Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on February 18, 1966
Directed by Phil Karlson
Written by Oscar Saul and Herbert Baker, based on the novel by Donald Hamilton
Cast: Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Victor Buono, Arthur O’Connell, Robert Webber, James Gregory, Nancy Kovack, Cyd Charisse, Roger C. Carmel, Beverly Adams, Cosmo Sardo, Vicki Carr (voice)
Crooner-turned-actor Dean Martin stars in the first of four lighthearted adventures featuring ultra-suave government agent Matt Helm, a spy caper based very loosely on author Donald Hamilton’s straightforward and serious novels, and co-scripted with tongue wedged firmly in cheek by a former Martin & Lewis comedy writer. Which of course just compounded the foolishness.
Considered by many to be the best of the four, The Silencers took the tough, smart, and ruthless literary Helm, added a heavy dose of Dino, and served up a spy character who was about as lazy and ill-prepared as one could be, and who spent more time seducing gorgeous women and downing alcoholic beverages than battling the evil-doers trying to sabotage atomic missile testing in New Mexico. If this were real life, and the cinematic Helm actually had to tangle with the villains and henchmen he was sharing screen time with, he’d be dead in a matter of minutes.
The screenplay, unfortunately, kept that from happening, and with film noir veteran Phil Karlson directing, you had to wonder how it all became so unabashedly silly. Well, for starters, I’d say look no further than the script, which took the skeletal structure of what might’ve been a decent spy story and buried it under layer after layer of corny gags, unrealistic gadgets, and scenes that hopelessly failed to advance the narrative.
And let’s not forget the endless pilfering of the early Bond films: besides the trademark hot babes and stuntwork, this film contained a tricked-out car, cavernous sets that mirrored the work of Ken Adam, innuendo-laced character names (Lovey Kravezit!), and even a weapons explanation sequence straight out of Q Branch.
However, there are three aspects of the film that are worth mentioning: Stella Stevens as Helm’s love interest, who was quite the well-built, sexy little goofball; Victor Buono as Tung-Tze, who offered a deliciously campy portrayal as the leader of the enemy organization BIG O; and Robert Webber as a BIG O operative, who apparently wasn’t told to pull his punches, and during a scene at a nightclub brutally flung poor Daliah Lavi across a stage floor as if she were a rag doll.
Take my advice: if you expect and demand the tone of the books, like I did, then you might want to pass on this one. Otherwise, if you’re in the mood for corny, indulgent, and purely juvenile entertainment, then have at it. (3/10)