Sadly, to many 2014 movie buffs, the mere mention of the two Derek Flint pictures that 20th Century-Fox produced in the mid-1960s elicit smirks a la their being parodied in Mike Myers' Austin Powers spoofs. While not totally unwarranted, their admitted antiquated charm was responsible for the instant stardom of their title protagonist – the ridiculously cool James Coburn (to say nothing of his Steve McQueen hair).
For a brief period, Derek Flint and James Coburn were the epitome of “where's it at,” and, by that I mean in the pre-psychedelic universe of style, fashion, bachelor-pad-dom and accepted pursuits of babelicious debauchery.
Thus, it is with misty-eyed rose-colored fondness that I praise Twilight Time/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment for bringing both OUR MAN FLINT and IN LIKE FLINT to the Blu-Ray format in pristine 1080p limited editions.
With the mid-1960s Bond obsession, came the anticipated carbon-copy rip-offs, low-rent versions and, eventual comedic takes. While not as broad as TV's Get Smart, or as wink-wink-nudge-nudge as Dean Martin's Matt Helm franchise, the Flint pix were, in their own way, original in their contradictory, wheedling (i.e. I wanna smack the oleaginous know-it-all) heroic anti-Establishment hero.
Unlike the more ludicrous 007 renditions, Flint was, like Bond, often cruel and unforgiving – thinking nothing of liquidating anyone who got in his way. He wasn't a member of any secret organization – he was his own agent, reluctantly working (albeit independently) with the U.S. government. His actions were frequently not that unlike those of his most sadistic adversary; in fact, he brings to mind the mantra of Alan Ladd's psychotic Raven in 1942's This Gun for Hire: “I'm my own police.” The gag being that Flint was always right was as grating as it was reassuring for us groovy spy-pic junkies...although I secretly harbored a fantasy of wanting to see his Brooks Brothers-adorned gentile behind getting kicked unceremoniously (and, preferably, by some guy in a gorilla suit).
The Flint pictures are actually brilliant in their marketing ploy – superbly zeroing in on and exploiting the decade's three-prong adult male fairy tale how-to-succeed-in-monkey-business-without-really-trying bucket list: The Cold War, the space race and Playboy magazine. This triad is the direct result of another trio – the human in-front-of and behind-the-scenes participants, namely lead Coburn, composer Jerry Goldsmith and, most of all, producer Saul David.
The original treatment by coscripter Hal Fimberg is an atrocity. It made the most banal television fare look like Chekov (or, at its best, My Living Doll's House). In the initial storyline, Flint is a loyal government agent (unbeknownst to his superiors) aided by a beautiful outer-space alien in his endeavors. How Fox could ever have even purchased such crap is beyond me, but does recall Billy Wilder's spot-on assessment of one-time studio head Spyros Skouras (“the only real Greek tragedy I know of”). Reportedly, when Coburn first heard this plotline, he intellectually retched his guts out. I'm doing that now, and I'm simply reporting the facts.
While Coburn was certainly amiable to starring in a Hollywood feature film, he ultimately didn't care if that never materialized. By 1965, he was a major supporting player with a growing enviable track record, including The Magnificent 7, Charade, The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily and Major Dundee topping his impressive credits. Coburn, to quote Sammy Davis, Jr.'s iconic Sixties ballad, fiercely adhered to the phrase, “I Gotta be ME!,” a declaration to which producer David emphatically agreed.
Coburn's insistence of having to work “outside the system,” to “wear my own threads,” to design and perfect his own gadgets and weaponry, to be just that much better than the G-men, would have to be quintessential. When agency head Lee J. Cobb (another brilliant stroke of casting – the perfect blustery over-excited alternative to Coburn's “cool it, man” persona) visits Flint's swinging bachelor pad, he observes the resident's uber-mensch quietly conversing with dolphins. Coburn's daughter has since commented on that sequence as being “...so like my dad.” I recall watching a Sixties talk show where Coburn guested, making his entrance garbed in Buddhist robes and spouting Eastern proverbs outlining inner serenity and sexual gratification. “Damn,” I vividly remember thinking, “he really believes this shit!”
