“Our Man Flint” (1966)

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[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059557/]

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.

Adden­da:

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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.

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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.

Triv­ia:

  • 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”.

Ref­er­ences:

4 Responses to ““Our Man Flint” (1966)”

  • Wel­come back Ter­ry, and con­grat­u­la­tions on anoth­er well-writ­ten and con­cise review.
    I just wish they had made more Flint movies. Both as spoofs and as clas­sics, they are
    mem­o­rable, giv­ing lit­er­al­ly hours of both laughs and “oh yes” moments as you spot the
    par­o­dies, and re-uses of sets from for­mer productions.

  • I absolute­ly LOVE the Flint nov­els and films.  I dis­cov­ered the nov­els first as a kid and devoured them and was very pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to come across the movies on late night TV years lat­er.  This is one of those series that hit me just right and imprint­ed.  I have watched and rewatched the DVDs more times than a grown man should per­haps admit.  Fun stuff! ‑Bri­an

  • Darci says:

    I hope you review the sequel, 1967’s In Like Flint.  In it, the orga­ni­za­tion out to take over the world uses salons, where women have more than just their hair washed.
    Thanks,
    Darci

    • HypnoMedia says:

      “In Like Flint” is on the list of things to do, even­tu­al­ly. I just don’t want to get all the easy ones done ear­ly so I can have some­thing around I can put togeth­er in a hur­ry if I need to.

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