Another sweet Dean Martin variation on the superspy fantasy hero, loaded with the era’s swinging cool, and crooner tunes. Played largely for laughs, but also devoted to and rooted in the early sixties kitsch and cool. When Dean’s Matt Helm, is push-buttoning his way through his morning booze automation after spending the night with one of his delicious floozies we’re singing along in his head the groovy song that fills our screen from his own head. Our days are perfectly mimicked with a sequence of Matt Helm tipsily singing to himself as he examines an apartment and opens a fridge to find a lovely dead woman who drops into his arms ending the tune. What better way to represent the human condition, the endless fantasy playing in our minds until the bold viciousness of reality interrupts us.
Matt Helm’s nemesis in this particular episode of the series is a terrific Karl Malden who has developed eerie weaponry based on solar energy (like Archimedes mythical mirrors). Soon enough an attempt is made on Helm’s life and his boss, played by James Gregory who seems even more drunk than Martin. In fact, booze is pretty much the driving force of the film. It’s nearly a Trailer Park Boys joke, with Julian never caught without a tumbler of booze in hand. It is Helm’s mention of drink in a coded message to his boss that tips him to it being a secret code!
One of Helm’s tools is a gun that fires after a ten count. It is hard to imagine how helpful this would be, but his enemies often do the goofiest shit with firearms. Like look down the barrel when it doesn’t go off. You get the picture. Another of his toys is a pistol that fires a ton of something like liquid argon that immediately freezes the hell out of poor thugs. Dean uses these weapons with cool aplomb. I guess we’re not really supposed to think there’s actual death going on. Quips over the deaths of the evil Malden’s henchmen come across as psychopath behavior. Two seconds of thinking about the jobs the henchmen fill, as guards or technicians seem to be to be blue collar positions, so it’s not hard to imagine their overall innocence in the work they’re collecting a check to fulfill. The only entertainment I’ve ever seen that really dealt with the henchmen story was in the action / spy / spoof cartoon The Venture Brothers. In one quick sequence a pair of henchmen who work for the Monarch, a butterfly outfitted villain who provided velcro-closed swag bags for them to sign up, are marveling over the bags.
The terrific sixties angel Anne-Margaret dances her way through this film as Helm’s side-kick. Her adorable lighting up of the scenes makes the film. There’s also more hydrofoil action in this thing than any film I’ve ever seen. Maybe worth a larking look for that fun.
this is NOT free on Prime, and unless you’re a silly spy spoof genre fool like me I can’t say you should put money out for it.