Monday, March 30, 2009

Dean Martin As Matt Helm In The Wrecking Crew

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The Wrecking Crew, released in 1969, was the fourth and final film in the Matt Helm spy franchise starring Dean Martin. I have previously covered the other three films in their own posts, which are The Silencers (1966), Murderers' Row (1966) & The Ambushers (1967). You can check out those posts if you never read them. This film was loosely based on the Donald Hamilton novel of the same title, which was published in 1960. The book was actually the second of the Matt Helm novels written by Hamilton.

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The film can be viewed as a reboot of the franchise after the disappointing box office returns and negative reviews of The Ambushers. I stated in my post about The Ambushers that it's my least favorite of the Matt Helm spy spoofs. Phil Karlson, who directed The Silencers, returns behind the camera for this film. Crime writer William P. McGivern was brought on to write the screenplay. Dean Martin is back once again as the cool & swingin' spy Matt Helm. This is the only film not to feature his luscious assistant Lovey Kravezit (Beverly Adams). MacDonald, his boss at ICE, is played in this film by John Larch. The character had been played in the other three films by James Gregory. The film has a bevy of beautiful ladies, such as Sharon Tate, Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan & Tina Louise. Nigel Green plays the main villain in the film. He's actually one of the better villains in the franchise. Elke Sommer and Nigel Green had played together in the spy movie Deadlier Than The Male in 1967.

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Count Massimo Contini, played by Nigel Green, has masterminded the theft of one billion dollars worth of United States gold traveling through Europe. He will profit greatly by the instability of the financial markets, which will pretty much collapse, when the news leaks out. MacDonald orders Matt Helm, who had been photographing and relaxing with some hot models, to take on the mission of proving Contini was behind the heist and getting back all the gold. Mac even blows Matt's cover to smoke out the Count. He's sure that the Count will make a move against Helm. Our favorite lush of a spy goes to interrogate (if that's the right word - lol) Lola Medina, a go-go dancer and the disgruntled ex-lover of the Count. Lola is played by Tina Louise of Gilligan's Island fame. Let's just say that it's an explosive meeting between these two and leave it at that.

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Matt is aided, or I should say really hindered, by a clumsy Danish tour guide named Freya Carlson. She's played by Sharon Tate in one of her last roles before her tragic murder. Freya is supposed to be helping Matt get around Denmark. The character of Freya will remind viewers of the character of Gail played by Stella Stevens in The Silencers. She's very accident-prone and always goofing up something. Matt gets fed up with her constantly. She's always getting in his way. These two are hilarious together. Later on in the movie, Freya takes off her glasses and starts to dress sexy. We learn that Freya is actually a British secret agent sent to help on Matt's mission.

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There are a couple of beautiful women working for the Count. Linka Karensky, played by Elke Sommer, is engaged to Count Contini. She's very calculating and cunning in her own right. Linka uses her sexual wiles to try to seduce and kill Matt Helm on several occasions. Nancy Kwan plays Chinese operative Wen Yu-Rang (gotta love these names in spy movies lol). She has a group of hoodlums under her command, plus she's the mistress of a club called the House of Seven Joys. Yu-Rang also uses her beauty as a way of manipulating Matt. You can never tell if these women want to kill him or just make out with him. There's a fight scene in the movie between Sharon Tate's Freya Carlson and Nancy Kwan's Yu-Rang, which was actually choreographed by Bruce Lee. Chuck Norris has a small and uncredited role in the film.

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Matt is in a race against time to get the gold back before the theft of Uncle Sam's gold supply is revealed. The world's financial markets will be devastated by that news, which will definitely cause quite the global financial crisis. There are some really good action scenes in the movie, including one at the House of Seven Joys and Matt's assault on the Count's home. Of course, Matt Helm has his share of gadgets (such as a camera that shoots out gas) in this film as well. While I always have liked the gadgets he used, they did always seem comical and/or second rate. That's what makes them so much fun. There is plenty of sex appeal with all the sexy ladies in this film. The Wrecking Crew definitely doesn't disappoint in that department. They aren't just eye candy either in this movie. The female characters play a major part as either allies or adversaries of Matt. Plus Sharon Tate does quite a good comical job as the bumbling Freya. There are some really hysterical scenes in the movie between her and Dean Martin, especially one involving their car later in the movie. I got a good chuckle out of that.