It's here that David's fingerprints cover the Flint resurrection with a hands-on vengeance. Saul David, to put it mildly, is one of the unsung wunderkinds of 1960s cinema – as well as one of its most interesting specimens. As inconsonant as his most famous screen creation, David, an avid picture fan, began his career in New York's publishing arena. Regarded as the pioneer of the movie tie-in paperbacks which flooded the bookshops and stationery emporiums throughout the late 1950s-early 1970s, David happily became part of the deal Warner Bros. negotiated with Helen Gurley Brown for her big-screen sale of Sex and the Single Girl.
Alas, once he arrived at the Burbank Studio, it became increasingly obvious that Warners wanted no part of David, hoping to appease him with an in-name-only credit. It did not. Before you could say, “That's all, folks!,” Saul David was history.
His being picked up by Fox was probably the smartest move the boys at 20th made during the entire decade. By sheer volume alone, David became Fox's most prolific and successful practitioner of the celluloid arts; aside from the Flint pics, David's other productions included Fantastic Voyage and Von Ryan's Express.
When assigned the Flint project, he reacted pretty much the same way as Coburn. He thought that Flint needed to work alone – perhaps in conjunction with the U.S., but always an Alpha – never a Beta. The first thing to go, however, was the sci-fi garbage. Flint didn't need beautiful space aliens; every desirable woman on this planet wanted him. He emphasized that Flint do whatever necessary to achieve his personal satisfaction, no matter how unpleasant; the super-spy's prime goal was always to look after himself (and his never-ending bevy of adoring ladies). If his actions coincided with the government, great; if not, tough. When he discovered that Coburn felt the same way, he knew he had his lead. “Go ahead, wear your own clothes.” Earth's yer oyster, Flint. Take what you need – screw everybody else. Big surprise, Saul David proudly boasted that his idol was Ayn Rand. By decade's end, like Flint, the era and, eventually (by the mid-1970s) even Coburn, David's world soon crashed and burned, an antiquated remnant of its times. But while it lasted – oh, baby, let the good times roll!
Integral to David's approach was his heavily spicing the scenario with humor...the snarky, sarcastic and occasionally queasily sadistic kind. As much as I disagree with the producer's political beliefs, I must make mention and praise of David's published 1981 memoirs of the biz, unassumingly entitled The Industry. It remains the best book ever on working in Hollywood during the 1960s (the section covering his association with Sinatra whilst filming Von Ryan's Express is alone worth the purchase price).
The budget for OUR MAN FLINT was fairly minimal – almost low-ball for a Fox A-picture. That Coburn's supporting-actor pay scale didn't infringe upon the cost of the pic was a bonus. The monumental special effects were primarily culled from the Fox library. Epic scenes of destruction are lifted from the more expensive sequences from The Rains of Ranchipur and even Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The budget went toward the mod sets and futuristic trappings of Flint's pad, and the sex-fantasy isle of enemy Galaxy's paradise. Likewise the super-cool “happening” togs worn (and shed) by the hordes of friendly females.
Director Daniel Mann was a bizarre choice to head the proceedings. The man behind such hilarious forays as Come Back, Little Sheba, I’ll Cry Tomorrow and The Last Angry Man never quite clicked with the comedy elements – and, to be honest, didn't really deliver on the many required action set-pieces either. Still, he was a professional, and extremely good with actors so there was a beneficial repartee; nevertheless there's always an uneasy oil-and-water “Is it a gum or a candy?” comedy/action-drama feel to the picture that is never comfortably resolved.
Mann originally wanted Alex North to score OUR MAN FLINT. North, already a Top Film Music dude (The Wonderful Country, Spartacus, Cleopatra) was beyond the financial constraints of FLINT's purse strings. David finally lowered the boom – that they just couldn't afford North. Against Mann's objections, David assigned the picture to Jerry Goldsmith, mostly known for his TV work (The Twilight Zone, Dr. Kildare, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), but rapidly becoming a rising player on the basis of his fantastic work on The List of Adrian Messenger, The Prize, Fate is the Hunter, and Rio Conchos. This irked Mann – until he heard Goldsmith's initial riffs. The ultra-smoking electric organ sounds instantly captured the required Flint vibes. David was practically moved to tears when he first listened to the strains of Goldsmith's score. “You've saved me!” he shouted, adding that he could hear the sounds of box-office cash registers ringing across the country. Truly, Goldsmith's music elevates FLINT from its backlot neighborhood to (dare I say) Bond Street. It's a friggin' great soundtrack, and, deservedly, did as much for the composer as it did for the movie.
