang talked around the Island. After some time at a secretarial college, Martine came back to her hometown at the age of 16, to only find out that there weren’t many movie shootings around. She would eventually participate in a documentary on the local tourist trade (after being named Miss Jamaica), which resulted in her being called by an English agency who were casting the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. They would soon find out that she wasn’t experienced enough for the lead role (that went to Ursula Andress), so Martine would only be seen in the credits, as a dancing silhouette. But her link with the Bond franchise would be more profitable in the future. Soon enough, she made her movie debut back in England for Saturday Night Out, at the age of 22, playing a barmaid.
Martine continued her association with the Bond Universe playing a ferocious gypsy girl in From Russia with Love, as she fights another girl for the affection of some lucky guy. In fact, Martine remains one of the rare actresses to come back two times for a 007 film adventure (like Eunice Gayson and Maud Adams), as she can also be seen in Thunderball in 1965, in a short part as a doomed spy. It’s all in her honor that she played two such different roles… without much dialogue.
Martine soon took part in another well-known universe, that of Hammer Studios. Her role in One Million Years B.C. in 1966 contribued to her name being more familiar to the public, greatly helped by a fight scene with star Raquel Welch, the two having no hesitation in getting physical after viewing the mediocre results of their stunt doubles. All this would result in her first starring role in the campy prehistoric tale Prehistoric Women, where Martine is the Great Priestess of a cult of brunettes adoring a white rhino idol and being nasty to all the poor blondes in the area! With such an unbelievable script, Martine still played it successfully with an amazingly sensual performance.
The year 1967 remains quite a busy one, with a couple of spaghetti-westerns, one starring the great Klaus Kinski, A Bullet for the General. Then came a disturbing film involving three psychopaths terrorizing a young couple: Martine plays Harry in The Penthouse, a very different character at this point of her career, one of the villainous trio. Oddly, and considering that Barbara Steele was working less and less, this was the moment where Martine should’ve capitalize on finding more quality work, resulting in her being at the top of the list of actresses involved in fantasy movies. For the next couple of years, more opportunities came from television parts.
Her best role could be in Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde in 1971, where she becomes the good doctor’s evil feminine side after ingesting some dubious potion. One of the most interesting and challenging film coming from Hammer at that era, we can marvel at the extraordinary physical likeness between Martine and her co-star, the late great Ralph Bates. Still today, Sister Hyde is considered one of the Top Five leading role for an actress in a horror picture for the legendary studio. Again, how come more quality parts didn’t came Martine’s way after this courageous and outstanding work?
In 1974, she took part in the tumultuous shooting of Seizure, Oliver Stone’s first film, shot in Quebec (in the Laurentians, to be precise). Martine plays, of course, the Queen of Evil, manipulating everyone like pawns all around her, mainly the inoccupants of a country house. Many local technicians began to think of killing Stone… as the latter was making plans to do the same to co-star Hervé Villechaize, soon to find fame in Fantasy Island, and an incontrolable pest on the set. Stone described the French-Canadian crew as being a bunch of drunk loudmouths, always begging for more money day after day!
After, Martine took part in films of varying quality. Let’s mention the TV movie Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, and also Cyclone, The Offspring, Evil Spirits and Trancers II. Nothing to write mom about, but always reminding us that Martine Beswicke could’ve a been contender for a number one spot as a top female horror star, a role that she was personally quite ready to assume! In conclusion, we can thank her from the bottom of our evil little hearts for her inestimable presence and can only hope that it’s not too late to admire her as some sort of vampire queen in a future project. Let’s not despair, folks.
1963 Saturday Night Out; From Russia With Love 1965 Thunderball 1966 One Million Years B.C. 1967 Prehistoric Women; A Bullet for the General; The Penthouse 1970 Hollywood Blue 1971 Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde 1973 Last Tango in Zagarolo 1974 Seizure; Africa Express 1980 Melvin and Howard; The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood 1986 The Offspring 1987 Cyclone 1990 Miami Blues; Evil Spirits 1991 Trancers II 1992 Life on the Edge; Invasion of the Scream Queens 1993 Wide Sargasso Sea 1995 Night of the Scarecrow