Monday, August 10, 2015

In Like Our Man Flint

First I have to confess it's been at least four decades since I've seen either of the Derek Flint movies. When I saw they were both OnDemand (as opposed to one or the other), I decided it was time to sit down and refresh my memory.

All my life I have loved the James Bond movie series, and with that, also the numerous copycats, homages, and parodies. So I dug Flint as a kid, but I recall liking Matt Helm a lot better, and even today, Dean Martin's swaggering spy is a fave and a delight. As I got ready to watch the two Flint films, I wondered if it would change my mind.

James Coburn's Derek Flint is a retired super spy from Z.O.W.I.E. (Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage - you gotta love those 1960s acronyms) who is now living the life of a classic playboy. In the first film, 1966's Our Man Flint, he's brought out of his retirement to stop Galaxy, a cabal of evil scientists who want to rule the world.

One thing I enjoyed, and wished more movies would do this with their protagonist, is that much like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we are shown and know everything we need to know about Derek Flint in the first ten minutes. He's a man of culture, of intelligence, of mad skills, has an affinity for women, a dislike for his boss, and a wry sense of humor. Speaking of his boss, the legendary Lee J. Cobb has great chemistry with Coburn and it's a delight when the two are on screen together.

There are some clever plot twists, colorful sets, cheesy 1960s effects, beautiful women, an early cool jazzy score by Jerry Goldsmith, and lots of silly spy gadgets and cliches. The flick is dated, yes, and the plot falls apart if you think too hard, but it is parody after all. Highlights include Bond wannabe Agent 0008 and a baddie named Hans Gruber, yeah, as in Die Hard like twenty years later.

If you look close you'll see Edward Mulhare from "Knight Rider," and Charmin pitchman Mr. Whipple, and if you listen close to the President's voice - yeah, that's the Green Hornet himself, Van Williams, imitating then-Prez Lyndon B. Johnson.

The sequel In Like Flint was released a little over a year later. Even though many of the same folks are involved, this tale of a spa company taking over the world and turning the patriarchy into a matriarchy (sooo sexist and dated), is a weak sister to the original. Notably not as clever, one glaring difference is the music. In Our Man, music moved along the slow parts, and here many of the slow bits go silent.

Lee J. Cobb is toothless and nothing like his character in the original, and Flint is too nice. I found myself disliking them both whereas I loved their performances in Our Man. It's like the first movie was "Batman" clever but the second was unfunny like the later Pink Panther films, trying but never quite making it. Not to be mean, but I know why there wasn't a third Flint flick. And speaking of "Batman," look for pre-Batgirl Yvonne Craig as the ballerina in this one.

After this double feature, I would have to say I still prefer Matt Helm, and I could probably wait another four decades to see these two movies again. Now I know why the only memory I have of them previously is the sound of the ring of the President's phone.

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