When released in 1965, the modestly budgeted OUR MAN FLINT proved a surprise hit with audiences, and, even more amazingly, with critics. We know it shot star James Coburn to the top of the A-list, and, he more or less ended the decade starring in a number of vehicles tailor-made to cash in on his Flint-cool persona. Indeed, such offerings as Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, The President's Analyst and Duffy were hepper, more cerebral (just slightly) toned-down versions of his signature spy character. In retrospect, it's hard to fathom the phenomenal success of the first entry; Daniel Mann, as indicated was an odd choice for di-rector. The movie is never funny enough to compete with television’s Get Smart (which also debuted in 1965), or even the Italian knock-offs Matchless and Operation Kid Brother (the latter which memorably starred Sean Connery's real-life sib Neil, and was actually released overseas as O.K., Connery). Ditto, the earlier discussed stunt-laden action segments.
The script is another sore thumb. Mercifully, nearly all of Fimberg's material was tossed into the Fox circular file (maybe even the deluxe one – with the flush plunger). Comedy writer Ben Starr, recruited to salvage some sense to the narrative, wasn't exactly the wisest addition either – his gags often old enough to offend Milton Berle. Granted, no one expected Billy Wilder – but FLINT is frequently panting to ascend to W. Lee Wilder status. But remarkably, it works, and for a variety of reasons.
First off, whenever a movie or TV series or fashion statement strives to be trendy, it's a virtual guarantee that the result's shelf life is doomed to death row from the get-go. In OUR MAN FLINT's case, this is an attribute. The look, both in set design/art direction and clotheshorse apparel (plus the genuinely great Goldsmith music) bangs you over the head from main credits fade-in. That it inspired Austin Powers (which, as I write this in March of 2014, is already perplexing younger readers with, “What's that?”) is a given. This is mostly to the plot-point relegating women to “pleasure units.” Or fembots. It's fun to look back at the pop-art 1960s – especially for those who weren't there, and revel in a cool that never really was.
So FLINT's triumph of matter over mind is due to the look and to Coburn's participation. One cannot compliment James Coburn enough – it's been hinted that he supplied many of the truly clever one-liners. To this we can add producer David's input – harping on the main character's Garbo-I-vant-to-be-alone lifestyle. Like Paul Anka's raucous ditty, Flint does it “My Way,” or no way at all. The loner even manages to inflict his personal code book upon the U.S. Government secret agency, known as Z.O.W.I.E. (Zonial Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage). That Z.O.W.I.E. head Lloyd Cramden (Cobb) begrudgingly agrees is yet another concession in their acri-monious relationship which goes back to WWII, when he was Flint's superior in name only. Flint being no spring chicken is thus another mature plus, notably his having achieved a legendary status in the European theater that reduces Audie Murphy's exploits to Sergeant Bilko's Doberman.
There are some absolutely hysterical puns throughout the pic, mostly between scene-stealing pros Cobb and Coburn. When a flustered Cramden gives Flint the prerequisite 007 attaché case, the ultra-sleek hero begs off. Cobb's smug comment that it houses 65 functions is rebuked by Flint's producing a palm-friendly lighter. “[Mine] has 82...83 if you wish to light a cigar.”
When Flint excuses his tardiness due to a date at the ballet, the agency head is unimpressed – until he learns that said performance was in Moscow. “You went to Moscow to see a ballet?!” he asks incredulously. “[To] teach!” replies Flint.
Coburn/Flint can do no wrong – he can even stop his own heartbeat (which comes in handy), and is adept at emergency surgery. “Sorry about that crude incision, sir,” he apologizes to Cobb after having saved his life.