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The Wrecking Crew did have a smaller budget than the previous films. The Ambushers had not performed that well at the box office. Plus while the Bond films were still moving along, the spy craze that resulted in so many spy spoofs was running out of steam. These factors, plus the horrible murder of Sharon Tate, probably played a big part in the decision not to do a fifth film which would have been called The Ravagers. I think this film is a good way to end out the franchise. I know that fan reaction is mixed on this movie Some people enjoyed it, while others thought it was the worst of the series. It is interesting to see that Denmark (where most of the film was set) looks so much like California (where the film was actually filmed). You know what though. That's one of the things that I loved about these movies. They don't take themselves seriously. Dean Martin could probably play the role in his sleep because he's so at ease with the role. This spy caper and the previous ones in the franchise never tried to be something they weren't. They understood that they were meant for breezy entertainment. It was pure escapist fun. There's nothing wrong with that at all. There was action, humor, hot chicks, hip music, exotic locales, diabolical madmen, etc. The highlight was always the King of Cool himself. Dean Martin played Matt Helm as Dean Martin. He wasn't the cold and ruthless Matt Helm of the books. Instead he was a cool and randy fella who loved to drink, seduce some chicks, croon some tunes & fight some bad guys. I wouldn't have him any other way.

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P.S. Here's a pretty cool scene from the movie featuring Dean Martin and Sharon Tate. I love this part. I hope you enjoy it too.


42 comments:

joe said...

Welcome back Keith! Cool pics!

Keith said...

Thanks Joe. I appreciate it.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Keith, woo hoo....my Dinoholic Dinoaddicted Dinobro is backs in the Dinoaction...great Dinoprose to restart your ol' Dinoblog....loves to see you so so truly Dinodevoted, but likes then, the Dinotruth is that only our Dino truly matters...just keeps keepin' the focus on our King of Cool....loves it!

Fashion Moment said...

Welcome back, dear!
Thank you for wishes, I wish you a fab week, too!
Photos are divine.

FM~FP

Keith said...

Hey pallie DMP. Thanks so much. I appreciate that. I mean it. I had fun doing this post. I've covered all the Matt Helm flicks. I'm deciding which of his films I want to cover next. I had already done Cannonball Run & Ocean's 11. I'm thinking of a western next. Take care. Cheers!

Keith said...

Hey FM/FP. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. Take care. Have a fantastic week. Cheers!

Nancy Sinatra Fan said...

Hello Keith. This was amazing. I loved the photos you posted in this review. They certainly added that extra bunch. I've enjoyed your posts about these films. I plan to watch them all again soon.

Couture Carrie said...

Hey Keith! Hope you had a fab weekend!

This post is really fantastic - I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of this movie; just another reason why you are indispensable in the blogosphere!

Love the film stills and the fashions - that hat!!

xoxox,
CC

Keith said...

Hey Phoebe. Thanks. I appreciate it. I think you meant "punch" and not "bunch." No prob. lol I'm glad you enjoyed it. Cheers!

Keith said...

Hey Carrie. Thanks for the comments. I did have quite a nice weekend. I'm glad I could introduce you to a film that you hadn't heard of. This was the last of the four films in that franchise. There were a lot of spy movies in the 60's to cash in on the Bond craze. These are some of my favorites. Take care. Have a great week. Cheers!

da Kats Blog said...

Hey-HEY! Welcome back, and what a great post. I Love movie stills. Everything old IS new again... want proof? Check out the short white jacket Dino is wearing in the photo white Nigel Green. I'm sure I've seen it in the shops. Way cool.

Glad you're back.

Kat

Keith said...

Hey Kat. Thanks for the comments. Glad you liked this post. I had fun doing it. Plus I really love those pictures myself. They are so cool. I think I've seen that jacket in stores myself. Take care. Cheers!

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

I unashamedly admit that THE WRECKING CREW is my favorite Matt Helm movie! Hugo Montenegro's score enchants, and 1969 truly was the last gasp of this kind of movie. The end of the sixties was nigh...I'm fascinated with films made at the end of this era, it's kind of sad but oh-so interesting. I really need to get out more...

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Welcome back. One of my all time favorite Dino movies.

Gilligan said...

I haven't seen this one yet. Looks like smoking hot babes are in abundance as usual.

Glad to see the Dino Lounge is back in action!

Allison said...

Welcome back Keith :)
I had never heard of this movie, but I'll definitely have to check it out. I absolutely love Sharon Tate - it's so tragic that she was murdered so young, it would have been great to see what else she would have done!
Again, welcome back - it's great reading your posts again!

Chris Casey said...

Hey, Keith!
Glad you are keeping your blogs goin', amigo!
THE WRECKING CREW is probably my favorite Matt Helm film (followed closely by THE SILENCERS); so, I really enjoyed your post a great deal!
Bruce Lee staged all of the fights in the film, by the way..not just the one with Nancy Kwan.
I used to have a couple of b&w stills of Lee behind the scenes. One where he is sitting with Tate on the ground..and another where he is working with Dino! I'll have to see if I can find those, one of these days.
All the best!

