Karin Dor 1938 – 2017

Karin Dor (Kätherose Derr), actor, born 22 February 1938; died 6 November 2017; a Bond girl in You Only Live Twice (1967), in which she met a memorably grisly end: dumped into a tank filled with piranha fish, which eat her alive ~ The Guardian.

No matter what roles she played in films, on stage or on television throughout the rest of her career, the German actor Karin Dor, who has died aged 79, was labelled a Bond girl. Her induction as a member of this exclusive group of beautiful women who have provided James Bond with a love interest came in You Only Live Twice (1967), in which she met a memorably grisly end.

Dor played the seductive, titian-haired Helga Brandt, an operative of the criminal organisation Spectre ordered to kill 007 (Sean Connery), who has been conveniently tied up for her. “I’ve got you now,” she states ambivalently. “Well, enjoy yourself!” he replies. She slaps his face and threatens him with a surgical knife, which he wrestles from her, using it to cut the strap on her black dress.

Helga expertly switches from being cold and calculating to passionately kissing Connery. She seems to have changed sides, though she makes a further attempt to kill Bond by trapping him in a booby-trapped plane, which she parachutes out of, before it crashes. When the super-villain Spectre boss Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) discovers that Bond has survived the crash, he activates a mechanism that dumps Helga into a tank filled with piranha fish, which eat her alive.
Karin Dor with Alfred Hitchcock during the filming of the 1969 film Topaz.

Dor also fails to survive to the end of Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz (1969). A rare bright spot in one of Hitchcock’s most anonymous films, she is Juanita de Cordoba, a dark-haired anti-Castro resistant, her German accent notwithstanding, known as the widow of a “hero of the revolution”, a description that enables her to work undercover. When her activities are discovered, she is shot by her revolutionary lover, providing the film with its best visual sequence. As Juanita collapses onto a marble floor, her deep purple dress spreads beneath her like a pool of blood.

Surprisingly, these high-profile roles in two English language commercial successes did not help Dor to achieve further international recognition. However, she was hugely popular in Germany and Austria throughout the 1960s, mainly in escapist action movies loosely based on the thrillers of Edgar Wallace (called Krimis from the German Kriminalfilm), and the western adventures of Karl May, co-starring the dubbed ex-Tarzan Lex Barker, almost all of them directed by her first husband, Harald Reinl.

Born Kätherose Derr in Wiesbaden, she studied acting and ballet at school and began in films as an extra. Her marriage at 18 to the Austrian director Reinl, 30 years her senior, gave her the chance to appear as a juvenile lead in numerous period melodramas and operettas such as The White Horse Inn (1960).

Apart from the Wallace and May series, Dor was a favourite fräulein in distress in several horror movies with Barker as the hero, including The Invisible Doctor Mabuse (1962), The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and The Torture Chamber of Doctor Sadism (1967), the last two starring Christopher Lee as an evil mastermind.

In contrast to the range of the low-budget Krimis, horror spin-offs and German westerns, Dor starred as Brunhild in Reinl’s The Nibelungen, shown in two parts, Siegfried (1966) and Kriemhild’s Revenge (1967), an epic that required the use of 8,000 extras in one battle scene alone.

Dor took fewer and fewer film roles from the 70s onwards, although she did appear regularly in series on German television.

Her third husband, the stuntman George Robotham, died in 2007. Dor is survived by a son, the actor Andreas Renell, from her marriage to Reinl, which ended in divorce, as did her second marriage.

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