The narrative to OUR MAN FLINT pits the U.S. (and the world) against Galaxy, a lunatic fringe group of unlimited resources who threaten the globe with man-made climate change (yeah, I know). The three maniacs in charge are former scientists-turned-rogue psychotics – literal weathermen under the monikers of Drs. Schneider, Wu and Krupov (that Benson Fong, the solo Asian in the trio, portrays Schneider is an ethnic dig supplied by Starr, and one that Flint later sneers at).
It's almost damning to see their theory on what can happen to the planet dashed to smithereens by a happily liquidating Flint (certainly, once again, the Rand-influenced rebuttal of such an idea by David).
Galaxy operates on a sex-topian male fantasy isle, populated by binders full of watusi/frug dancing string bikini-clad gorgeous women, who have been (as alluded to earlier) programmed as pleasure units. “It's an honor to offer my body to Galaxy” is their post-brainwashed pledge. While this ordinarily probably wouldn't bother Flint too much, it becomes lethally personal when his live-in quartet of delicious babes are kidnapped and held hostage on the atoll paradise (to keep the juices flowing and the males a-pumpin', the scientists have developed a Viagra pill called Exotica).
Flint's villainous adversaries are (in ascending order), Gruber – a grotesque bald-pate Preminger/von Stroheim lookalike, a former Hitler Youth unmasked by Flint in a Marseilles dive's men's room. “I'm a much nicer person now,” grins the Nazi a second before Flint slices him into knockwurst.
Next is Galaxy's premiere henchman, the not-so-bright sadist Malcolm Rodney, played with drooling delight by Edward Mulhare. Rodney is the most disturbing of the characters, as his cold-blooded demeanor ain't that different from Flint's, but with way worse clothes.
The primo counterpart is Gila, essayed by the super-beauteous Gila Golan. The epitome of Sixties Euro-babe extroadinaire, Golan masterfully holds her own with Coburn – until the telltale unbelievable moment where she succumbs to his penis-for-Venus charms and becomes the unofficial fifth member of his giggly-jiggly harem. Oh, well.
OUR MAN FLINT looks great – it's once-faded DeLuxe hues digitally refurbished to a crisp, ebullient groovy color wheel (Daniel L. Fapp, its excellent d.p., can breathe a posthumous sigh of relief). The audio, with the essential-era Goldsmith music accessible as an IST, is a must-have for soundtrack collectors.
What makes this Twilight Time title especially desirable to me are the generous extras. Loads of interviews, trailers, screen tests, storyboards and other perks are justification enough for a place on collectors’ shelves. Of specific interest is a black and white test of Coburn and Golan doing a scene from Thomas Wolfe. What's eyebrow-raising is Golan's dramatic abilities – never mined in ANY of her screen work. A former Miss Israel (1961), Golan had a quicksilver career here in the States (where, for some unfathomable reason her sexy natural accent was usually dubbed by some bland TV commercial-trained V.O. “artist”). Obviously she had a little more on the ball than her contemporaries; her personal dissatisfaction with the roles offered to her might explain the actress's virtual disappearance from the scene by the early 1970s. Too bad. Another, more traditional screen test, in faded Deluxe Color, is a magnificently uninteresting scene between Coburn and a towel-wrapped Raquel Welch (more Big Bad Wolf than Thomas Wolfe, the scene concerns a conflict about taking a shower – alas, no way near as engagingly explored in Psycho).
The trailer is curious, as it basically reveals the entire plot; more fascinating is the background music (Goldsmith must have still been in the composing stage), culled from Daniel Mann's first-choice Alex North's The Sound and the Fury and Lionel Newman's Compulsion, both ill-suited to the visuals.
Personally, for me, the supplement peak is a near-fifty-year-old remembrance by director Mann's son Michael. He recounts on how he and his friends were allowed to visit the set of his dad's spy flick. Given A-1 treatment, surrounded by those sets, stars and gadgetry, the younger Mann's only memory is that of a swimsuit-adorned Golan, with whom he was instantly smitten. To this day, he lovingly moons, “...I can still smell her perfume.” I SO get that!