Lolita said...

Haha, I have to see this film! I haven't seen any Matt Helm films, it's catastrophic!
The scene was just too lovely. "Somebody put a river here", haha! I like that she throws the bomb in his direction, gets hot for him by the explosion, and that her white hat is still white after being in the exploded car... I'll put this one on my to-see-list!

Gabrielle. said...

oh my gosh. you have no idea how much in love i fell with your blog. it's fantastic! i grew up with frank sinatra blaring through my living room speakers. and the rat pack was CONSTANTLY on my tv. i not only linked you, but i'm now one of your lovely followers, as well.

xxx

gotankgo said...

A top shelf return Keith. Great look at this film. I really enjoy and have seen all of the Matt Helm series and think it's awesome you're giving them a spotlight with your blogs. Sharon Tate is especially fetching in her role here.

La Couturier said...

Welcome back! =]

Lovely post, as per usual!

Bisous,
La C.

Steve Langton said...

Great to see you back, Keith. Really enjoyed reading your review. Hope you pen a lot more as and when time permits.

Keith said...

Hey C.K. Thanks for the comments. I love this movie. It was a great rebound after The Ambushers. It had a wonderful cast and so much more. I love the Hugo Montenegro score. Movies like this were fading away as the 60's came to an end. They were so cool though. Cheers!

Keith said...

Thanks Richard. I appreciate that.

Keith said...

Thanks Gil. I appreciate it. It's definitely a good one. It was a cool way for the Matt Helm franchise to go out. There are quite a few hot chicks here.

Keith said...

Hey Allison. Thanks for the comments. I hope you get a chance to see this movie. All four of these Matt Helm spy movies are available in a DVD set. It's a great way to see all of them. I did love this one. A big reason was Sharon Tate. I adore her. It's so sad that her life ended like it did.

Keith said...

Hey Chris. Thanks for the comments. Glad to see you're a fan of this movie. I wasn't sure who here had seen it or even liked it. So that's very cool. Yeah, you are right about Bruce Lee. If you ever find those stills, I would love to see them. Cheers!

Keith said...

Hey Lolita. Thanks for the comments. Glad you enjoyed this post. I do hope you get a chance to see it. It's available with the other 3 Matt Helm spy films in a DVD set. It's an awesome deal. I love that scene too. It always puts a grin on my face. Sharon and Dino are great here together.

Keith said...

Hey Gabrielle. Wow! Thanks. I really appreciate that. I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. I'll add a link to your blog in my blog links. I always read the blogs in my links so I haven't done the following on it. I'll be sure to check out your blog. I'm glad you are a fan of the Rat Pack. I've loved them since I was a kid. I look forward to seeing you around here more. Cheers!

Keith said...

Hey Scott. Thanks. Glad you liked this post. I thought it was a good way to start back up. I enjoyed this movie. Sharon was great here. She really sparkles in her role. Cheers!

Keith said...

Hey La C. Thanks. I really appreciate that.

Keith said...

Hey Steve. Thanks. I appreciate it. Glad you liked it. I do want to cover some more movies starring Dean Martin. I've done all the Matt Helm movies now. I'm thinking over a few others.

Planet Mondo said...

Hey Keith - how did I miss your comeback post- aplogies.

Love this film and those Man From Uncle films - The Helicopter Spies and The Karate Killers

Keith said...

Hey Dave. That's okay. Thanks for the comments. Glad to see you're a fan of this movie. I love a lot of those spy movies from the 60's.

dapper kid said...

Thank you so so much for the introduction, I have never actually seen or read these, so am definitely keen to try and track down the dvds!

Keith said...

Hey Dapper Kid. Thanks for the comments. I'm glad I could introduce you to these films. They are a good representation of the movies of the swingin' 60's. I hope you get a chance to see them.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

Love your analysis. As always.

retrohound

Rev. Fred Phantom said...

Wow! I've never heard of this movie--sounds great! Good to see you back, Keith.

Keith said...

Thanks Robert. I really appreciate that.

Keith said...

Thanks Rev. It's good to be back. I hope you get a chance to see this movie. It was a good end for the Matt Helm franchise.

William said...

SOUNDTRACK! Why have they never released a soundtrack for this film?

Orman said...

I agree this is my favorite - I am watching it right now. I love the music and love a clean copy of the soundtrack.

Not to be Debbie Down'er but Mr Green killed himself no to long afterwards...

It was the end of an era....