Thursday, October 04, 2012
I'm gonna go ahead and confess that any movie whose primary concern is moving it's protagonist from one hot 60's babe to another while at the same time blowing things up that threaten truth, justice and the American way...well, it's my kind of movie.
Ry is right on the money when he encourages his readers to see "The Silencers" as a swingin' 60's flick and enjoys it with that focus in mind. He sez, "I'm gonna go ahead and confess that any movie whose primary concern is moving it's protagonist from one hot 60's babe to another while at the same time blowing things up that threaten truth, justice and the American way...well, it's my kind of movie."
And further Ry pontificates... "Which leads me to the funniest aspect of the movie: Do we care? Do we care that Lavi turns out to be the enemy agent, Cowboy? Do we care that Matt's going to be melted by what was perhaps the funniest early interpretation of a laser I've ever seen? Do we really care if the Big O detonates the missle freeing the underground fallout (is that an oxymoron?)? The answer is...well, no. Did that stop me from enjoying the hell out of this movie? Again, the answer is no. Was it a good movie? No. Was it enjoyable? Yes. Do you see where I'm going with this?"
Ry so so wisely advises his readership to simply enjoys the pleasures of our Dino in Matt Helm for simply, the pleasures! Again, ilovedinomartin salutes Mr. Ryan Ebelt for such pleasurable pontifications on our most beloved Dino in "The Silencers." To view this in it's original format, likes simply clicks on the tag of this Dino-sharin'. Keeps lovin' our Dino! Dino-always, ever, and only, DMP
Thursday, December 15, 2005
"Big O..? You're Sick!"
America's...ahem...answer to James Bond
Ok. We interrupt the crushing wait of the second Lee Van Cleef double feature review (...I watched one...but not the other yet...) to bring you a review of...well, something else.
I believe it was in my review of Temptress of a Thousand Faces or perhaps Angel with Iron Fists (Did I review that one?) that I may have mentioned my growing love for the James Bond knock-offs from around the world in the 60's. The funniest thing about them is that even the best with comparable budgets still fall far short of the mark. Was it Connery? Was it 'Cubby' Broccoli? Was it Fleming's source material?
Actually, I feel I have to answer that in a way before I go on. Part of it, I think was Connery. Few of the Bond knock-offs feature an actor with comparable charisma who can be taken seriously as an action star, a lover, and a wit. He had the looks, the style and the growl. Second, I think it was also producer Broccoli who was already a firmly established professional in Hollywood, and who showed an obvious love for the series which he worked on for 30 years. As for Fleming's source material, it's a tougher call. I've only read Goldfinger, but from what I understand, nearly every Bond movie was quite a departure from the source material; however, I believe it was the considerable amount of work and the imaginative nature of it that the filmmakers were able to create one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
The knock-offs however lack most of this...today's review on the other hand, seems like it could've made it there...or at least come a lot closer. But don't let that fool you, it's still a good watch.
The Silencers (1966, d. Phil Karlson)
The Story: Photographer/Playboy Matt Helm is called back into espionage action when a leader of the nefarious Big O plans release the poisonous fallout from an underground nuclear test.
The Review: Now without doing a pesky thing like...um...proper research, in some respects I can't tell if this is honestly mean to be a parody or not. Most of the reviews or mentions one finds of this flick on-line refers to it as a parody, but having seen it now I'm not entirely sure. In fact, in many respects, I think the tone of the film could be ascribed in part to the stuido and it's star.
Lemme make my argument.
In a similar fashion, James Coburn's Flint vehicles often get called parodies of the spy-flick genre, but I don't believe they were. I think it was a lack of control in the humor department. It was the desire to give into the Swingin' Sixties Beach Party movie vibe, and camp it up...just a little too much. For one thing, Coburn plays it straight, and there's no nodding or winking at the camera. Plus, it has all the usual elements of a Bond moive, only it would appear that everyone making the movie thought that the only way to beat Bond was to go farther with it. But, is over-the-top or more over-the-top a crime? Considering that none of the super-spy flicks, at least the early ones, ever had anything to do with real Cold War threats, the tone fits the total comic book nature of the beast. It just got turned up too high.
Hell, Marvel comic's superspy, Nick Fury, fought more Russians than any of his movie counterparts did.