The astounding surprise success of OUR MAN FLINT virtually guaranteed the inevitable – the Hollywood sequel. Within days of its general release, plans were already on the boards for a follow-up, released in 1967 as IN LIKE FLINT.
As with the original, the second installment was a mixed bag of pros and cons. On the plus side, the huge box office FLINT was bringing in assured a bigger budget; alas, that didn't extend to the scripting. Ben Starr, who smoothed over the ga-zillion rough edges of Hal Fimberg's nonsensical screenplay was refused a pay raise – so he (rightfully) bolted. This left Fimberg on his own – an extremely precarious situation as the aging, hapless comedic scribe was hardly the go-to dude for a hep cooler-than-cool trendy project. To call Fimberg out of step was an understatement. What ultimately sank the new Flint was the soggy scenario – a hodgepodge of tired cliches and supposed up-to-the-minute jabs at contemporary culture. Not that Starr was any great master of slick wit, but he was Ernst Lubitsch compared to the fumbling Fimberg. What ended up on the screen was, in many ways, nothing more (or less) than a dumbed-down remake of the first picture. Well, sort of.
The newest adventure was a spectacular-looking celluloid anachronism; true, the visuals are prime 1960s Playboy/Bond to the max, but the situations...oy vey!
In Fimberg and Saul David's continuation of America's loner superspy, the key plotline would revolve around the burgeoning feminist movement. The U.S. and the world would be challenged by an international array of beauties intent on taking over the globe – making it a better place for all...since the men have royally cocked it up.
Ummm....okay; but the cracks show early and deep. The midriff-exposed shake-shake-shake adversaries operate out of a multi-billion-dollar spa, whose claim to fame is Fabulous Face – a cold cream left over from either the earlier escapade or swiped from the concurrently filming Fox Doris Day pic Caprice. Your choice. That the finale takes place on yet another island paradise – all primed for Flint to destroy in high style (and fashion) is almost anti-climactic. Even the insinuations that the lovelies controlling the palm tree-strewn heaven-on-Earth far more prefer close encounters of the Isle of Lesbos kind is pretty much dulled to non-existent, especially when Flint is involved (if anyone can “cure” 'em, Flint can).
Flint's confrontation with the ferocious females, led by queenpin Anna Lee, is cringe-worthy. As they spout their feminist rhetoric, an amused Coburn can all but hold back the guffaws. Finally flashing his patented CinemaScope grin, arms outstretched, he counters with a bom-bastic, “Ladies...FORGET IT!” And, Flint being Flint, they do – well, not before it's revealed that all the women have been sexual dupes, and that the real villains in control is a renegade army led by deranged General Steve Ihnat – a pint-sized version of Burt Lancaster from Seven Days in May.
Gambling that the feminist movement was a passing joke was a wager that didn't pay off...in spades. Despite later spins that David was a big supporter of the women's movement (and using this pic as an example, of all things), IN LIKE FLINT remains an uncomfortable hybrid best labeled “MS.oyginistic.” Even the title – a goof on an already long-forgotten pun involving womanizing Errol Flynn (bestowed upon those who “got lucky” between the post-WWII years and the McCarthy Era) was...well limp. The core youth audience never made the connection.
Worse was the dialogue. The outstanding Sixties icon Jean Hale (a disciple of matriarch Lee's) was voted by the country's skiers as “The Girl We Most Want to be Trapped on a Chairlift With” and unbelievably beat out Catherine Deneuve for the role (I suspect mostly due to the former’s being a lot cheaper than the up-and-coming French star – to say nothing of the fact that Hale was under contract to Fox). It's easy to cite import duties as a prime reason, but the official story is even better – because of exemplary her work in 1966's The Oscar! Whether true or not – I SO want to believe that (I would unabashedly give anyone associated with that movie priority status)! To see Hale donned in amazing mod togs, calling another go-go booted vixen “dearie” is mind-numbing to say the least. I mean, come on – it's as if Fimberg was trapped in a 1942 Republic burlesque musical starring Marion Martin. Which he probably was.
