Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I went back and dug out my review of the 1966 Dean Martin vehicle The Silencers, blew off the dust and gave it a revamping.

Hey pallies, likes if today's post looks somewhat familiar, it is 'cause it is actually a revision of our new pallie Ryan Ebelt's expose on Helmer numero uno that was shared here on October 4. Faithful readers will remember that on October 3, ilovedinomartin shared Ry's short version of Dino-patter on "The Silencers," and then the next day dug back in the recessess of his blog," "The B-List Super Hero Roll Call," to find a December 2005 review of the said Dino-classic.

Well it seems upon both posts bein' shared here at ilovedinomartin, Ebelt wisely decided to revisit his 2005 Dino-scribin' and below is a "revamping" of same. Though Ry doesn't mention ilovedinomartin directly in his openin' remarks, when he says "As there's been a considerable reaction to my coverage of the 60's super-spy scene on both blogs" it is clear that ilovedinomartin has played a major role in encouragin' Ry to revisit his original Dino-work.

So, sits back dudes and enjoys a refined review of our most beloved Dino as Matt Helm in "The Silencers"...and likes 'specially enjoys the very very groovy tags that pallie Ry has placed on the pixs that he has chosen to highlight his review with.

Thanks to Ry Ebelt for reworkin' his Dino-devotion for his faithful readership to grow in their passion for our great man. And thanks Ry for the promise to review Helmer numero duo, this pallies most fav of the quartet, "Murders' Row." Will certainly be waitin' with much Dino-anticipation to your wise words of wisdom on this one as well. To read this in it's original format, likes clicks on the tag of this Dino-missive. Dino-always, ever, and only, DMP

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Big O..? You're Sick!"

As there's been a considerable reaction to my coverage of the 60's super-spy scene on both blogs, I went back and dug out my review of the 1966 Dean Martin vehicle The Silencers, blew off the dust and gave it a revamping.

The Silencers was the fourth novel to feature Donald Hamilton's counter-agent Matt Helm. Hamilton's hardboiled take on the spy thriller genre was a popular pulp staple from his first appearance in print in 1960 up through his 27th appearance in the 1990's. Even moreso than Fleming's Bond novels, the movies took a far more lighthearted tone with the character than the bullet-riddled, bone-crunching, punch-throwing stories of the books. Produced by Albert "Cubby" Broccoli's former partner, Irvin Allen, the filmmakers felt that the only way to compete with Bond was to do stick to a more comedic vein.

A cover that screams "light-hearted romp"...

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 the desire to give into the Swingin' Sixties Beach Party movie vibe, and camp it up...maybe 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, to a point the Bond movies themselves would eventually reach (see The Spy Who Loved Me). 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. But, as per usual, I digress...

Could I have a second helping of innuendo?

Matt Helm, as envisioned by his creator Donald Hamilton, is a fairly dark character: 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? 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.)

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 is 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.

The man who would be King...King Tut on Batman...

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 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?

That's what the 60's called feminism...

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 is 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!

Looks like my average Tuesday...

Now, most importantly: Do I recommend it?

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.

Give me some time, and I'll return to cover Muderer's Row the Dino's 2nd Matt Helm adventure...and who know, from there I may do the whole series.

Hand Stenciled by Ryan at 10:26 AM

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