History: The year is 1966. America is undergoing the throes of the British spy invasion. James Bond 007 leads the assault from the movie screen and book racks everywhere, supported ably on the small screen by "The Avengers". America counters with its own home-grown television spy series. "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Get Smart", but who shall challenge the forerunner, the invincible 007 himself, on the big screen?
In answer to America's call comes Derek Flint, superspy, martial artist, ballet master, speaker to porpoises, millionaire, gourmand, man-about-town, ladies man, etc. In effect, everything James Bond is, and more. Armed with his trick lighter, which can perform 82 different functions (83 if you include lighting a cigar,) his quick wits and flashing grin, Flint saves the world from potential conquerors and nuclear disaster in "Our Man Flint" (1966) and "In Like Flint" (1967).
Description: Someone is manipulating the world's weather through controlled seismic activity. Espionage agencies across the globe are helpless to combat them. Only the best spy can be called upon to do the job, but, alas, British agent 0008 is unavailable: "international narcotics." But even he would not be enough: no one in the system can possibly do the job. Only someone independent, someone supremely capable, someone outstanding can tackle the job. That someone is Derek Flint (James Coburn).
Except he doesn't want it. Increasing levels of military brass approach him, all to be turned away. Even his old boss Lloyd Cramden (Lee J Cobb) of ZOWIE (Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage) is unable to convince him. But when Cramden takes a poisoned dart meant for him, Flint suddenly has a very personal interest in the case.
Tracing a faint amount of Bouillabaisse on the dart to a seedy dive in France, he gets into a bar fight with a rowdy Englishman, who turns out to be the aforementioned 0008, tracking down a new drug on the market. "SPECTRE?" asks Flint, and 0008 replies that it is a new group, bigger the SPECTRE, GALAXY. With that, Flint thanks him for his help and throws 0008 out the door. The fight draws the attention of two of GALAXY's agents, Hans Gruber and Gila (Gila Golan). Gruber meets his end trying to attack Flint, but during that time, Gila places a bomb for Flint to discover, which he evades.
Flint follows the trail to Italy and Gila, but she and Rodney (Edward Mulhare) trap him inside a sealed vault for delivery to GALAXY. Flint would escape, except he overhears Gila authorizing the abduction of Flint's four 'companions', so he relents and allows his captors to believe him dead. Actually, he is using a meditation technique to slow his metabolism to fool his captors so he can escape the trap they held him in and infiltrate GALAXY headquarters. (On the way, Gila throws down a 0008 novel, saying that no one could possibly be like the man in the novel.)
GALAXY headquarters is an uncharted idyllic island. Wearing the uniform of a GALAXY guard, he is able to wander the grounds, seeing a paradise in action. But he is discovered (an eagle "trained to identify and attack Americans.") and brought before the three scientists who run GALAXY. There is given the opportunity to join them in their quest to create a perfect world.
But its not Flint's idea of perfection. His outspokenness in opposition to the scientists leads to his sentence to be "electro-defragmentized". Nor is Gila safe: her miscues and the enmity of her rival Rodney leads to her re-assignment as a prospective pleasure unit. In response, she covertly steals Flint's confiscated lighter and returns it to him under the guise of a passionate kiss.
After avoiding the "electro-defragmentizer" (at the cost of his 'magic' lighter) he goes in search of Gila, the four kidnapped women and some answers. That's when Flint discovers the ugly truth behind the paradise of GALAXY. Male workers are rewarded with the pleasure drug, which is certainly psychologically addictive and possibly physically addictive as well, as well as access to the female workers, the pleasure units. Beautiful women, including his companions, are hypnotically programmed into becoming these pleasure units, designed and driven to please.
"My sole purpose is life is to bring pleasure to my companions. Anything that is asked of me I will perform. It is an honor to give my body to the service of GALAXY."