To put it mildly, there's a weird sexual tinge to IN LIKE FLINT. Aside from the above, it's hard to forget a disturbing sidebar featuring costar Lee J. Cobb in drag. Or that Flint's jaw-dropping private massage parlor has been re-duced in volume (“I'm cutting down,” he tells Cobb). This downsizing apparently gives the spy some extra energy, enabling him to perform at the Bolshoi and subsequently satiate its horny prima ballerina (Yvonne Craig) with his special version of The Nutcracker.
Aside from the increased budget – notably on view via the actual Jamaican locations rather than the previous pic's faux backlot island exteriors, IN LIKE FLINT benefits from the participation of director Gordon Douglas. Douglas, aside from being celebrated as being quick and able to effortlessly work with difficult talent (aka Sinatra), was far more genre-proof than the former Flint shot-caller Mann.
Douglas began as a comic actor with Hal Roach, as one of The Boyfriends during the primeval talkie period. He soon moved behind the camera, writing and eventually achieving his goal as a director. He guided the Our Gang brood through several memorable excursions, graduating to the head of the class with Laurel & Hardy's last Roach work, 1940's Saps at Sea. Responsible for perhaps one of the greatest titles ever bestowed upon cinema – 1945's Zombies on Broadway, Douglas moved seamlessly into the shadowy confines of film noir, putting a psychotic Jimmy Cagney through his paces in the extremely violent 1950 shocker Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. He excelled in practically every genre the studios could throw at him, including those in 3D (1953's The Charge at Feather River). In 1954, he helmed one of the decade's most famous sci-fi classics, THEM!, before moving on to everything from Erskine Caldwell sex 'n' bayou flicks (Claudelle Inglish) and Elvis Presley musicals (Follow that Dream). In 1964, now working for Fox, Douglas directed perhaps his finest flick ever – the graphic, adult gutsy western Rio Conchos. Thus his adeptness in staging (and blurring) wackiness and no-holds-barred action perfectly conformed to the necessary Flint guidelines. Too bad he wasn't first choice for OUR MAN FLINT; methinks it would have been an overall superior picture.
The music is once again by Jerry Goldsmith, and yet another big thumbs-up factor in IN LIKE FLINT's entertaining staying power. A pop song, which Fox and David obviously thought might be a breakout hit, Your Z.O.W.I.E. Face, should, by all accounts, be a jarring embarrassment. In Goldsmith's capable hands (with lyrics by the period's ubiquitous master of Bondage, Leslie Briscusse, it becomes a reasonable if not silly background tune – regretfully one of those dirges that one occasionally finds themselves humming long after the fade-out (you can judge for yourself by accessing Twilight Time's IST option, which allows film music aficionados to enjoy the score as if it were a CD soundtrack).
The look of IN LIKE FLINT is terrific – and why wouldn't it be? The 2.35:1 compositions are Pop Art lensed by the great William Daniels. FYI, depending upon where one lived when this picture was debuted, IN LIKE FLINT (or Caprice) was the last Fox movie released carrying their CinemaScope moniker (Panavision would from here on in handle the majority of their 2.35:1-composed pics). As one might imagine, the Twilight Time Blu-Ray looks stu-pendous, sharper and crisper (and with better color) than I've ever seen it (and that includes the original Loews 175th '67 exhibition).
Unlike its predecessor, IN LIKE FLINT almost unanimously received negative reviews when it hit the screens in 1967. This was, at least, in part due to its instantly outdated feminist take – making it a lip-biting groaner from coast-to-coast. Nevertheless it did score a modest profit, but not enough to seriously consider a third foray. Even had IN LIKE FLINT brought in 007 money, it's highly questionable that another entry would have been placed on the Fox schedule, as Coburn, now a superstar, had already publicly voiced his viable critique “That's it, baby – there's nothing left to be said, man. Time to move on.” Added to that was Saul David's battle with studio head Richard Zanuck – primarily in regard to two excised pieces of dialog, abruptly cut from IN LIKE FLINT. The infamous aforementioned “FORGET IT” comment to the feminist forum was preceded by a full three minute Flint-delivered diatribe that Zanuck deemed irrelevant. But this was small potatoes compared to what David considered the final degradation: the slashing of the movie's concluding line. As all those familiar with the movie know, Flint ends up in orbit with a couple of gorgeous lady astronauts, naturally attired in svelte metallic form-fitting spacesuits. The circumcised capper, spoken via mike to a delighted Cobb, was, according to the producer, as witty and memorable as Jack Lemmon's topper in Some Like it Hot. It wasn't (“Men and women aren't brothers”), and only further showcased David's failing grasp on the rapidly changing culture. Zanuck refused to argue the point, and chopped it without hesitation. David went to Arthur Knight and convinced the journalist to pen a scathing anti-Fox piece on how they ruined a magnificent satire. Before he knew it, Saul David was out on his Z.O.W.I.E. ass. The once with-it filmmaker fared no better in the 1970s, producing the lame sci-fi yawner Logan's Run for MGM in 1976.
