Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dean Martin As Matt Helm In The Silencers

thesilencers

The Silencers
was the first film in the Matt Helm spy franchise, which starred Dean Martin and was released in 1966. The film was based on The Silencers by Donald Hamilton. It also took some plot elements from Hamilton's Death of a Citizen. Hamilton's Helm was a cold and ruthless government assassin. His series of Matt Helm spy novels were more serious and realistic. The Silencers and its three sequels, however, would be more tongue in cheek and lighthearted. Dean Martin's Matt Helm was essentially Dean Martin. When he wasn't saving the world, he was having a drink, crooning a tune, or seducing beautiful women.

Irving Allen, the producer of the Matt Helm franchise, had been looking for a spy franchise of his own. Everybody wanted to get into the spy game after the success of the James Bond films. It had created quite a craze for both serious and campy spy fare. The 60's were loaded with spy spoofs from across the globe. Allen at one time had been partners with Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who came to him with the idea of turning Ian Fleming's Bond novels into motion pictures. Allen didn't like the idea at all. He even insulted Fleming himself, informing him that his books were not even good enough for television. This, along with some other factors, would lead to the termination of the partnership between Allen and Broccoli. Allen would feel like a fool after the huge success of the first Bond film Dr. No in 1962 and its sequels. He acquired the rights to the Matt Helm novels of Donald Hamilton. Dean Martin was hired to bring Matt Helm to life on the big screen. To get Martin on board, Allen had to make him a partner in the series. Martin ended up making more money from playing Matt Helm than Sean Connery made from playing 007.

Dean Martin starred as Matt Helm, a slick and cool cat who loves booze and womanizing. Helm is a fashion photographer who snaps shots of beautiful women for men's magazines like Slaymate. When he's done taking their pictures, he seduces them in his ultra-cool bachelor pad. This place has to be seen to be believed. I want a pad like this. It even comes with a rotating circular bed that will drop its occupants into a large bubble bath. Helm's assistant Lovey Kravezit (Beverly Adams) is always willing to do what her boss asks. With a cad for a boss, you can bet that her work will get quite steamy. It turns out that Matt Helm is a secret agent in semi-retirement. He works for ICE (Intelligence and Counter Espionage). He gets called back into service by his boss MacDonald (James Gregory). Helm is having none of it. He's enjoying the cool and swingin' lush life too much. Big O (Bureau of International Government and Order), the opposition organization, has plans to start World War III. They are not taking any chances on Matt Helm foiling their plans. They try to take him out. Helm is saved by a former lover and fellow agent Tina, played by the exotic beauty Daliah Lavi. He's reluctantly pulled back into the world of espionage.

Big O is headed up by Tung-Tze, who is played by Victor Buono (made up with eyeliner to look Chinese). There is definitely not a politically correct movie. Big O's dastardly plan is to sabotage the American atomic missile program in their plot to control the globe. They are being aided in their scheme by a double agent dubbed "Cowboy." Matt Helm and Tina head off to Phoenix to find Sarita (played by Cyd Charisse), who is in possession of a microfilm that Big O needs. The 40something Charisse does two sexy numbers in this movie, lip-synching to the vocals of Vicki Carr. She'll definitely raise the blood pressure of any red-blooded male. They end up butting heads with several enemy agents, such as Sam Gunther (Robert Webber) and Andreyev (Roger C. Carmel). They also come in contact with a sexy and clumsy broad named Gail (played wonderfully here by Stella Stevens). They aren't sure if Gail is mixed up in Big O's evil plot or not. She has gotten hold of the microfilm, plus she's been seen dating Sam Gunther. Gail gets stuck trekking along with Helm to New Mexico (the location of Big O's subterranean base and the atomic missile site) as a way of proving her innocence. Nobody can make a station wagon cool quite like Dean Martin. It's called the "sex wagon." It comes with its own bed and bar. I told you this movie wasn't politically correct. These two are great together. Helm is usually at the receiving end of something stupid Gail does. The sparks definitely fly between these two and not always in a good way.

I'm not going to give much more about the movie away. James Bond isn't the only secret agent with gadgetry. Matt Helm has several gadgets, including a reversible shooting gun and exploding coat buttons, in his arsenal to use against his foes in Big O. If you haven't seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to see it. It's not high art, but it's not meant to be. It's a campy ride full of laughs, action, romance, and music. The Silencers, directed by Phil Karlson, was a box office hit in 1966. It spawned three sequels (Murderers' Row also in 1966, The Ambushers in 1968, and The Wrecking Crew in 1969). A fifth film in the franchise, The Ravagers, was never filmed. Elmer Bernstein scored the film. Dino also croons several of his tunes throughout this film as certain moments unfold. I bet you never saw 007 do that. People looking for a more serious and insightful spy thriller are not going to find it here. This is basically Dean Martin playing himself as a spy. If you like the cool charm and easygoing style of Dino, then I don't think you'll be disappointed. This is after all one of the spy franchises that inspired Mike Myers in his creation of the Austin Powers franchise. The movie is available with the other three movies in the Matt Helm Lounge DVD set. I believe it's only around $20 for the set. I hope you'll give it a shot if you haven't seen it. I raise a toast to that super-cool cad of a spy, Matt Helm. Cheers!



