Sunday, June 11, 2023

From the Clyde's Movie Palace located in the back of the Secret Headquarters of the CIA: Our Man Flint 1966

Our Man Flint MarqueeCast of Our Man Flint

By 1965, with the release of Thunderball, Ian Fleming's James Bond character was the most famous spy on the planet. There were no substitutes.
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Brocolli had latched onto a gold mine when they brought 007, played by Sean Connery, to the big screen. But Bond served On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Hollywood did not have an equivalent screen icon to rake in oodles of cash.
The powers-that-be at 20th Century Fox decided to give it the good old American try. And who knows? Maybe they thought they would be lucky enough to hit pay-dirt.
Enter Our Man Flint (1966) (aka Derek Flint), played by James Coburn. Flint doesn't have a secret agent number like Bond but works as an Independent. He has this thing about not following orders or becoming someone else's beck-and-call spy. He is, in fact, pretty much dropped out of the Spy business as he has too many other interests, like teaching the Russian Ballet in Moscow, fencing, and giving Karate Lessons.

Teach Ballet
Flint also has four assistants. We'll call them that, although they act as personal servants, giving him shaves, haircuts, fetching his slippers. Still, most of all, just keeping him company. If you guessed that they are all females, congratulations! You win a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, but you'll have to chase down Ralphie and get it from him.

Derek Flint's Assistants
Flint's former boss, who was barking out orders to Derek when he was spying for the government, is Cramden, played by Lee J. Cobb. I wonder if Cramden is his first name or his last name. The movie never says one way or the other. 

World in Trouble
Cramden wants nothing more to do with Flint because any spy who can't follow protocol and take orders is not a spy worth having, no matter how good they are. And Flint is the best, so Cramden is kind of an idiot as far as that goes.
But the world is in crisis. Some nefarious group is controlling the weather worldwide, causing havoc and making a damn nuisance of themselves by drowning cities, erupting volcanoes, causing avalanches, and making hurricanes and various other weather catastrophes. In other words, they are making a damn nuisance of themselves from their secret submarine hideout.

Whenever ZOWIE, the spy organization run by Cramden, sends out their spies to end this fiasco, they return dead.

Flint Punchcard
So Cramden, gathering all his fellow spy bosses from around the world, has them write down the qualifications they deem necessary for an agent to bring down the enemy. And much to Cramden's chagrin, after all the computer punch-out cards (those were the days) are submitted and processed, the recommended spy is Derek Flint every time. Still, it takes a phone call from the President to get Cramden to agree to hire Flint.
Flint does not intend to return to work, spying for a guy who can't stand him.
Only after Flint has to save Cramden from a poisonous dart shot out of a harp by an enemy agent, Gila (Gila Golan), aided by henchman Malcolm Rodney (Edward Mulhare) and Hans Gruber (Michael St. Clair), that is meant for Flint, does he agree to take the case.

Poison Dart
Cramden wants Flint to have a team of agents at his disposal. Flint works alone. Cramden wants Flint to use the agency's secret code. Flint has his own code, a mathematical progression: 40-26-36 based on, well, you know. Cramden has a briefcase with 65 weapons. Flint has a cigarette lighter with 82 different functions, 83 if you need to light a cigar.

The Magic Lighter
After a little bit of bouillabaisse detection, Flint heads to Marseilles in his private jet to begin his mission to save the world from Gina, Rodney, Gruber, and three scientists, Dr. Krupov (Rhys Williams), Dr. Schneider (Benson Fong) and Dr. Wu (Peter Brocco), in charge of an organization called Galaxy that doesn't want to destroy the world, but to save the world from itself by controlling the weather.
Gina is given the assignment to dispose of Flint. When she fails at first, she discovers his four weaknesses (Guess who?) and has them kidnapped to put in the service of Galaxy.
Flint realizes he is walking into a trap but is not deterred from his mission, even taking a little time off to have a sexual liaison with Gina.

After Derek Sex

Can you blame him? But, as we learned earlier, he has mastered placing himself into a coma-like state by lowering his heartbeat to undetectable levels. It aids him immeasurably in his mission, along with his trusty cigarette lighter.

ComaIn the Casket        
When Gina proclaims Flint is no ordinary man, she isn't just whistling Dixie. 

imageThis was a fun movie when, at 14, I saw it with my friend, Tim, at the Laroy Theater in Portsmouth. Over 50 years later, watching it in my home theater the other night, it's still a good time at the movies.        
This is due in no small part to James Coburn, who, as Flint, manages to make us believe he is the most remarkable person on the planet and can really do these things. Yes, he is arrogant, but that arrogance also helps keep him alive.

I’ve always liked much of Coburn’s work on screen. He finally got the recognition he deserved as Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for Affliction.  You can watch (as of 6/11/23) for free on Freevee with the usual shit pot full of ads, or you can buy a standard definition streaming copy on Vudu.  Being a loyal commercial hater, I’d opt for Hard Times (1975), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Carey Treatment (1972), Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966) or The Great Escape (1960).
Lee J. Cobb, who had a long productive career in film and television, portrays the flustered, straight arrow and overly bureaucratic head of Galaxy straight down the middle, His most notable films would undoubtedly be 12 Angry Men and as Lt. Kinderman in The Exorcist.
Although an enemy agent, Gila Golan is charming, beautiful, and damn sexy, if I may say so. As we teenagers used to say back before chauvinism became a thing, we wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers. Maybe they still say that. I wouldn't kick my wife out of bed for that, but I would ask her to get some crackers and cheese for a late-night snack. She costarred in the Jerry Lewis film, 3 on a Couch, shortly after Our Man Flint.

3 on a Couch
A few years later Gina would show up in what has now become a cult favorite, The Valley of Gwangi.  After that she would do one more film and then pretty much drop out of sight.  But she has one helluva back story.
Edward Mulhare, as Rodney, is as sleazy and underhanded as someone named Rodney could be. Three years later, when he seduced young naive Karen Valentine from Room 222 in a film called Gidget Grows Up, I still thought he was damn creepy.
As Derek Flint said, "I wonder what it is that always makes the Rodneys choose the wrong side."
Derek Flint never became as big as Bond, but the movie did make enough to warrant a sequel by 20th Century Fox. Being one of my favorite films from my teen years, it was an easy purchase from the now-defunct Twilight Time Label on Bluray and the sequel, In Like Flint. You can get the Standard Definition DVD at a reasonable price. Still long out of print, the Bluray will set you back, making my purchase ten years ago a good one. The screencaps you see here come from that Bluray.
Part of the reason Flint only received one sequel may have been because Dean Martin came along as Matt Helm in The Silencers just a few months after the release of Flint. The Matt Helm series seemed popular enough as Martin went on to make three more films in the series. But I always found them too goofy, although you could call them spy spoofs, not as extremely silly as the Austin Powers Movies that came along quite a few decades later.
However, you can buy the film for streaming in HD at Amazon Prime for $12.09 or rent for $3.79 (as of this writing). Don't expect the Bluray to return, as the film sits in the vast wasteland of the Disney vault, courtesy of their pointless buyout of 20th Century Fox. They decided to shit on most of those films by castigating them to their dead-end locker, not even to be sent to labels like Shout Factory or Kino Lorber to at least be reissued. At Disney, if you aren't Star Wars, Marvel, or Pixar, you're dead to them.

And for being such an entertaining movie no matter how you watch it, and because Flint is the world’s greatest spy, I see no reason to give this film anything less than a B+.

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