Friday, January 30, 2015

Ten Statements About....THE SILENCERS (1966)

This is the perfect illustration of this movie...because it
certainly looks like ass....
“Mr. Helm, now do I look like an enemy agent?"
“Well I dunno, I haven't seen the latest models yet."

1) I wonder if a film ever started as slowly as this one.  The seemingly endless sequence showing Matt Helm’s lazy morning routine drags the film down even before it’s started.

Of course, some people would claim it never gets started.

2) It’s really hard to avoid the conclusion that Dean Martin is way too old for this--at 49, his face even more weathered due to his alcoholism and hard living, his love scenes with women twenty-plus years his junior comes off as uncomfortable to watch rather than sexy.  But speaking of those women...

3) ...easily the best thing in this film is the divine Dahliah Lavi.  One of the most beautiful women to grace spy films of the 60‘s, she has grace, poise and actually forces a playful chemistry with Martin’s Helm.  She’s a joy to watch, which makes her disappearance for a long stretch of time one of the true crimes of the film.
I wouldn't look half asleep if Dahliah Lavi was rubbing
my shoulder....

4) On the other hand we have Stella Stevens’ Gail, who is more typical of a Helm Girl--clumsy, awkward, unintelligent and there primarily so Martin can make fun of her and expose her body.  Her performance is downright painful to sit through, doubly so as you can’t decide if this is her fault or Martin’s.

5) What is up with that singing Greek Chorus Dean Martin commenting on the plot?  It’s not funny, and actively interferes with the flow of the story.

6) Unlike with The 2nd Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World, the film attempts to match the Bond films in terms of sets, gadgets and the like on a limited budget...except that the sets are chintzy and the mini-grenades and ‘reversible gun’ make little sense.   The acrobatics which Helm and Gail go through to get their opponents to shoot themselves with the reversible gun only draws attention to how silly the weapon is.

7) This is one of those films that dated the second it came out.  The bulk of the gags seem to reference old commercials, while some are simply impenetrable (why is Victor Buono’s Tung-Tze sipping Diet Egg Fu Yung?)
"What's there to understand?  It's a Big O--like our organzation!

8) It’s obvious that ‘The Big O’ is meant to be an Asian organization--although there are no actual Asians on its payroll, and seems to be the chinziest evil organization ever.  Hell, they seem to run the majority of their operations from a converted moving van!  Of course, Matt Helm seems to operate solely out of a Nash Rambler, so it’s not like they have to spend a lot of money to oppose him.

9) Did anyone tell Victor Buono that this was supposed to be a spy spoof?  It certainly does seem like he’s playing it painfully straight, which gives many of his scenes a discordant tone.

10) Perhaps the weirdest thing is that the script does sometimes remain faithful to the two Helm novels it purports to be based on; strip it of the humor and the first act is very much from Death of A Citizen.

Overall...a painful film to watch for spy fans, no matter how much Dahlaih Lavi in cute outfits we’re given.

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