then two big red rods which are evidently supposed to be lasers, but they sound like a broken belt sander and they look like…uhm….big red tubes. There’s no beams or anything, just VERY LONG red glowing, smoking tubes (Two of ‘em) and some sparks on the rock walls. When I watched this last night, I blinked when Tung-Tze hit a switch that said “Lasers” and really had no idea what the hell was going on.) Helm manages to excape in a fairly clever Voyage to the Bottom fo the Sea kind of manner, and he and Gail get to the enemy blockhouse where Arthur O’Connel is controlling the rocket form.
After a battle, and a hissy-fit from Tung-Tze, the possibly-Chinese arch villain is shot with helm’s gun. Helm redirects the missile to hit Big O’s secret lair. Then Helm and Gail head back to his place and do it. In between doing it, they get dressed for a night on the town, but Mac calls to check up on them and while trying to hang up the phone, Gail manages to activate the bed, which once again crosses the room and dumps her and Helm fully clothed in to his swimming pool-sized bath tub, where they make out a bit while the credits roll.
Phew. Where to begin? First this is a deliberately cheesy movie, as was the style of the time, and in that it succeeds, though it probably played out much funnier in context in ‘66 than it does on ‘09. Calling it a ‘parody’ is probably a bit much - I think they were just riding the spy gravy train without giving it toooo much thought beyond ‘it should be funny’ - but tt’s definitely worth watching as a slice of cinematic history: It’s just effortlessly, drippingly racist and sexist, and while I’m not at all politically correct, if you watch this with friends who are, you can expect to see them wince. A lot. The plot is functional, but never really makes sense, and never fully engages the audience. The production design isn’t as lavish as a Bond movie, of course, but it’s definitely in that spirit, and it’s still fairly eyepopping just the same: Helm’s home is sprawling (I suspect at least the living room and garage were someone’s real house). The Big O lair is very cool, as an maze of tunnels, caves, and assorted high-tech 1960s fiddle-de-dits. Tina’s cave bedroom is actually pretty neat, and it’s sort of a shame that such a lavish set only gets one scene in the movie. Though there’s obviously only really one tunnel here, the way they edit their shots makes it look like a lot more, and their use of a fisheye lens in subtle fashion maximizes the look of the place and makes it seem more impressive than the actual set probably really was.
Direction (By Phil Karlson, who later did “Ben” and “Walkign Tall” as well as one Elvis film) starts out really strong, but starts to loose energy about a third of the way through the film. Absolutely nothing interesting happens between the halfway and three-quarters mark of the movie, though once again things pick up in the end. I blame this more on the script - the movie was obviously being shot wet, and there’s so many scenes that don’t quite make sense that it’s obvious a lot of changes were taking place during the shoot - than the director, but even so, there’s a number of scenes in the second half of the film that go nowhere and take twice as long as they need to get there. He makes an interesting decision to shoot several of the action sequences - particularly the car chase - without any kind of music, whcih gives them an interesting feel.
I would gladly kill or die to have the soundtrack to this film. It's just great, even without Dino singing parody versions of his own songs. Elmer Bernstein kicks out a great slice of brassy mid-60s jazz here, and it's just gorgeous all the way through. Really its only failing is the lack of a definable "Matt Helm Theme."
The women are mostly pretty va-va-voom in that special 1960s way, and while there’s no denying the smarm of the film, most of that is in the first act, and things settle down after that. In the end, Dino makes out with six women eight time, and has sex three times with only two different women. Three of the women he’s macking around with are in a dream sequence in the beginning, so I’m not sure if we should count them. Also, it’s not *entirely* clear if he does it with Lovey, so maybe I’m lowballing the sex numbers, I dunno. In the past I’ve called these movies “Late night Skinemax flicks with no actual nudity” but that might be a bit excessive. The first ten minutes or so feel like that, but the rest of the film is more sedate. Even so, IMDb lists a half dozen “Specialty Dancers” and a dozen more “Slaymates” and “Girls.”
There’s a number of good lines:
One of the Big O agents compliments Tung-Tze on the latest American disaster, to which he replies: “Did you like it? Oh, thank you!”
Gail tells Dino: “You’re sick! S-I-Q-U-E-Sick!”
The scene where Gail realizes Helm was only sleeping with her to get information is surprisingly raw: “I’m going back to the motel - I need another bath!” she says with real disgust in her voice.
Dean Martin is pretty amazing, really. Though he’s obviously not taking this film very seriously - “What, you mean they pay me to make out with chicks? AND I get to sing? Hot damn, sign me up!” - it’s amazing just how much charisma he brings to the screen. He effortlessly commands every scene, and though he’s clearly too old to be playing the dashing over-sexed swinger/man of danger, he still manages to pull it off. In fact, some of the scenes - the fight in the garage, for instance, or the second half of the alley fight with Roger Carmel - work so well that it’s kind of surprising. Dino used to box, after all, and even in middle age he’s still unexpectedly effective in a fight scene. It makes me kind of wish they’d played it a tad straighter, because even though the whole movie is a self-serving gag, the fact is the man is - and always was - a damn effective leading man. Also his scenes with James Gregory have some unexpected chemistry to them that adds to the idea these guys have a past.
As an actress, Stella Stevens is jaw-droopingly mouth-dryingly beautiful. As a beautiful woman, she’s not much of an actress. She delivers her lines like she learned them the night before. When playing excited, her voice tends towards shrill rather than emotional. The physical comedy stuff mostly doesn’t work (Except in the scenes with the reverse-pistol). She’s not awful, but she’s not all that good, with one or two exceptions. She was never the greatest actress, but I don’t really blame her (“Wanted: Actress who can talk and not wear many clothes”) because she’s not really given much to do here, but daaaaaaaaaaaaamn, son, is she hot, particularly with the red hair she’s got here. She is never more beautiful - and more on display - than she is in this movie.
Did I mention that I’ve got completely inappropriate lust for Cyd Charisse? Great…I’m in love with another dead chick…
Oh, by the way, Cyd’s singing voice was actually Vicki Carr, dubbed in after the fact. This was done really well, I totally didn’t realize that wasn’t Cyd singing.
Roger Carmel and Daliah Lavi both go out with a whimper, and the brilliant Victor Buono is shamefully underused, but on the whole this is a fun movie that does what it set out to do: Moderately amuse and titillate.
So that’s what I’ve got. My favorite scene in the movie actually isn’t in the movie, by the way: after the closing credits there’s a ‘teaser’ for the next movie in the series (“Murderer’s Row,” Which I’ll be reviewing next week) that consists of Dino on his revolving bed, surrounded by pretty much all the girls from the movie (Not counting Cyd, Stella, or Daliah, of course). Dino alternately smooches the cowgirl and the fencing girl from the opening dream sequence, and then, overcome by embarrassment or silliness or whatever, he abruptly cradles his head in his hands and says “Oh my God…” in a humiliated fashion. I know that’s coming every single time, but it’s obviously unscripted and it completely cracks me up every single time I see it.
WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS MOVIE?
Oh, God, no!
The entire movie is online here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y0al2LyGfQ&feature=PlayList&p=E41D8E994D...