Much of the above is covered in the plethora of IN LIKE FLINT extras that accompany the Blu-Ray. These bits alone are worth obtaining the limited edition. While I won't discuss them all, I will briefly conjure up some favorite tidbits.
In Take it Off – a 1967 Fox-produced tie-in, beauty to please men, is underlined as a necessary commodity for all females, no matter how painful OR how liberated they think they are. The narration by Joan Shawlee is often sharper than any barb in the actual feature.
Then there's a bizarre screen test with a starlet, talking on the telephone to her would-be lover. The lover is none other than the off-camera voice of director Gordon Douglas, who improvises a variety of politically-incorrect scenarios for what today would make him the poster boy for sexual harassment (it also explains why Sinatra loved him). The scantily-clad actress tries not to cave, and lasciviously giggles and coos, “Oh, yeah – you know that” kind of replies before an out-of-control Douglas leaps on top of her, pawing and mauling the babe before the camera mercifully cuts to black (and possibly a Fox lawsuit).
My favorite in the bunch is from the Puerto Rico premiere. Fox sent its cast along with a camera crew to record the pre-event amidst the lush tropical surroundings. They also sent that Sixties king of cool (I'm being facetious) and master of all that is repugnant (now I'm not) Art Linkletter as the interviewer. Linkletter lives up to his rep as a smarmy idiot as he conducts inane beach-front conversations with Sammy Davis, Jr., and Edie Adams. Adams exhibits disdain as the People are Funny host brings up “dead husband” Ernie Kovacs. Sammy, a longtime friend of Coburn's, waxes euphoric on his pal's success, referring to it as a mitzvah, which only confuses Linkletter. Coburn himself, wearing sandals, breaks into his million-watt grin, and dutifully answers the uninspired boring questions, frequently staring at Linkletter like he's a moron. The highlight, however, is a discussion with a toupee-less Lee J. Cobb. Linkletter tries in vain prove his theatrical knowledge by gushing over the actor's oft-praised performance in Death of a Salesman (which had just been revived as a critically acclaimed television special), reaching the piece de resistance moment when he refers to the famed Arthur Miller lead character as “Willy Lomax.” The expression on Cobb's face is priceless, a non-verbal rebuttal of “You really are an asshole!” It brought tears to my eyes (and does so again as I commit these snippets to my laptop).
Although I might have been a bit rough in my assessment, I can honestly say that there is a FLINT-ONLY parking spot eternally reserved in my heart for these two movies. The look continually brings back vivid memories of my misspent childhood, as does the music...and Coburn, Cobb, that sorority of spy-flick beauties...yeah, all of it. Damn, it all goes so fast. I don't doubt that From Russia with Love is a better picture, but I'm apt to watch OUR MAN FLINT and IN LIKE FLINT more often (ya gotta pair 'em up as a double-feature). Then again, I wonder if I might be just as happy with a Matt Helm pic, the Italian spoofs or (if they ever release it) The Last of the Secret Agents? Naw, probably not. Well, maybe the Italian spoofs...
OUR MAN FLINT and IN LIKE FLINT. Color. Letterbox [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition]. Mono audio [1.0 DTS-HD MA; In Like Flint has an alternate option of a re-mixed 5.0 track]. Limited Editions of 3000@. SRP: $29.95@.
Available exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment [www.screenarchives.com].