Those words are being repeated by Gila, sitting before a colorful hypnotic spiral, wearing only a bikini, deeply entranced, becoming more and more emphatic with each sentence. Except that Flint breaks her hypnotic trance by commanding her to say "I am not a pleasure unit." Together they sabotage the mechanisms to the point that the entire island is erupting. The three scientists plead with Flint to stop, but he refuses, asking them to surrender and provide the world their great knowledge. They agree, but Rodney intervenes, trying to attack Flint but instead causing the scientists to fall into the seismic device at the center of their power. Flint is able to rescue his girls and get them and himself to safety as the island explodes, ending the threat of GALAXY.
There was a novelization of the film released at the same time. Judging from some of the material, it used a preliminary draft of the script.
The music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who composed for a wide variety of movies, earning 17 Oscar® nominations, among the most nominations for any individual. He also wrote the theme to "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." but he is possibly best known for composing for several of the the "Star Trek" movies. Gene Roddenberry wanted Goldsmith to write the theme for 'The Cage', the pilot for the original "Star Trek" series, but he was unavailable at the time.
Commentary: Yes, these two movies are spoofs of the spy genre, except that these spoofs stand on its own as regular spy movies, too. They also pave the way for later Bond films, especially in the 80's, where the gadgets were almost as flamboyant as the guy who used them. The in-jokes (the whole 0008 thing, the anti-American eagle, etc.) only add to the flavor. But it is Coburn as Flint who steals the show: with his cocky grin and suave attitude, he's a welcome change from the coolness of the early Bonds.
There is something to be said about the physical state of defenselessness (as indicated by the almost total lack of clothing, wearing nothing but a revealing swimsuit) suffered by all of the women being conditioned into becoming pleasure units and the corresponding state of mental defenselessness. Clothes can be a defensive mechanism, and the removal same can cause such defenses to break down, unconsciously or through the overt act of forcing that removal. Compare that to the scene in 'Attack Angels' where Tanya Roberts' character is inside the hyperbaric chamber and being conditioned to obey, wearing only a bikini.
And just for the record, the Ian Fleming Bond novel "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" with its bevy of beautiful babes under the hypnotic thrall of the villain was published in 1963. If anything, "Our Man Flint" borrowed that trope from it, certainly not the other way around.
Recommendation: Absolutely recommended. Anyone from the 60's will appreciate how it spoofs the 60's spy craze and anyone else will see a true movie classic.
- Like many Hollywood actors of the time, James Coburn studied martial arts with Bruce Lee, but only after he made this movie. Previously he studied under another Bruce, Bruce Tegner, a Hollywood martial arts instructor who played one of Flint's opponents during the sparring match near the start of the film.
- After the success of the film, a TV pilot was produced entitled "Our Man Flint: Dead on Target" which, lacking Coburn, went nowhere.
- If the cliff diving closeup at the end of the movie looks familiar, it should. That's the same outdoor set used for the closeup diving shot in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".
- An interior shot of a submarine is in the beginning of the movie. The flashing light panel in the background show that the set was the same used in the TV series "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea". The electro-fragmentizer room near the end of the movie was the re-dressed reactor room from the same series. Both were 20th Century-Fox productions.
- There was a series of R-rated spy spoof novels in the 60's about agent 0008. Some of the titles include "Our Man From Sadisto", "Our Girl From Mephisto", "Sadisto Royale", "Naughtypus" and "For Your Sighs Only". There was also a series about agent 0069, too.
- Benson Fong (Dr. Schneider) was one of Charlie Chan's favorite sons (Tommy Chan) in several films in the 1940's.
- The voice of the President (supposed to be LBJ) heard over the radio was done by Van Williams.
- The supervisor of the pleasure unit induction unit who is conditioning Gila is played by Dick Wilson, uncredited, who would later be known as Mr. Whipple in the Charmin toilet paper commercials.
- Another uncredited role is by actor James Brolin.
- The movie marked the first time a Lear Jet was seen on screen.
- The distinctive ring tone of the Presidential Red Phone would be used again in "Austin Powers; International Man of Mystery".