Matt Helm, as envisioned by his creator Donald Hamilton, is a fairly dark character. He's a man of action, an antihero whose moral code makes him a valiant warrior but also a cold hearted killer. Now take a moment, read back over that description, and tell me honestly if Dean Martin is the first person that comes to mind. So if you cast Dino, can you keep the movie true to what it was supposed to be at least as far being an adaptation of the novel? (After all, though the Bond movies leave the source material, they still hold true in ways to tone and character.) The book version Matt Helm was a photographer, but the movie version Matt Helm...well, he has to be a Playboy-type photographer. (Maybe this movie should've been made by Russ Meyer...a marriage of form and function.) So is it spoof, or is it character vs. actor?
In any event, let's see what we've got left.
I'm gonna go ahead and confess that any movie whose primary concern is moving it's protagonist from one hot 60's babe to another while at the same time blowing things up that threaten truth, justice and the American way...well, it's my kind of movie. Note I said 60's babes. Andy Sidaris movies don't count. (Ok, Ok...I like those too...but for different reasons...actually similar reasons...in terms of cheese...) So in other words, this movie was a jackpot of sorts.
The story is fairly thin. There's a threat to the U.S. There is a big bad villainous consipiracy. Do you need to know more than that? What the movie has instead is banter...by the truckload. Dean Martin spends nearly the entire run of the movie spitting out one-liners that range from good laughs to the nearly painful. Now, you can't say the movie is a character study, because it's not exactly an in-depth study of Matt Helm, nor does it waste any time delving into anyone else. It's more like a movie of archetypes, characters we already sort of recognize so the filmmakers don't have to say more about them. We've covered Matt Helm, but Daliah Lavi is the dark femme fatale, and Stella Stevens is the ditzy sidekick.
Then there's Victor Buono, the main bad guy, who is referred to as Tung-Tze. I assume he was meant to be Asian (and if you see him, you'll know why I say "assume"). Now You Only Live Twice may have contained the silliest Asian make-up job on a white guy (turning Sean Connery "Japanese"), but Tung-Tze...hmm...well, it's not even fair to compare them. At least they were trying on Connery, on Buono they put some dark eye-liner and stopped. It's not even in the same ballpark. And though I've found Buono entertaining in other roles, his sort of shrill distinctly non-Asian accent was for the most part anything but threatening. That's not to say it was bad. It certainly fit in with the rest of the movie. It just wasn't terribly threatening...at all.
Which leads me to the funniest aspect of the movie: Do we care? Do we care that Lavi turns out to be the enemy agent, Cowboy? Do we care that Matt's going to be melted by what was perhaps the funniest early interpretation of a laser I've ever seen? Do we really care if the Big O detonates the missle freeing the underground fallout (is that an oxymoron?)? The answer is...well, no. Did that stop me from enjoying the hell out of this movie? Again, the answer is no. Was it a good movie? No. Was it enjoyable? Yes. Do you see where I'm going with this?
To be fair, maybe this movie is only as enjoyable as it is because of hindsight. Thirty years later and it's sort of funny to watch nearly every character light up a cigarette every five seconds. This particularly funny when looking at the efforts of anti-smoking lobbyists over the past few years when you don't have nearly the volume of smokers on screen. Nothing, however, nothing beats watching Dino and Stella having a drinking contest while driving! Driving! And we won't even get me started on the...well, I wouldn't call them mysognistic tones (Ok, there is the dress ripping scene)...or even chauvanistic tones exactly...but something says that your average feminist would not go in for Dino's almost constant carousing with all too willing female companions. But in this day and age, it sure is fun to watch!
Now, most importantly: Do I recommend it?
Hmmm, that's a matter of debate. If you're looking for Bond, you're going to be let down. And though Austin Powers was more obviously inspired by Matt Helm than Bond or Flint, you're not going to exactly find that kind of humor either. Certainly, if you were old enough to have seen the movie in it's initial release, you may or may not see what I find so funny and/or entertaining about it in the first place. You have to take it for what it is. It's a product of it's time, star, and studio in much the same way as say Indiana Jones (not that there's any comparing the two in terms of quality).
Basically, a good rule of thumb is: If you can enjoy Death Race 2000, Gamera Vs. Guiron, and Santa Clause Conquers the Martians then you can certainly enjoy The Silencers. I say that because I enjoy all of those movies.
Besides which, I'm halfway through Muderer's Row the 2nd Matt Helm adventure. So far it's been worth it for Ann-Margret (who I'm also working with currently) and a character I just refer to as 1/4 Destro. You can figure that out for yourself.
Posted by dino martin peters at 7:16 AM