18 comments:

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Keith, dude likes this is your finest Dinopost yet at this here Dinoblog....can't wait for your Dinoreview of "Murder's Row." Loves so much learnin' the Dinodetail that our Dino made more bread with MH then Connery did bein' Bonded....that just makes me respect and wanna honor our Dino all the more. Here is one Dinodetail that I don't know if you have ever heard 'bout "The Silencers"...seems that our Dino's first Helm caper was so popular in NYC that the theatre that was first-run exhibitin' it had to stay open 24/7 to accomadate all the Dinoholics that wanted to see it...ain't that just that just the Dinocoolest? Thanks for keepin' our Dino before the public eye and usin' your Dinopassion and Dinoskills to write this very very stellar Dinoreview.... Dinoaddictedly, DMP

The King Of Cool said...

Hey pallie DMP. Thanks so much for your awesome comment. I really appreciate it. Man, I'm so glad you enjoyed my review of The Silencers. I do really dig this flick. Of course, Murderer's Row is my favorite. I can't wait to tackle that one. I'm going to try to do it asap. Yeah, I did always think it was cool that Dino made more money off of Helm than Connery did off of Bond. I didn't know that about the theater saying open 24/7 to show the movie. wow! That is so cool. It definitely shows how Dino is definitely the King of Cool and much more. Thanks again.

DINO-GAL said...

WHOA PALLIE KEITH! YOU EXPLAINED AND DESCRIBED THIS MOVIE WITH MUCH DINOPASSION AND SMOOTHNESS. I ENJOYED YOUR RANDY BLOG ON THIS, AND I'M WITH PALLIE PETERS....THIS IS THE BEST BLOG YET! IT WILL MAKE PEOPLE WHO HAVEN'T YET EXPERIENCED MATT HELM, WANT TO. THANKS FOR THE COOLEST DINO BLOG! DINOGAL

Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...

Hey Keith, what a great blog and thanks for the clip. Could you answer a question?

Are the Matt Helm Movies Dino did out on DVD yet?

Thanks and thanks for stopping by my blog last week.

Glenn Bishop

bish8 said...

GREAT POST!

The King Of Cool said...

Hey pallie Terri. Thanks so much. I'm so thrilled that you and DMP both enjoyed this blog post a lot. I do appreciate your kind words. I definitely plan to do posts on the other Matt Helm flicks as well. I hope that this will inspire someone who hasn't seen these spy capers to give them a watch. Thanks again. Cheers!

The King Of Cool said...

Hey Glenn. Thanks for the comments. Yes, the Matt Helm movies are available on DVD right now. You can get all four together in that Matt Helm Lounge. That's what I have. I think the only one available on its own is The Silencers. It's definitely a good deal. Your welcome about your blog. I definitely plan to keep checking it out. I hope you do the same. Cheers!

The King Of Cool said...

Hey Paul. Thanks so much!

Nancy Sinatra Fan said...

I agree with the others. This is your best post yet. I enjoyed it so much. It makes me want to see this film again. I might have to watch it this weekend.

The King Of Cool said...

Hey there. Thanks so much to you too. I'm glad that you and so many others are enjoying this blog post of mine. I think I plan to watch it again this weekend myself. Cheers!

Steve Langton said...

Great overview of this film, with plenty of info that's new to me. Look forward to your next in-depth piece. I really need to get that box set on my Crimbo list!

The King Of Cool said...

Hey Steve. Thanks for the comments. Glad you liked my write-up of the movie. That's cool that you learned something new about it. Yeah, I hope you get that set. Cheers!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Keith, just to lets you Dinoknow, just had to post the endin' Dinovid from Silencers over at the ol' ilovedinomartin Dinoblog...'cause the Dinotrailer at the ends is likes my Dinofav Dinothin' 'bout this whole Dinocaper...

The King Of Cool said...

Hey pallie DMP. That's totally cool. I don't blame ya. Yeah, it is Dinoawesome. Cheers1

Jeremy Richey said...

Great job Keith on a great often overlooked film. I really enjoyed reading this...

The King Of Cool said...

Thanks Jeremy. I appreciate it. I'm really glad that you enjoyed it. I love this film and wanted to share that with people.

Mike Edwards said...

Nice post. I have seen some of this movie a long time ago. Makes me want to see the whole thing now. I had forgot about it.

The King Of Cool said...

Hey Mike. Thanks for the comments. Well, I hope you get a chance to see the entire movie. I think you'll enjoy it. Cheers!