(director: Henry Levin; screenwriters: Harbert Baker/based on the novel by Donald Hamilton; cinematographer: Sam Leavitt; editor: Walter Thompson; music: Lalo Schifrin; cast: Dean Martin (Matt Helm), Ann-Margret (Suzie Solaris), Karl Malden (Julian Wall), Camilla Sparv (Coco Duquette), James Gregory (MacDonald), Beverly Adams (Lovey Kravezit), Duke Howard (Billy Orcutt),Tom Reese (Ironhead), Richard Eastham (Dr. Norman Solaris); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Irving Allen; Columbia; 1966)
“Dean Martin as an action hero is a bit much.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This tiresome secret agent action pic has the pretense to think it’s cool, as it fills the screen with bikini clad dolls, swingers, double-entendres, a Sinatra gag, Sci-fi gizmos, car chases and disco music. It makes the James Bond pictures seem like works of art. Henry Levin (“The Man From Colorado”/”Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die“/”The Dark Avenger”) directs as if his feet were stuck in concrete and he’s reading a comic book. Dean Martin as an action hero is a bit much.Karl Malden as the campy villain was unconvincing. Ann-Margaret as the energetic sex kitten heroine is a looker, but she just can’t act. It’sbased on the novel by Donald Hamilton and is written by Harbert Baker. This is the second Matt Helm installment in the four pic series, following The Silencers (1966). All these pics did a good box-office, but not one was received well by the critics.
The evil shipping magnate Julian Wall (Karl Malden) kidnaps genius scientist Solaris (Richard Eastham) and keeps him locked up on his private stronghold island in the French Riviera, where he tortures him to get the secrets of the inventor’shelio-beam–a device with the ability to destroy the earth by harnessing the sun’s rays. After all the world’s top secret agents are bumped off by Wall, including the retired American agent Matt Helm (Dean Martin), who gets it by means of an exploding bed. Now feeling safe to act, the heavy puts his plan to control the world in motion. But Matt’s death was a ruse arranged by Matt’s boss MacDonald (James Gregory), the head of ICE (Intelligence and Counter-Espionage), and he assigns Matt to go to the French Riviera and save the world. In Monte Carlo, Matt’s disco owner contact is murdered, but he meets in her disco Solaris’ sexy daughter, Suzie (Ann-Margret), who is trying to track down her missing dad and killing time between looking for dad by being a disco dancer. Matt and Suzie team-up to rescue her dad.
Matt poses as a Chicago hood and sneaks onto Wall’s island. When caught, he talks his way into being employed by Wall to bump off MacDonald. But his cover is blown when he rescues Suzie from an assassination attempt by Wall’s henchman Ironhead (Tom Reese), who can be identified because there’s a chunk of iron fixed atop his head like a skull cap. It’s up to Matt to save the world and the scientist, and in a witless way does so. What’s never explained is the film’s title. Did I miss something, what’s the reference about the NY Yankee lineup with the Babe and Gehrig?
REVIEWED ON 4/1/2010 GRADE: C-